Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Almost Forgot. In the hubbub surrounding yesterday's veto override, I neglected to report on the Senate Education Policy Committee hearing, which featured bills on bus safety, bus contracts, and background checks. The hearing was interrupted early in the proceedings due to the Senate's deliberations and vote on the override, so it ran a bit long.

The Legislative Auditor's report on Student Transportation has created a great amount of interest in bringing greater accountability to driver qualifications and greater consistency in the contracts school districts hold with transportation service providers. These items were the focus of SF 2988 (Olseen) and SF 3078 (Dibble).

SF 2988 sets up a system of qualifications for regular drivers of Type III vehicles (i.e. vans and cars). The regulations only apply to individuals for whom transporting students is part of their job description. In other words, administrators, teachers and coaches who drive students in these vehicles on an intermittent or non-regular basis will not be subject to increased scrutiny. Senator Rick Olseen (DFL-Harris)--pictured at the left speaking with ECM reporter T.W. Buddig after the veto override vote--has worked over the interim on this issue and it appears that something positive will happen in this area this session, as there is no direct appropriation from the state involved.

SF 3078 (Dibble) is directed more at contractors' operations and the types of information they currently disclose. Given the Legislative Auditor's stance that there is a lot of inconsistency in contracts throughout the state, some of the elements in this bill will likely pass. It is strongly supported by the Service Employees International Union.

The other bills heard SF 2804 (Rest) which calls for the use of "green" products in schools; SF 2369 (Rest) which calls for additional background checks for coaches; and SF 2597 (Saltzman) which calls for stricter teacher background checks. SF 3001 (Wiger) The Governor's education policy bill, was taken off the agenda due to the late hour.

An Alternative View. As many of you know, I'll read just about anything and thus, my admission that I do read things from the libertarian Cato Institute. Although the articles can raise my blood pressure a bit, I always find them interesting. Here is a link to Andrew Coulson's--Cato's education guy--page at the Cato website. Again, it's interesting reading and helpful in understanding many of the arguments that are leveled against public schools.


One Last Shot of the Pandemonium. Here's a shot of the Senate exiting the chamber last evening after adjourning. This was taken just moments after the veto override and you can certainly see some very happy (mostly lobbyists) and relieved (mostly legislators) people.

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