Sunday, March 02, 2008

Busy Week Done. Busier One Ahead. The third week of the 2008 Legislative Session proved to be a very busy one, as the first policy committee deadline looms just ahead on Friday, March 14. Add to that our round of SEE regional meetings and there'll be some hopping going on in the weeks ahead.

At the St. Cloud Regional meeting, a question was asked about whether there were any Labor Day start bills before the Legislature. It didn't take long to find out that answer. Representative Kathy Brynaert's (DFL-Mankato) HF 3262 was heard in the House Education Policy Committee on Friday afternoon and was recommended to pass as amended. Under the amended bill, school districts could start school on August 31 for the 2009-2010 school year and August 30 for the 2010-2011 school year. The bill passed the committee with little opposition (although resort interests and a representative of the State Fair testified against the bill), but will now head into choppier waters. The companion file--SF 2835 authored by Senator Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester)--has yet to receive a hearing.

Another bill of interest heard in the House Education Policy Committee on Friday afternoon was Representative John Benson's (DFL-Minnetonka) HF 3181. HF 3181 is a bill sponsored by the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials (MASBO) and contains two very interesting provisions. Of these, the most important is the call for the Minnesota Department of Education to convene a task force to streamline the data reporting system and work to eliminate redundancies and confusion that exists in the current system. As we all know too well, the current reporting system resembles a reincarnation of The New Deal, with acronym after acronym lying on top of each other. Let's see, UFARS, STARS, MARSS, The CARS, Sylvia Plath's THE BELL JAR, and JACK PAAR. Okay, so I've gone over the top a bit, but I think you get the picture.

Highlights for the week ahead include a report from the Task Force that compared federal and state special education standards in Tuesday evening's House Education Policy Session, a presentation on statewide school fiscal woes in the House K-12 Funding Division on Wednesday (with testimony coming from several SEE districts as part of that hearing), a hearing for SF 2815--Senator Saxhaug's (DFL-Grand Rapids) bill to increase general education, special education, and modify the referendum ballot language--in the Senate Education Policy Committee, and a hearing in the House K-12 Funding Division on Thursday in which the companion bill to SF 2815--HF 2978 authored by Representative Will Morgan (DFL-Bursville)--will be heard.

Things will be flying for the next couple of weeks and I will keep you as up-to-date as I can, but if there are information gaps, but best place to stay in the loop is to head toward the Minnesota Legislature's homepage. There's a wealth of information there!


Speaking of Regional Meetings. Great crowd in St. Cloud on Friday and I'm looking forward to seeing good crowds at all of our stops during this swing. Please register if you haven't so that we will have a sufficient number of copies available for everyone at each stop.

Interesting Article. Phi Delta Kappan does great work, but I found this article from Michael Rebell, Executive Director for the Campaign for Educational Equity, especially interesting and timely, given our funding problems in Minnesota.


Rethinking Schools. Not an article, the name of a magazine. This is another publication I've come across that provides some very interesting articles. Published in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Rethinking Schools Limited, the magazine gives some firsthand accounts of how vouchers have worked (or in the estimation of this group, largely haven't worked) under the Milwaukee program.


Adding to the Excitement. The Governor's supplemental budget will probably hit the Legislature this week as well and given the bad news of last week, it's probably not going to be chock full of overwhelming wonderfulness. At this point, all indications are that the Governor intends to "spare the classroom" with his cuts. The problem with any cut to education is that it somehow will find its way to the classroom, especially if the cut is made to an essential service somewhere else in education delivery system.

I will get the budget documents up as soon as they are available.

In the meantime, I've come up with the person who can solve the state's budget crisis. Well, he isn't exactly a person. And, come to think of it, he isn't exactly real. But my vote for budget wizard goes to Felix the Cat. Hey, the guy's got a magic bag! Who knows what he can do with a magic bag? I'm guessing there is at least a billion dollars in that magic bag and even if there isn't, Felix can get together with Poindexter and figure something out. Well, that's my plan anyway. And even if he can't help with the budget crisis, I'm sure Poindexter can help efforts related to STEM. Righty-Oh!

Felix and Poindexter pictures credit: Mohawk Media.

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