Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Love a Parade (Of Amendments). It's that time of year. The education bills--both funding and policy--are making their way to the floor, but to get there, they have to make those final stops and at each and every one of those stops, a veritable plethora (not just a plethora, but a veritable plethora) of amendments is waiting, just hoping to be attached to the bill. Some of the amendments are things that were mistakenly left out of the bill by an earlier committee. Some of the items are instances of compromise language where various sides of an issue have worked together to come up with something more palatable to all parties. Some are bills that did not "make the cut." And, last but not least, some are just things that are coming out of left field.

The House K-12 Funding Division met yesterday (Tuesday, and I would have posted this yesterday, but the hammerheads at Comcast--Don't get me started. Don't even get me started.--couldn't get out to fix the broadband at Casa de Brad) and flew through their amendments in fairly short order. There are the usual amendments like (1) Change the compensatory formula and take money from Minneapolis and St. Paul, (2) Change the integration revenue formula and take money from Minneapolis and St. Paul, (3) Dream up new ways to take money from Minneapolis and St. Paul, and (4) Invade Minneapolis and St. Paul and divide up the resulting booty among the other 339 school districts (Okay, maybe the last one was a fever dream). All of these amendments were rejected.

There was a surprise, however, with NCLB. The House K-12 Funding Division, in an overwhelming vote, opted to withdraw Minnesota from NCLB. Whether this remains in the final legislation or is merely there as a lever to use in negotiations with the Governor is yet to be seen.

An amendment to allow school districts to start before Labor Day in 2010 and 2011 was successfully attached to the bill, which brings us to the next hearing at which the House K-12 Omnibus Funding Bill (HF 2475) was heard. Today, the House Education Finance and Economic Competitiveness Finance Division heard the bill and the Labor Day amendment was deleted. The other amendments pertaining to compensatory and integration revenue were also offered again and, as expected, were unsuccessful again.

The Senate E-12 Budget Division heard SF 3001 this morning. SF 3001 (Wiger) is the Senate omnibus education policy bill. Today's hearing was pretty much "The Day of the Living Dead Amendments," with zombified policy initiatives that simply refuse to die coming out of the woodwork. It was like the old "Thriller" video (a still photo from that work on the left) with worse dancing (and this dancing was of the verbal sort). The hearing convened at 8:30 AM, broke at noon, and re-convened at 6:00 PM. The omnibus policy bill will now be attached to the E-12 funding bill, which will be unveiled tomorrow at 8:30 AM. It will be interesting to see what the Senate has concocted in its effort to provide funding for schools in the year ahead.

One issue that continues to crop up is the discussion of revisions to the state school report card. There is one provision to this proposed tool that is causing--rightfully in my estimation--a considerable level of consternation. The new report card would contain, along with measurements of achievement, a survey that would record students' qualitative feelings about the school. I'm all for getting as much information as possible, but one wonders who such a survey could cause problems for schools. Let's say you have a teacher--a good teacher--with high expectations and who is a "tough" grader. How would sentiments toward such a teacher be expressed in a totally anonymous survey. Would such a reaction be fair? How could these reactions hurt a school? Would charter schools and post-secondary institutions use information like this against a school if they could? These types of questions need to be answered before something this "soft" can become part of the report card.

Let me know if you have questions in the coming days. Hopefully, my home internet will be up and working and I will be able to record the legislative comings-and-goings without breaking a stride.

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