Monday, May 05, 2008

Thanks for Catching This. Rest assured I didn't make the mistake in attempt to keep readers on their toes, but a couple of readers were on their toes and pointed out that the May 4 citation in my last blog should be May 5.

And today is May 5 and the proposed midnight deadline for policy conference committees to conclude their work is a mere ten-and-a-half hours away. Progress was made this morning in the education policy conference committee, as several provisions where there were not significant differences were adopted. I will keep you informed of further progress as the day moves forward.

8:40 PM Update. We're back in business and there is an agreement between the House and the Senate conferees on SF 3001, the 2008 education policy bill. Details will be forthcoming.

11:15 PM Update. The education policy conference committee has come to a final agreement and has completed its work. The bill is facing a veto threat, as the report card provisions in the bill--which move the state more toward a growth model based on growth rates as opposed to a criterion-based (pass/fail) model--appear to be not acceptable to the Governor.

Besides the proposed changes to the report card, other provisions in the bill include:
  • Improvements to the comprehensive, reading-based instruction methods passed last session.
  • An increase in the drop-out age from 16 to 18, beginning with the freshman class of 2008-2009.
  • Repeal of the statutes and rules pertaining to aversive and deprivation procedures for special education students.
  • Development of state technology standards.
  • Creation of a P-2o task force.

There are other provisions, of course, and I will provide you with a full summary as the conference committee report is developed and the accompanying summary is provided to the public. It should be noted that the comprehensive sexual health curriculum was not included in the final bill, due in large part to the objections of the Minnesota Family Council, which is a close ally of the Governor.

Without sounding cryptic, it is likely that the bill will be vetoed in its current form. While there are a number of valuable provisions in the bill that provide educational leadership in a variety of areas, the fate of the republic is not contingent on anything in the bill, making a gubernatorial veto far less costly than if the bill contained provisions of monumental importance to Minnesota's educational community.

That being said, a veto would be unfortunate. The proposed changes to the school report card hardly erode the value of the state's accountability system. Instead, the proposal first developed by Senator Sandy Rummel (DFL-White Bear Lake) and Representative Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato) and honed through negotations between the House and Senate during the conference committee would provide a more accurate depiction of how schools are performing. It is not perfect--the qualitative measures relating to school engagement are troublesome--but it still marks an improvement over the status quo.

Again, I will let you know more about the bill in its entirety when it is full organized, summarized, and printed as a single document.

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