Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Pause in the Action. The next week will be the last quiet one for awhile, as everything seems to wind down for the holiday season. Rest assured, things will be picking up right after the New Year arrives with the Legislature convening on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, at high noon (Gary Cooper will not be there).

I am sure you have been reading the same news reports (and variegated tea-leaves) that I have and this promises to be one of the ugliest sessions since the sessions (and multiple special sessions) of 1981 and 1982. It was session upon session back then, as every time Governor Quie and the Legislature would balance the budget, the next revenue projection would come around and announce once again that the state was in a hole. Governors have considerably more power now and budget reserves have been created (although they are now pretty much depleted) to help avoid the constant ducking in for special sessions, but I fully anticipate that we are going to have multiple sessions in 2009, especially given the considerable task of re-designing a number of state programs in an attempt to keep long-term costs under control.
There was one ominous--and almost totally ignored--line in the Governor's press conference relating to the mega-deficit we are now facing. That line went something like "I will be proposing some education reform during the 2009 session." Given the entirety of the budget picture, it isn't surprising that no one in the media picked up on it, but it is something we are going to have to be prepared for in 2009.

So here's to a relaxing holiday season with friends and family. In that vein, please accept the warmest in holiday wishes from the three cats that live in the Lundell basement. From the left they are Thater Chip, Button, and Puffy. Thater and Puffy each go 20+ pounds and Button hits the scale at around 13. They are just about the friendliest cats on terra firma and they love people just about as much as they love their food dish. So, from everyone in the Lundell household (including the two cats that outweigh Ol' St. Nick himself), have a pleasant and safe holiday season.
Just a Little Clean-Up. Representative Linda Slocum (DFL-Minneapolis) and Senator Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury) had their third in a series of four working group meetings related to charter schools last week. As with the second meeting, testimony was spirited and surrounded the question "how are charter schools really doing?" The working group will hold one more meeting in early January before drafting legislation. It is expected that legislation will be introduced from several quarters--including that of strong charter school supporters--to tighten up rules pertaining to charter school sponsors and provide training for groups and school districts interested in sponsoring a charter school.
In the school reform arena, I had breakfast with former Minnesota Commissioner of Education Bob Wedl and former MASA Executive Director John Maahs this week and we discussed their proposal to allow sites within a school district to basically become charter schools. The design is similar to that of relating to area learning centers and alternative programs as districts would get to keep a portion of the general education revenue associated with a student for district purposes. It will be interesting to see if proposals moving in this direction will have any legs given the budget deficit.
If any of you are interested in what Bob is proposing, he'd love to talk with you. He can be reached at robert_wedl@yahoo.com.
And last but not least, the St. Paul Conservatory, a charter school headed up by former Northfield superintendent Dr. Terry Tofte, was featured in Monday's Minneapolis StarTribune. Hey Terry, we miss you and don't be a stranger.
While we're citing the StarTribune, yours truly was quoted in this story by Norm Draper outlining the cuts being faced by metropolitan-area school districts as they prepare for next year. One thing we need to do, and we will be getting a survey ready for the legislative kick-off on January 22, is to gauge the cuts in SEE member districts. Look for that survey early in the new year.

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