Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Type III Bill Passes First Hurdle. SF 33, the bill authored by Senator Rick Olseen (DFL-Harris) to exempt teachers, coaches, and other providers of transportation on a non-regular basis from the requirements needed to drive school vans and cars passed in 2008, was passed on a voice vote in the Senate Transportation Committee and re-referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will likely receive a hearing within the next week.

Senator Olseen (pictured at right with Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Superintendent Linda Mitchell and two MSAD students) convened a working group at several junctures during the interim to find language that would successfully reverse the interpretation in regard to Type III driver standards by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).

As many of you are aware, when we left last session, the Type III driver requirements were thought to not apply to teachers, coaches, and other personnel who are not hired by a school district to provide full-time transportation services. Midway through the summer, DPS ruled that occasional drivers were subject to the new requirements and had to take physicals and receive training in order to drive these vehicles. This caused a lot of scrambling in school districts throughout the state, especially smaller districts, where budgets are tight already (and yes, these things cost money) and a furor among staff who were unaware they would be subject to these requirements until relatively late in the summer.

SF 33 should remedy the situation. Under the bill, those we believed to be exempt after last session are now clearly exempt from the new requirements of last year's bill.

I will keep you posted as to when the next hearing will take place.

Information Needed. Deb Griffith sent out a quick survey Tuesday afternoon asking each SEE member district to gauge the amount of cuts they would be subject to if no new revenue is forthcoming during the 2009 session.

The House K-12 Funding Division will be holding a hearing next Tuesday in which they will try to determine the pain that flat funding of schools would inflict on districts. I will be testifying and would like to have as much solid information as possible when I do that.

GRAD and Growth Model Discussed. The GRAD test and the new growth model developed by MDE were discussed in the House K-12 Education Policy Committee this morning. I was unable to attend the entire hearing, but discussion was spirited when I was present. One of the things that will be discussed this session is the number of tests students are forced to take in Minnesota and the costs for the state and local districts of these tests. One of the real problem with a lot of these tests is that they do not provide either districts or MDE with much in terms of the type of interventions that are needed to enhance student learning.

With revenue being very dear in the near future and perhaps beyond, resources will have to be marshaled in ways that ensure that the public is getting the most bang for its buck. Simply giving students tests without having those tests supply information to teachers and admininstrators that can be used to improve student learning is not the best way to spend money.

Interesting Event Coming Up. The Roseville Area Schools Legislative Action Committee will be hosting an event on Monday evening, January 26, 2009, at 7 PM entitled Why Invest in Education--Even in Difficult Times. The event will be held in the Roseville Area Middle School Auditorium located at 15 East County Road B2, Little Canada. The featured speakers are State Economist Tom Stinson and State Demographer Tom Gillaspy.

Stinson and Gillaspy gave a presentation to SEE a few years back when the economy was doing much better and it will be interesting to see if, and by how much, their message as changed in the struggling economy.

Richard Wassen, currently on staff at the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota (and formerly on staff at MDE and the State Board of Teaching) is one of the organizers of the event. Stinson and Gillaspy always (and I mean always) provide great and pertinent information and I am certain will prove to be no exception.

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