Monday, February 23, 2009

Mandate Update. There has been a considerable amount of effort dedicated thus far this session to giving school districts relief from mandates in the hopes of reducing costs. Part of this effort is fueled by the concerns that there will be little opportunity for the state to provide significant amounts of new revenue to school districts this biennium, but there is some concern--as there should be--that a number of currently-enforced mandates are no longer relevant to the delivery of quality education and should be repealed.

The House Mandate Reduction Work Group chaired by Representative Tom Tilberry (DFL-Fridley) met this morning to discuss the package of mandates that they are proposing should be eliminated. Approximately 25 different mandates were discussed, with most of these discussions receiving comments on both sides of the repeal/retain equation. A number of mandates have been removed from the discussion, as special education mandates are going to be discussed as part of a different effort.

This effort is crucial on a number of fronts and I'm hopeful that it will not be "more heat than light" when all is said and done. Part of the problem, as I shared a bit at Friday's meeting, is that every one of these mandates found its way into state law or rule through the front door. They were all a good idea, or at least an idea that temporarily generated a sufficient amount of support to become law or rule and have managed to survive.

The bigger part of the problem, however, is that there isn't a whole lot of savings in the reduction of mandates that simply exist around the edges of the education enterprise. Certainly, reducing any mandate removes ample levels of frustration in the delivery of education, but to get real and lasting savings, it's important to get to the heart of the education system and consider eliminating elements like mandatory classes and credits and leaving more of those decisions to local school districts. Without going to that level, the amount of savings that can be realized not be substantial. As we move forward on this issue, it's imperative that school administrators, school board members, and parents of students urge legislators to aggressively attack the mandate issue and make certain this effort is fruitful.

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