Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tomorrow's Meeting. A number of you have asked about the meeting scheduled by the Minnesota Department of Education and AMSD being held at the TIES building starting at 9 AM that will provide insight on the federal stimulus package and how it relates to education. I am happy to report that Dr. Tom Melcher, Wizard of all Things Education Funding Related, will be accompanying Education Commissioner Alice Seagren to our meeting as well and will provide the highlights of the federal stimulus package to our membership after the Commissioner finishes her presentation on the Governor's initiatives.

This should make the process of choosing between which meeting to attend a bit easier. The possibility still would exist for SEE member districts to bring an additional staff member or two in the car and send them to the 9:00 AM meeting while the SEE representatives attend the SEE meeting. Those additional staff would certainly be welcome to return to the Sheraton Four Points to join us for lunch (on SEE's dime). I am confident that Dr. Melcher will provide ample insight in the half hour he will be with us for everyone to have a better idea of the massive and complex task which lies before the Governor, members of his administration, and the Legislature as they attempt to make the benefits of the stimulus package real in the short term and not lobotomy-inducing in the long term.

So I hope to see you all at the SEE meeting! We have a great doubleheader of presenters, as former Commissioner Bob Wedl from Evolving Education will be giving a presentation on some of the ideas coming out of that think tank and how they will pursue them during the remainder of the legislative session. Add to that, the Commissioner's and Dr. Melcher's comments and this should be well worth everyone's while.

Physical Education Standard. Representative Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) has been working on a streamlined physical education standard for school districts. This proposal is contained in HF 439. I would post the link to the original language, but after about two hours of discussion on Wednesday and Thursday, amendments have been made to the bill that have changed its complexion dramatically in an attempt to give districts more flexibility.

Even with these changes, I have a hard time seeing how a new mandate, regardless of how meritorious, can be made "district friendly" enough to be enacted in a year when the Legislature is looking at ways to reduce mandates. The bill has its share of supporters, particularly the Minnesota Heart Association, and no one would ever argue against the notion that children need more structured physical activity to promote healthy longterm habits, but the sentiment that seems to be reigning right now is that of "less mandates."

The bill passed the House Education Committee on a very divided voice vote and was re-referred to the House K-12 Finance Division. Whether or not it will be included in the House omnibus K-12 funding bill will be decided there. It is extremely doubtful that the bill would proceed on its own.

The Impressive Scholar That is Dr. Angie Eilers. I had the opportunity to catch the last few minutes of a presentation by Dr. Angie Eilers (at right) from Minnesota Growth & Justice before the Senate E-12 Funding and Policy Division this morning. Her presentation was similar to the one she gave for us at SEE recently and the questions from the legislators were in the same vein as those posed by our membership. While the answers also had a familiar ring to them, there was new information that augmented the basic answers and brought greater depth and clarity to a number of the challenges facing the education community as it seeks to raise the achievement levels of all students. Keep up the good work Angie! You are shining a light on some crucially important questions and pointing a way toward improvement through the identification and application of quality research.

Bill Introductions, 2/19


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