Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
- Language allowing school boards to renew an existing levy for the same amount and term is included in the conference committee report.
- Charter school reform provisions that tighten up a number of regulations relating to charter schools, but also allows them to own buildings.
- Language that clarifies the third-party billing statutes and promotes greater use of the program.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
- Pass an education bill, and;
- Have the final education bill contain the language of Article I, Section 11, of HF 3833 as passed by the House on May 12, 2010.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Friday, May 07, 2010
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Needless to say, things are going to have to start happening fairly fast and with so many possible routes to the end, my guess is the path to the finish will be a bit serpentine.
The Latest Complication. The House version of the omnibus education funding and policy bill was slated to be heard last evening in the House Ways and Means Committee, but it was scratched at the last minute. It appears that the House majority is divided over whether or not to include alternative teacher licensure in the bill. Such a move would strengthen the state's position in the Phase 2 Race to the Top competition and would make the House look less at odds with the Governor in that quest. As it stands now, the House is bearing the brunt of a lot of criticism with its stance against including portions of the Governor's suggested changes to Minnesota education policy that I outlined yesterday in its bill.
A number of House members worked on crafting a compromise today that may be discussed when the Ways and Means Committee takes up the bill tomorrow (Friday). I will keep you posted.
Senate Action. The Senate Tax Committee discussed SFs 3063 and 3064 today. They are two of the three education-finance related Senate bills (as distinguised from SF 3189--the Senate's education policy bill that contains several of the Governor's policy recommendations) any of which could serve as a vehicle bill for the Senate's education finance (and perhaps) policy provisions.
What would not be surprising is if both Houses pass policy bills and that all of the finance provisions--from all budget areas--would be rolled into one "global" agreement. Those types of agreements usually run up until the end of session, so I doubt I'll have much to report on that until next week.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
- Teacher Quality and Effectiveness
- Align teacher preparation standards with K-12 student standards.
- Require that candidates for college teacher preparation programs pass the basic skills test prior to entry into the program.
- Strengthen teacher preparation in elementary mathematics and require teaching candidates to pass a math content exam.
- Require teaching candidates to complete at least one course online and also learn how to teach an online course to their students.
- Use student performance data to monitor the effectiveness of college of education teacher and administrator programs.
- Incorporate national standards for effective school leadership, such as the standards developed by the National Institute for School Leaders, into the licensing standards for principals.
Most of the amendments offered to the bill came from legislators aiming to soften or eliminate a number of the proposals aimed at teacher-training, evaluation, and assignment. All but a couple of these amendments were defeated, leaving the legislative changes sought by the Governor intact. Still, Commissioner Seagren was quoted as saying this constitutes a "good start (emphasis mine)," meaning we've got a ways to go. Further, seeing that the House has little in its bill resembling the Governor's suggested actions, the starting line may be fairly close to the finish line.
Here is the link to SF 3189.
An engrossment including yesterday's amendments should be available later today or tomorrow and I will post it when it's available.
I have to book to the Capitol right now, but will finish this description of yesterday's activity later today. Big news. FLASH! The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled against Governor Pawlenty by declaring his unallotments from last year to be unconstitutional.
Monday, May 03, 2010
The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education:
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Well, that was then and this is now (That was Then, This is Now has a rare place in American pop culture history as it's the title of both a bad song and a bad movie) and the $25.5 billion is all of a sudden in jeopardy as deficit hawks at the federal level (It's hard to believe that there are still some of those after watching the past nine years in Washington D.C.) are insisting that any new appropriations legislation--including the jobs bill--be revenue neutral. In other words, if there is new spending, existing spending has to be cut by the same amount.
If the enhanced matching funds for state Medicaid and child welfare under Title IV-E aren't forthcoming, we are in a heap of trouble. With only a little over two weeks left in the 2010 Legislative Session, it would be extremely difficult to put the session to bed with dreams of a balanced budget.
How do we avoid this impending mess? Call your U.S. Senator and your Congressman (or Congresswoman) and urge them to make certain that they extend the Medicaid match!
More Bad News. It's turn the clock back day (Sorry. I forgot to wear my paisley tie.). Joel Sutter from Ehlers and Associates sent out a memorandum this afternoon protending more problems. This time it's the debt service equalization appropriation.
The debt service equalization appropriation is not an open-and-standing appropriation. In other words, a specific dollar amount is approved by the Legislature and the aid is then forwarded to school districts by formula. If demand is higher than anticipated (and we'll get to the whys) in a minute, district amounts are pro-rated to make the appropriation fit the formula entitlement amount. If demand is lower than anticipated, the unexpended surplus is sent back to the state general fund.
Over the past few years, the fund has never expended the entire amount of the appropriation approved by the Legislature. This is largely because very few districts still qualify for debt service equalization and the property wealth levels in these districts rose so fast during the run-up in housing and agricultural land values that the levy-to-aid ratio also rose. Remember, equalization programs work on the straightforward principle that awards aid to low property wealth districts through a formula that creates a levy percentage by dividing a district's adjusted net tax capacity per pupil by the state equalizing factor (currently $3,200 per pupil unit).
We are now seeing the opposite happen. Land values--particularly housing values--have dropped dramatically over the past two years and the levy-to-aid ratio is dropping. Because of this, the state appropriation for debt service equalization will not provide enough aid to fully meet the amount that districts will now qualify to receive and those amounts will have to be pro-rated by an equal percentage among all eligible districts. This will, of course, raise property taxes above where they would ordinarily be if the appropriation were sufficient to meet the formula needs of the program. Legislators are aware of this problem and may be in a position to fix it in the remaining days of the 2010 Legislative Session. But, as stated in today's first blog item, given the new parameters of the budget debate and a possible funding gap of $400 million, correcting this relatively small problem may be a tall order.
Mark Up Tomorrow. The House K-12 Education Funding Division will be marking up its version of the omnibus funding bill tomorrow. Representative Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), Chair of the House K-12 Education Policy Committee, will be offering a comprehensive amendment dealing with the evaluation of teachers and principles. The text of the amendment is available at this link:
Mariani Amendment: http://http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/H2431A8.pdf
The Senate will also be unveiling its version of the omnibus K-12 funding/policy bill tomorrow. I will provide a summary of the major provisions in that bill in the blog.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Here are some of the highlights of the bill:
- Sets the aid payment shift at 73%/27%--the same level as implemented by the Governor last July--in statute (Article 5, Section 9).
- Sets the property tax recognition shift at 48.1% beginning for FY 2010, the same general vicinity as the level set by the Governor unilaterally after last session (Article 5, Section 8).
- Pays back shifts and replenishes budget reserves in the same manner as current law (No change from current law, but there should be a change from current law).
- Allows district renewing a capital projects levy at the same tax rate to put the "voting 'Yes' will raise your taxes" language on the ballot (Article 1, Section 4).
- Raises equalizing factor for total operating capital levy from $10,700/PU to $10,915/PU for taxes payable in 2011 and to $11, 029/PU for taxes payable in 2012 and later (Article 1, Section 8).
- Allows school boards to renew an expiring operating referendum by board approval (Article 1, Section 10). These last two provisions are tied together. By allowing boards to renew operating levies without approval of voters in the school district, the state estimates that levies will be slightly higher as a result of this action then they ordinarily would be. Because the House has a zero levy target, it was forced to buy down these levies somewhere and that was accomplished through an increase in the total operating capital equalizing factor. The amount of the adjustment is approximately $3.8 million.
- School districts are encouraged to provide mental health instruction for students in grades 7 through 12 (Article 2, Section 5).
- A number of provisions relating to the education and reporting on results of "at-risk and off-track" students in reaching state and locally determined learning benchmarks (Article 2, Sections 9, 10, and 28).
- Allows Board of Teaching to develop a alternative teacher preparation program and limited-term teacher license (Article 2, Section 17).
- Creates "efficiency plus" task forces to investigate how smaller school districts can cooperate with other school districts and local units of government to deliver services more efficiently (Article 2, Section 18).
- Suspends requirement that revenue be reserved for staff development temporarily and allows districts to transfer any balance remaining in the fund on June 30, 2010, into the general fund permanently (Article 2, Section 25).
- Creates fiber optic infrastructure grant program with two funds (one in the general fund and one in the bond proceeds fund) to strengthen state's commitment to fiber optic networks (Article 4, Section 3).
- General authority for school districts to make fund transfers during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years is created (Article 5, Section 15).
- Legislative Coordinating Commission is given authority to undertake activities that are necessary to advise the Legislature and monitor the executive branch on issues related to the Permanent School Fund (Article 6, Section 1).
- Article 8 is devoted to the "New Minnesota Miracle" with the same language as last year's bill. Formula amounts are great! Referendum cap is too high. Equalization rates are too low.
There will be a plentitude of scorn likely coming from the Governor's office regarding the bill, however. The bill does not contain much in terms of what the Governor believes to be necessary for Minnesota to seriously compete in Phase 2 of the Federal Race to the Top program. Whether or not that torpedoes the bill remains to be seen, as there are a number of provisions the Governor included in his 2010 education bill, particularly the formalization of the aid payment and property tax early recognition shits.
Stay tuned in for more discussion. The bill will be heard again on Wednesday, April 28, at 10:00 AM in Room 5 of the State Office Building. Could be a fairly long meeting with a lot of amendments and discussion, polite and otherwise.