Thursday, February 11, 2010

State o' the State. It's still not good, but the Governor is still required to give a speech and legislative leadership is expected to respond to his comments, so all parties went ahead with it. The Governor gave a solid speech, stressing the state's strengths as hope for the long term health of the state and also providing a list of policy suggestions he believe will help speed job creation and greater economic security in both the short and long terms. One area where it is difficult to disagree with the Governor is in the macro-sense that the paradigm of job creation and economic performance has changed and many of the tools used to remedy previous economic slumps need to be revisited. Whether or not the tools suggested by the Governor would deliver the level of job growth we need is certainly open to question, but it's hard to combat the notion that we will have to adjust to new economic assumptions.

Out-of-the-gate, the Governor's State of the State address contained good news for schools. The Governor explicitly stated that he will not cut revenue streams related directly to the classroom. What that means remains to be seen (and will be seen when the Governor releases his budget next Monday), but by pointing this out in this address, my guess is it means the glass is at least 90% (or maybe 73%) full. Not mincing words, it's great!

The Governor provided some very concise policy proposals relating to education that he believes would improve the system, especially for schools with achievement levels lagging behind the rest of the state. Included in these proposals are:
  • Giving the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul full control over their cities' school systems. If that were not to pass, the Governor would create an Office of Turnaround Schools in the Minnesota Department of Education to take over schools not reaching prescribed levels of achievement.
  • The "Teacher Transformation Act" that was proposed, but not passed last session.
  • Reform of the teacher tenure system, providing for tenure reviews of teacher performance every five years.

I am sure the Governor will make more suggestions as the session wears on, but he once again showed his interest in education policy and a commitment to protecting classrooms in his message. Again, we're a long ways from here to there and we'll see how things hold up as the session continues.

I want to put in a good word for Lori Grivna, former Mounds View school board member who is currently serving on the Governor's staff as an education polciy advisor and liaison to the education community. Ms. Grivna has kept the education community in the loop throughout the Governor's budget development process and has worked hard to make sure the Governor is aware of our concerns. So thank you Lori.

Here is a link to the video presentation and print version of the Governor's State of the State Address: http://

More Charter School Kerfuffling. Is "kerfuffling" a word? Well, it is now. This time it's about segregation and some pretty solid evidence that the charter school movement is contributing to greater racial isolation in Minnesota and other states. I have linked an article written by Beth Hawkins from MN Post at the bottom of this item that outlines the issue. It's hard to argue with Minnesota Charter School Association Executive Director that there's something different about the nature of self-selected racial isolation that accompanies school choice and racial isolation that occurs as a result of geography or economic development patterns. But what about the results of racial isolation, regardless of its roots? That seems to be the more important aspect of the issue and it will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in the future.

MN Post Charter School Story Link: http://http//

January 15 Deadline Bill. State Senator Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud) and State Representative Larry Haws (DFL-St. Cloud) have introduced legislation that would provide school districts that do not settle with their teachers by the January 15 deadline an opportunity to re-coup up to 50 percent of the aid penalty if they can show the district is suffering from financial hardship.

The January 15 deadline has turned out to be pretty much a bad idea. It's pretty much a "one size, fits all" solution to a very complex issue that varies greatly from district-to-district. While this bill--SF 2569/HF 2890--doesn't totally eliminate the difficulties of the deadline, it would at least grant a partial reprieve to districts that are experiencing dire budget issues and refusing to settle at a level that basically ensures on-going budget migraines.

This is something to watch as we move forward. There is still talk about mandate relief to help in these times of tight budgets and this is clearly a mandate that merits discussion in view of the problems the state, and by extension local school districts, is facing in terms of revenue availability. The January 15 deadline was suspended in 2003 for the bargaining round pertaining to the 2004-2005 biennium and the situation is worse now than it was then, giving suspension of the deadline--even after the fact--a considerable level of merit.

SF 2569/HF 2890 Link: http://https//

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