Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Wall-to-Wall Tuesday. Tuesday is clearly education day at the Capitol, with each of the K-12-related committees scheduled to meet and meet they did today. The House Education Policy Committee kicked off the proceedings with more testimony related to teacher training and assessment. The centerpiece of today's discussion was the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) Program and Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC).

TPA is a partnership between the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT). 20 states have joined the TPAC, with six of these states--including Minnesota--being accelerated states. Initial development of the Teacher Performance Assessment was led by national teacher education leaders Linda Darling-Hammond and Ray Pecheone, both of Stanford University.

The presentation on TPAC was given by Minnesota Board of Teaching Executive Director Karen Balmer and University of Minnesota Education Professor Dr. Misty Sato. It was a very informative hearing that again shows how Minnesota is trying to enhance teacher effectiveness.

The early afternoon brought us to the House Education Finance Committee and testimony from the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) and the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) describing their goals for the 2011 session. MELF has been extremely active in the promotion of pre-kindergarten education and their primary goal in the years ahead is to make certain that the progress Minnesota has made in raising program quality and improving access to quality pre-school programs is not lost during these tight budget times.

MSBA's testimony outlined their primary goals which largely center on mandate relief, but their conversation also touched on Minnesota's constitution and the need to make certain that Minnesota remain committed to making certain that an adequate and equitable funding system. This segment of the exchange between chief MSBA lobbyist Grace Kelliher and legislators really set up my testimony, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, February 1. I'm really looking forward to picking up this discussion where the legislators left off.

Like the main event at a boxing match, the main event of the education discussion for the day was held last in the Senate Education Committee, where the discussion centered on mandate reform in general and SF 56 (Thompson-R-Lakeville) in specific. SF 56 has four very focused sections dealing with cost containment for schools. The four initiatives contained in the bill are: (1) repeal of the January 15 negotiating deadline, (2) repeal of the reserved revenue in the safe schools levy for school counselors, school nurses, school social workers, and school psychologists and the maintenance-of-effort provision in that section of the law that prevents school districts from lowering expenditures on these positions, (3) repeal of the 2% staff development reserve and the distribution of this reserve on a 50% to sites, 25% for district exemplary programs, and 25% for district-wide staff development efforts, and (4) the grand-daddy of all the provisions in the bill, the statewide school personnel salary freeze.

Testimony on the bill was both straightforward and predictable. Management likes the bill, labor not so much. Included in those speaking on behalf of the bill were two administrators with ties to SEE: St. Michael-Albertville Superintendent Marcia Ziegler and St. Francis Director of Human Resources Jay Reker. Speaking against the bill were representatives from Education Minnesota, the Minnesota School Counselors Association, and SEIU.

The bill passed on a straight party-line vote and now heads to the full Senate Finance Committee. Because there is only one education committee in the Senate, there is no need to move a bill--either policy- or funding-related--from one education committee to another (which will have to be done in the House).

It appears that the Republican majorities in the Legislature are going to try and move a number of major mandate-reduction and budget-cutting measures onto the Governor before he releases his budget on February 15. Doing so will likely result in vetoes, as Governor Dayton is on record as wanting to deal with the entire solution to the $6.2 billion budget shortfall in one broad stroke instead of a larger number of more discrete measures. In other words, we'll likely to see some gridlock, although it appears it will be polite gridlock as no one, at least up to this point, has not not used their inside voice.

Lighter day tomorrow, but I'll be reporting on it nonetheless.

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