Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MinnCAN joins the scene. Another organization joined the Minnesota education reform debate yesterday, as MinnCAN held a kick-off press conference in the Capitol rotunda on Monday morning. The primary focus of MinnCAN appears to be assurance of teacher quality through aggressive evaluation of teacher performance, but I am certain they will engage in a number of elements surrounding Minnesota's education system.

Teacher quality is undoubtedly important and it's the issue that is creating the greatest amount of buzz in the education debate. The early debate at the Legislature this session has centered on alternative teacher preparation along with the assessment of current classroom teachers. How MinnCAN throws itself into this debate will be interesting, but if the attendance and energy at Monday's launch event is any indication, this group is not going to be shy.

I really have to compliment MinnCAN on their mission statement: "We will not rest until every Minnesota student has access to a great public school." The words may be a bit different, but they appear to share our (SEE's) statewide vision of an adequately and equitably funded system of public education. I certainly look forward to working with MinnCAN on issues that will help every student in Minnesota get the public education that they are constitutionally entitled to receive.

Here's an Interesting Approach to Funding Equity. Our good friend Kathy Saltzman sent me this link last Friday. It's from the Connecticut think tank ConnCAN's website. ConnCAN is the education reform think tank upon which MinnCAN has sprung forth.

The link outlines a funding reform urged by ConnCAN. Under the plan, per student education revenue would be calculated relative to the property wealth of the school district in which the student resides.

I haven't seen the actual proposal, but from reading the description, it would seem to work similarly to Minnesota's compensatory formula in that students in districts that have high levels of poverty will receive more money than students in districts with higher income levels. Either that, or per pupil revenue would be calculated for each district similarly to the way general education formula prior to the elimination of the general education levy as part of Governor Jesse "The (Don't Touch My) Body" Ventura's Big Plan that was passed in 2001.

In either case, ConnCAN clearly wants revenue to follow students to their school--traditional or charter--similarly to how it does in Minnesota.

Alternative Licensure Bill Passed Out of Committee. The Senate Education Committee approved SF 40 (Olson), the companion bill to HF 63 (Garofalo), and re-referred it to the Senate Finance Committee on Monday. SF 40/HF 63 is the more aggressive of the two alternative teacher preparation bills being discussed by the Legislature this session (the other bill being Representative Mariani's HF 3, which was an outgrowth of the discussion last session).

Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL-North St. Paul) offered an amendment which was subsequently divided into two amendments. The first segment of the amendment proposed requiring any prospective teacher prepared in an alternative program would have to complete a 90-day practice teaching stint before being licensed. The second portion proposed the full implementation of the Teacher Performance Assessment program (currently being piloted). Both halves of the amendment failed.

HF 63 will be up in the House Education Finance Committee this week, putting alternative teacher preparation on the fast track for legislative approval with final floor votes coming sometime in February. While Governor Dayton has expressed an interest in alternative teacher preparation, it remains to be seen whether the approach taken by SF 40/HF 63 will meet with his approval. While this issue is generally observed as "low-hanging fruit," in that all sides in the political debate seem to recognize the value of an alternative teacher preparation program, there still may be a need for a step ladder to reach the branch where the fruit is hanging. At least we know this isn't the apple at the top of the tree.

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