Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Triple Header Tuesday. All three of the Legislature's K-12-related committees met today. The day began with the meeting of the House Education Reform Committee and a return to HFs 3 (Mariani) and 63 (Garofalo), both of which relate to alternative teacher licensure. The committee first finished with Representative Mariani's HF 3. An amendment offered by Representative Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna) to add teacher performance assessment language to the bill that would govern assessments for all teachers (not just those who obtain an alternative license) was added to the bill. The amendment requiring all teachers obtaining an alternative license to have a 90-day classroom stint under the supervision of a licensed classroom teacher was not offered.

The committee then turned to HF 63. As stated yesterday, this bill appears to be more aggressive in its intent by requiring (instead of allowing) the Board of Teaching to approve qualified alternative preparation programs that offer teacher candidates a two-year limited term license in anticipation of acquiring a five-year standard license. Two amendments were offered, one having the same language as the Kath amendment to HF 3 and the other requiring that all alternative teacher preparation programs be formally linked to a college or university teacher preparation program. Both amendments failed on party-line roll call votes of 9 in favor and 12 opposed.

Both bills were re-referred to House Education Finance Committee, where they will be heard in the near future. Alternative teacher preparation/licensure appears to be an issue where the chance of bipartisan accord is possible. This session is going to see its share of gridlock and an honest effort is being made on this issue to find some common ground to show both the public and legislators that compromises can be reached. We'll know more in the days ahead.

The House Education Finance Committee met in its usual Tuesday midday slot and took testimony from four groups: The Minnesota Chamber, The Minnesota Association of School Business Officials, The Minnesota Association of School Administrators, and Education Minnesota. Each of the groups outlined its primary legislative goals for the session ahead, with most of the testimony outlining mandate relief that may be possible. In addition, the Minnesota Chamber again re-iterated its support for alternative teacher preparation and concentration on closing the achievement gap.

The day of hearings ended with the Senate Education Committee's hearing on teacher preparation in Minnesota with testimony from the Minnesota Board of Teaching and the Licensure Division of the Minnesota Department of Education.

GOP Legislators Announce First Phase of Proposed Budget Balancing. Leadership from the House and Senate Republican caucuses today announced a package of proposed budget cuts to deal with a portion of $6.2 billion budget shortfall. The package basically consists of a formalization of the one-time cuts enacted by the Legislature and approved by the Governor during the waning days of the 2010 Legislative Session.

Governor Dayton immediately issued a statement outlining his reluctance to deal with the budget shortfall on a piecemeal basis, hoping to address the problem in its entirety with a series of bills enacted later in the session. The Governor will release his budget on February 15 and it appears that the GOP-controlled Legislature wants to pass its first set of cuts prior to the release of the budget.

If this is gridlock (or "solutions passing in the night"), at least it's polite gridlock at this point.

Bill Introductions for Tuesday, January 18.

Below are the major education bills introduced today.

Profile of New Commissioner, Dr. Brenda Cassellius in Monday's StarTribune. Here is a link to a story in Monday's StarTribune providing some background and insight into recently-appointed Minnesota Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius.

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