Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Mr. Loquacity. That's me. I got to chime in twice during today's House Education Finance Committee, first on HF 88, Representative Connie Doepke's (R-Wayzata) bill to eliminate the maintenance-of-effort for the funding of guidance counselors, school social workers, licensed school nurses, and school psychologists. The arguments are the same as they have consistently been since this provision was passed in 2007. Those who support the continuance of the maintenance-of-effort provision contend that the number of employees in these categories will be drastically reduced unless they are, for lack of a better term, a protected class within the school workforce.

Those of us who testified against the bill believe otherwise. There are continued complaints that Minnesota ranks 49th in the student/guidance counselor ratio and ranks little, if any, better in the other categories protected by the maintenance-of-effort provision. What that argument misses is that the obverse is as, or perhaps more, likely to be true. What district is going to hire more support personnel if they have to maintain the same level of investment in terms of FTEs going forward? The tight budget times we are currently in the midst of only exacerbate the problem.

No one is even remotely suggesting that the services provided by guidance counselors, school psychologists, and the like aren't valuable. The question is, "What is the best way to make certain these services are made present and maintained?" My point is that if Minnesota wants to remain #49 in guidance counselors per student, this is one way to ensure it because there probably won't be a lot of guidance counselors hired as long as the maintenance-of-effort provision stays in law.

The second shift of my testimony was dedicated to the presentation of our SEE platform. I was given a full half hour to describe the history of SEE, the profile of our member districts, and what we would like to accomplish as an organization during the 2011 legislative session. it was a great opportunity and I want to thank Chairman Garofalo for the opportunity to familiarize new members with our organization.

The other two hearings on this week's "wall-to-wall" Tuesday--the House Education Policy Committee and the Senate Education Committee--consisted of presentations from the Minnesota Department of Education and Aimee Rogstad Guinera from the Data Quality Campaign regarding how data is collected and used in Minnesota. Interesting and pertinent information as the state attempts to get beyond simply collecting "stuff" from school districts and instead assembling data that can provide meaningful measurements and strengthen, if possible, the predictive power of the data collection in hopes of raising student achievement.

Data Quality Campaign Link: http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/

New Study from our Friends at Growth & Justice. Growth & Justice has released a case study describing the Cincinnati school district's amazing success in narrowing the achievement gap for African-American students. In conjunction with the study, Growth & Justice will be hosting a presentation to discuss the study next Monday, February 7, between 10:00 and 11:30 AM at the Coffman Memorial Union Theater at University of Minnesota. Speakers at the conference are Dr. Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York and Jeff Edmondson, Executive Director of STRIVE, the Cincinnati-based education non-profit that has been working with schools in that city to raise achievement levels.

Here is the link to register to Monday's presentation at the University of Minnesota: http://www.saa.umn.edu/saa/signup/close-the-gap

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