Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wednesday Report. Two hearings today and while both were interesting, the House Education Funding Committee quickened the pulse a bit more than the Senate Education Committee as the House committee dove into discussion of the repeal of the January 15 negotiating deadline and penalty provision. This is the second House committee that has discussed this issue as the bill--HF 92 (Downey)--was re-referred to the House Education Funding Committee with a recommendation to pass by the House Education Reform Committee last week. The bill is basically identical to Representative Bob Barrett's (R-Shafer) HF 115 and Representative Barrett joined Representative Downey (R-Edina) in presenting the bill.

Representative Downey attempted to make the bill retroactive to the last round of bargaining, when a considerable number of were hit with the $25 per pupil unit penalty that is enforced when districts and their teachers' union do not reach an agreement, but the fiscal note attached to the amendment precluded its being included in the bill.

The usual suspects (myself included) made their usual arguments in conjunction with the bill. Proponents of repeal believe the deadline puts undue pressure on school districts to settle too high and that its repeal would level the negotiating field between districts and their local teachers. Teachers believe the deadline and associated penalty have helped avoid strikes by forcing settlements. My big problem with the teachers' angle is their assertion that the deadline has led to lower settlements. My critique is too long and involved to enter here, but let's just say it's only common sense that in districts where money is tight, the settlements are likely to drag on all the way to the deadline and the settlement will be lower than it is in districts with the financial wherewithal to settle earlier.

After testimony, the bill was laid on the table for possible inclusion in the House Omnibus Education Funding bill.

The Senate Education Committee featured presentations from a set of educators recently recognized by the Minnesota Business Partnership for excellence in providing high quality educational services to their students. The panel included: Troy Vincent, the principal at Farnsworth Aerospace Magnet School (a public K-8 school in the St. Paul School District); Mary Lu Mertens, the principal at Sibley East Elementary School; and Mary Donaldson, the Director at the Concordia Creative Learning Academy (a K-8 charter school in St. Paul). Each of these educators outlined how they are successful in reaching the wide array of students in their schools. The reasons for success are similar--great district and/or school leadership teams, effective and engaged teachers, clear vision and high expectations--but it's always great to hear success stories like these.

The Senate hearing ended with a short presentation from former US Congressman and Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser. Don will by 87 later this month and his record of public service is pretty much unparalleled in Minnesota history and his ideas remain pertinent to the task in front of the state and nation on educational issues. Fraser appeared today as co-chair of the state's Achievement Gap Committee.

That's it for today.

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