Thursday, March 03, 2011

Sweet Thursday. Didn't know what to title today's entry, so I thought I'd name it after the John Steinbeck novel Sweet Thursday (the sequel to Cannery Row) and the late-1960's supergroup of the same name. Don't worry, it wasn't that sweet a Thursday, although both houses of the Legislature passed SF 40, the alternative teacher licensure bill and there was an awesome hearing in the House Education Reform Committee this morning.

We'll start with the House Education Reform Committee where Forest Lake agriculture teacher Mike Mieron provided a presentation of a new program developed by the Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators with the assistance from grants from the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council and Christensen Farms, a Minnesota pork producer. Due to some revisions in the state graduation standards made during the past few years, several science standards can be delivered through agricultural education programs and the program that Mieron demonstrated for the committee showed how these standards can be incorporated into agricultural curricula. This project could be very helpful for both school districts as they attempt to provide a broad curriculum and have high standards across that curriculum and students who learn more effectively in applied settings. It was just a fantastic presentation and I want to commend both the Forest Lake district and Mike Mieron for their hard work.

The House Education Finance Committee featured two presentations. The first was from the Early Learning Coalition, which provided the final report from its work over the past year. The report outlines the goals of creating a seamless delivery system, consolidating and coordinating resources (and ensuring accountable use of those resources), establishing an administrative framework for early care and education, and developing and managing an effective data collection system.

The primary recommendation to achieve these goals is the creation of a cabinet-level Office of Early Learning. This recommendation was contained in a bill authored by Representative Sandra Peterson (DFL-New Hope) and will likely be in a bill again this session. Given the budget constraints facing the Legislature, it is doubtful that the proposal will get off the ground, but given the increasing interest in early childhood education and data showing its importance to later achievement levels of students, there is little doubt that this suggestion will stick around for the next few years in hopes that money will be available to make this happen.

The second item of business for the House Education Finance Committee was preliminary approval of HF 335, a bill authored by Representative Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake). Representative Kiffmeyer's bill would lessen the regulatory environment surrounding home schooling, both from the home schoolers and school district perspectives. The bill was laid over for consideration as part of the omnibus education funding bill.

Alternative Teacher Licensure Bill to Governor. Education Minnesota is disappointed that the alternative teacher licensure bill is not more prescriptive, but the conference committee on the bill passed easily with very little discussion in both the House and Senate today.

There was very little complaint about the content of the bill, although Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) did take issue with the process by which the final bill was assembled, contending that the negotiations were conducted in private. The final vote in the Senate was 46-19. The House vote was 80-51. The bill now heads to the Governor where, barring a complete reversal of course, it will be signed.

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