Monday, January 30, 2012

I Walk the Online. If Johnny Cash were still alive and recording, my guess he'd rename one of his greatest hits to reflect the reality of the modern era. Online life is certainly growing as part of the human experience and online learning is getting a toehold on the provision of educational services to students throughout the world.

Given this backdrop, there was ample interest in SF 1528 (Nelson-R-Rochester), a bill that would regulate, and hopefully expand online learning opportunities in Minnesota. In its initial form, the bill would have removed the requirement that a licensed teacher be physically present in the classroom to which the online material is delivered. This provision, along with several others, was dropped by a "strike-everything" amendment that calls for an extension of The Online Learning Advisory Council for another year and mandates that the group report back to the Legislature in January, 2013. Further, the Council is to catalog "all digital learning content currently aligned to Minnesota academic standards. . ."

The amendment also establishes that in a district that is a full-time online learning provider, the number of students that a teacher may instruct in any one online learning course is a "matter of inherent managerial policy."

The legislation's proponents included a number of luminaries, including educators who have worked with the Florida virtual school, and individual who has worked with Clayton Christensen's on the subject of "disruptive innovation," and Mitch Pearlstein, the Executive Director of the Center for the American Experiment.

After the testimony from the proponents, the bill, as amended, was laid over for further discussion tomorrow.

Senate Rejects Ellen Anderson Appointment. One reason the Education Committee ran out of time today was due to its late start and the reason for the late start was the Senate floor session ran overtime. As in the case of the federal government, most executive branch appointments are subject to the Senate's approval and the Senate took up four of Governor Dayton's high-ranking appointments today. Three of the four appointments garnered Senate approval, but former State Senator and current (until today) Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Ellen Anderson was rejected on a party-line vote of 37-29.

It's always a bit of a surprise when a gubernatorial appointment is rejected, but there has been some conjecture that the Senate would seek out several appointments to reject. Some are attributing this to a desire for revenge in view of the fact that the Democrats rejected the appointments of Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau as Commissioner of Transportation and Cheri Pierson Yecke as Commissioner of Education during the Pawlenty Administration. Whatever the case, Governor Dayton was none too happy with the Senate's actions and said so during a post-session press conference.

Here's the story from the StarTrib's blog:

Fiscal Disparities Discussion to Heat Up. The metropolitan property tax base sharing framework known as the Fiscal Disparities Program has long been a subject of interest, as it is the nation's only program of its type. It has also garnered its share of brickbats from communities who view the program as unfair.

Under the program, an increment of each metropolitan community's commercial and industrial property value annual growth goes into a pool that is distributed. Those communities who have experienced the most growth transfer part of their increased value to communities that have experienced less growth (or property value loss).

You can guess, given the levels of property wealth along with transportation patterns and infrastructure levels that exist in the metropolitan area, who is complaining. The richer communities in southern and western Hennepin County have traditionally had higher rates of commercial and industrial property and, as a result, have exported some of this value growth to outer-ring suburbs, especially those in Anoka County.

With this in mind, the Legislature commissioned a study of the Fiscal Disparities Program, which was enacted side-by-side with the Minnesota Miracle in the early 1970s. That study will be released this week with legislative hearings taking place in mid-February. I will post the study when it becomes available, but for now, you'll have to be satisfied with this story from the StarTribune.

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