Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We're Rolling. Spirited discussion was the order of the day in several venues at the State Capitol as the 2012 Leigslative Session got underway. Perhaps the most spirited discussion took place in the Senate Rules Committee, where the 5% cut to the Senate operating budget (as agreed upon in last year's budget deal) was enacted. Under the plan, all of the approximately $440,000 in cuts would come out of the DFL caucus staff. Needless to say, the spirit of bipartisanship wasn't in evidence during the hearing.

Education Hearings. Both education-related hearings had their share of interesting discussion as well. The House Education Funding Committee heard Representative Kelby Woodard's (R-Belle Plaine) HF 1860, a bill that would require that the levy portion of a resident student's general education revenue accompany the student to a charter school, provided the charter school was located in the resident school district.

I testified against the bill for a couple of reasons. First, so many SEE school districts fall well below the state average in per pupil revenue and because of this, they seek additional revenue through voter-approved referenda. Diverting even a small amount of revenue from cash-strapped districts would be extremely damaging and HF 1860 would divert revenue. The second reason I testified against the bill is that changes like the one proposed should be discussed within a broader range of reforms and not as an isolated proposal. Charter schools may need more revenue, but so do traditional schools and simply moving revenue around between the two systems doesn't serve the whole education system effectively. The bill was laid on the table for possible inclusion in the 2012 omnibus bill.

The Senate Education Committee dealt with Senator Ted Daley's (R-Eagan) SF 1493, a bill that would require that prospective teachers pass a set of basic skills tests before they could enroll in a teacher preparation program. This bill passed the Senate last session, but amendments added to the bill in the House triggered a gubernatorial veto. The discussion centered around the issue of teacher quality versus the goal of recruiting a broad range of teaching candidates to instruct children. The bill was, as in the case of the House bill in the House committee, laid on the table for possible inclusion in the omnibus education bill.

The entire Legislature will be attending a conference tomorrow, but they will be back at it Thursday. Don't worry, I'll find something to write about tomorrow.

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