Sunday, February 12, 2012

Night Meetings, Night Meetings (We Know How to Do It). Apologies to the Brothers Gibb, but the phrasing just worked to well to let pass. I neglected to post after last Thursday's House Education Policy Committee meeting, but I had to mark the first (of not too many I hope) education-related night meetings. The meeting was dedicated to finishing the committee's proceedings on HF 1870, Representative Branden Petersen's (R-Andover) bill on removing seniority as the primary determinant of how teachers are put on unrequested leave of absence (or, in common parlance, laid off). This particular hearing on the bill began during its regularly-appointed morning time slot (testimony on the bill had been taken the previous week prior to the legislative recess for precinct caucuses) and the debate became, in polite terms, a bit heated. A number of amendments were discussed and several were placed on the bill prior to the committee recessing until 6 PM.

The night portion of the hearing was more subdued and frayed nerves were soothed. Clearly, there are two different schools for thought at work here and opponents of the bill do have a point in that seniority is not always the sole, or even primary, determinant in how layoff decisions are made. Further, one can't help but wonder how many "bad" teachers are actually out there and whether or not a true crisis exists in this area. Another problem is that under HF 1870, layoffs would be based on teacher performance as measured by district teacher evaluation plans that would be implemented in the wake of last session's teacher evaluation law. Opponents made the point that school districts have yet to implement their teacher evaluation plans, making it difficult to measure the effect on layoff decisions. In other words, there is mistrust on the part of teachers that hiring hi-jinks will ensure if this bill were to come into law without first having an idea of what the teacher evaluation framework will look like, both statewide and in individual districts.

At the same time, there is ample frustration on the part of school districts throughout the state that it is simply too difficult to transition teachers who are falling short in the classroom out of the profession and that a more data-driven approach to assessing teachers and allowing districts more flexibility in assembling its teaching force on a year-to-year basis without the hobbles of strict seniority needs to be in place. Whether or not that process is contained in HF 1870 remains to be seen.

In a related note, the primary editorial in the Sunday Minneapolis StarTribune trumpeted support for HF 1870. Link:

Speaking of Editorials. Sunday's StarTribune also featured dueling editorials (not to be confused with dueling banjos) on the legislatively-mandated report on integration revenue that was ordered as part of last year's omnibus education funding bill. The editorial page editor praised the report while Katherine Kersten, who served on the 12-member commission that took testimony on the subject, wrote an editorial that questioned the whole notion of a revenue stream aimed at the "physical" desegregation of students.

It's hard to say what will happen on this issue. There is no need for action to be taken this year, although the possibility exists that the Legislature may pass a "message" bill that the Governor would likely veto. I'll have a blurb below regarding the Governor's veto of four bills passed by the Legislature earlier this session relating to lawsuit reform that may be an indication that the Governor could have a pretty good case of writer's cramp from composing veto messages this session.

Anyhow, here are the editorials on integration revenue.

About Those Vetoes. As I mentioned above, the Governor vetoed four bills relating to tort reform as soon as they hit his desk last week. Labeling the bills as a "sop" for the insurance industry, the Governor took little time to establish his position on what he views to be "message bills" the Legislature may pass. If this is any indication, there will be a lot of "dead bills walking" as the Legislature may pass much of its platform across-the-board without seeking gubernatorial input. On the bright side, it will save a lot of time in the composition of legislative campaign literature as one side can cut-and-paste sections of vetoed bills into its pieces, while the other can simply do the same with gubernatorial veto messages.

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