School Trust Land Conference Committee Passes House Easily. There was some question whether or not the conference committee report on HF 2244 would generate the same level of support (104 yes votes) on the House floor as the bill did on its initial pass through the process. It was mildly surprising that the conference committee report generated even more support, as it passed on a vote of 110-21. Whether the size of the vote will have an effect on the Governor's actions remains to be seen (and he has vetoed at least one bill this session that had more support in the House) as 110 votes is far greater than the number of votes needed to override a veto and this issue has broad support in the education community. Just another mystery to be revealed in the last few days of the session,
The conference committee report will now head to the Senate floor, where it is expected to pass either later today or tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Education Bill Clinker #1: Not everything in the omnibus education bill is sweetness and light. Most of the bill is non-controversial in the most non-controversial sense, but there are several provisions that will raise an eyebrow (or two or three). I'll be writing about a few of these in the days ahead and I'll start with the changes to the principal evaluation provision in the bill that incorporate student performance into the process at a level identical to that found in the teacher evaluation program passed last session. That level is 35%.
The way I look at it is principals are in charge of every aspect of operations in a school building. While promotion of learning and achievement are clearly paramount on this list of duties, there is only so much a principal can do about what happens at the level of direct instruction.
Using another in a series of my Gerald Ford Memorial Sports Analogies (I've named this series after the former President, a top-notch college football player and someone not averse to the use of the sports analogy), I'll put it this way. A principal is like a manager of a baseball team and everyone knows there are games where the manager does everything right. He uses his players to their optimum value, putting the team in the position to win in the process. He makes all the right strategic moves. But through circumstances beyond his control (sometimes an unlucky bounce), the game may still be lost.
There was compelling testimony in the Senate Education Committee earlier in the session that really showed the predicament and shuffling of priorities that a principal may face during a school year. This particular principal talked about a situation where the school had experienced a tragedy in the death of several students. As a result, learning had to take a bit of a back seat for a bit in order to get the culture of the school back on track so that the students could get back to a place where learning was central to the enterprise. Just another example of circumstances beyond everyone's control having an effect on the learning process, but when in doubt, blame someone.
As I Was Writing. . . The Senate took up the conference committee report on HF 2244. The discussion was more spirited than the House debate earlier this afternoon and the vote was closer as well. When the Senate initially passed this bill last month, it was by a vote of 54-8. Today's vote was 42-20. There was some concern expressed on the Senate floor that the bill left the Senate was much more sensitive to environmental concerns than the conference committee report and that likely led to the vote erosion.
The bill is now on its way to the Governor and it will be interesting to see if it is signed. As I reported yesterday, there are some who believe that the Department of Natural Resources is in ardent opposition to the bill (while they expressed concerns during the conference committee proceedings, I wouldn't describe their points as contentious or pointing toward clear and unequivocal opposition) and that they will try to convince the Governor to veto the bill. Should be interesting (if you find things like this interesting).
As in the case of the staff development bill, if you are so moved, here is the link to contact the Governor with your support or concerns: http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/