Thursday, April 18, 2013

House Education Bill Clears Next Step.  The House omnibus education funding bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee on a voice vote today after a little more than an hour of discussion and the adoption of two amendments.  Representative Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) offered an amendment that stripped the ability for school districts to start school before Labor Day and it was adopted on a voice vote.  While not earth-shattering (nor unexpected) development, the adoption of the amendment shows once again the seeming inconsistency when a segment of the economy is pitted against the education interests of the state.  Representative Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) told an interesting anecdote.  Representative Mahoney is hosting a foreign-exchange student this school year and when the student first arrived, he was worried over how hard it would be for him to catch up with his American high school peers given the date on which he'd arrived in the United States.  In actuality, the student had arrived the first week of September and while students in his home country had been in school for three weeks, he hadn't missed a day of school in Minnesota.  Representative Mahoney's point is that we are competing in a global marketplace and yet we seem to cling to some quaint notions about the status of education in the United States (and Minnesota) and sometimes do not take the reality and nature of that competition seriously.  Folks can't complain about student achievement on the one hand and then tie school districts' hands when it comes to establishing their annual school calendars on the other.  Again, the world won't come to an end if school districts cannot start their formal school years until after Labor Day, but it's just another inconsistency that arises in the education debate.

The other amendment that was attached to the bill concerned the school climate center that is part of the anti-bullying bill.  The anti-bullying bill is also moving on its own (in fact, the Ways and Means Committee recommended the bill for passage and, like the omnibus education funding bill, referred it to the House floor at the same meeting).

The omnibus education funding bill now heads to the House floor, where it will likely be taken up early next week.

The Senate Tax Committee will be hearing the Senate omnibus education funding bill tomorrow morning.

Let's Get Philosophical.  As I was driving to the Capitol today for the House Ways and Means Committee meeting, I listened to MPR's The Daily Circuit, which featured Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and Anoka-Hennepin teachers' union leader Julie Blaha (also a member of the Governor's Education Finance Working Group).  The discussion centered on testing and how the proposed changes to Minnesota's testing regimen will go a long ways toward delivering more meaningful assessment of student achievement that will be more helpful than the current system for students, parents, and educators.

Here is a link to the discussion:

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