Monday, March 24, 2014

Last Day.  I think we'll be saying that a lot in the next few weeks, but today was the last day that the House Education Finance Committee will be hearing bills other the omnibus bill, which they will hear tomorrow.  A number of the bills heard today are part of the proposed omnibus education funding draft (released yesterday and described in yesterday's blog entry) or part of the education policy bill--HF 2397--that passed out of the House Education Policy Committee last week.

One of the more interesting of these bill is HF 2568, authored by Representative Mary Sawatsky (DFL-Willmar).  This bill would create a single online reporting system for special education paperwork starting in the 2017-2018 school year.  Representative Sawatsky is a veteran special education teacher with 29 years of experience in the classroom and one of her primary goals in introducing the bill is to reduce the paperwork that special education teachers face on a daily basis.  She readily admits that this bill alone will not accomplish that goal, but that it should help start a discussion that needs to take place surrounding federal and state laws and rules that govern special education and the reporting requirements that accompany these laws and rules.  It is crucial that this discussion include not only the Minnesota Department of Education, but also reach to the Office of Special Education Policy in Washington, D.C.

I don't think anyone is kidding themselves that these will be easy conversations.  It is imperative that the due process and educational rights of children with special needs be protected and that they be offered the opportunities accorded to them by law.  What is troubling is that the amount of paperwork associated with these goals has become a prodigious burden for teachers that detracts from their student contact time.

Whatever the fate of this particular bill this year (it will be heard in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow), it has sparked a needed conversation and one that all educators need to participate in.

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