Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Quiet Day.  None of the education-related conference committees met today as targets have yet to be reached on the omnibus supplemental appropriations bill and the education policy conference committee postponed their next meeting until tomorrow.  The conference committee on the Health Insurance Transparency Act also did not meet and the only thing we know about that moving forward is that the House has the gavel and will be calling the next meeting.  The Legislature must finish its work by Monday, May 19, and it cannot pass bills on the last day of the session this year, meaning work will have to finish by Sunday, May 18.  It is rare that the Legislature meets in session on a Sunday, but it has happened with some regularity over the past decade.  Stay tuned.

Governor Gives State of the State Address.  Due to Governor Dayton's recovery from surgery earlier this session, the Govenror's State of the State Address was postponed until the last day of April, which is the latest State of the State Address that I can recall.  The focus of Governor's speech was progress he believes has been made over the past three-plus years.  He highlighted efforts he believes have bolstered Minnesota's economy and put Minnesota's fiscal house in order.  Below are the comments related to education.  I found it interesting that he highlighted several efforts that were passed during the biennium when Republicans controlled the Legislature.  Below is the portion of the speech relating to education:

Improving education is closely connected with good jobs and economic growth.  It is also closely connected with our citizens’ health and well-being.  I am very pleased to report that we have made significant new investments in education, all the way from early childhood through post-secondary, and improved results are beginning to show. 
We started in 2011, when, despite facing a projected $6 Billion deficit, we increased K-12 education funding by $223 million, reversing a decade of declining state support for our public schools. 
The 2011 legislature also passed an Alternative Pathway for Teacher Licensure and a “Read Well by Third Grade” literacy initiative. It enacted comprehensive teacher and principal evaluations.  Principal evaluations began last fall, and teacher evaluations will start state-wide this September. 
Last year, the 2013 legislature made $485 million of new investments in education.  It increased the per-pupil aid formula as well as support for Special Education. 

State funding for early childhood education scholarships was increased to $46 million last year, and the Senate wants to raise that amount this year.  Early childhood education is real education reform. 
The legislature also passed one of my consistent priorities; and state-funded, all-day kindergarten will begin this fall.  Studies show that both early childhood and all-day kindergarten can make crucial differences in boosting students’ performances and closing achievement gaps.  So do nutritious hot school lunches.  No child should be shamed because parents can’t afford lunch.  Hopefully, that funding will soon be enacted. 
And, very significantly, during the past two-and-a-half years, we have repaid ALL of the $2.8 Billion previously borrowed from our schools.  Now, school districts can put their money into classrooms, not bank loans.  Let us vow that no more will we balance state budgets by creating deficits in school budgets. 
Just weeks ago, the legislature passed strong anti-bullying legislation.  That is also important education reform.  Children don’t learn at school, if they are scared.  Or made to feel bad about themselves. 
Once, Minnesota students competed successfully not only with students around the country, but also with kids around the world.  We are on our way to doing that again. 
Testing by the Trends in International Math and Science Study ranks Minnesota #9 among world educational systems in Science and 6th in Mathematics. 
Back home, in the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Minnesota’s 4th graders tested #1 in the nation in math.  They ranked 10th best in reading, which was a big improvement from 22nd the year before. Very important was that the state’s reading gap for African-American and Latino 4th graders closed by 10 points from 2009 to 2013. 
Our 8th graders ranked 11th best in the nation in reading and 5th best in math. 
We have had the highest ACT scores among seniors for 8 years running, and our graduation rate, nearly 80%, is the highest in a decade. 
Regarding higher education, we have started to make progress, but we have quite a ways to go.  In fiscal 2012, state support for higher education, in real, after-inflation dollars, fell to its lowest level since 1981.  Last year’s legislature began to reverse that trend, and increased state funding for higher education by a record $248.5 million. 
One result from that declining state funding had been the increased reliance on tuition revenues to fund our public colleges and universities.  According to the College Board, in this school year Minnesota has the 4th highest in-state tuition and fees for two-year public colleges and the 12th highest for four-year colleges and universities.  Last year’s legislature wisely imposed two-year freezes on tuitions at the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU colleges and universities. 
In addition, the State Grant Program was expanded.  As a result, over Minnesota 100,000 students have received increased state financial aid this year. 

The link to the entire text of the speech is here:

State of the State link:

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