Busy Day for Commissioner Cassellius. Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius presented an overview of the Governor's education budget before two committees--the Senate Education Finance Committee and the House Education Finance Committee--on Wednesday. While not going into the minutiae surrounding the budget, she did provide the rationale used by the Governor in assembling his education priorities for consideration during the 2015 legislative session. The logic is pretty straightforward. Given the deficits that many young children experience, the Governor has deemed it extremely important that a comprehensive early education program be developed. The early learning scholarship program will be part of the Governor's program, but he also wants to greatly expand opportunities for all children through a more universal approach and is proposing that 4-year-olds be "weighted" for formula purposes with the resulting revenue being used for programs to promote early learning. While there was a bit more detail provided today than what is contained in the budget document, there are still a lot of unanswered questions (which is to be expected) that will need clarification as the proposal moves through the process.
The Senators and Representatives asked a number of pointed questions, particularly why more money wasn't directed toward the general education basic formula or no provisions from the task forces on school facilities and teacher development and evaluation were included in the Governor's budget document. It will make for an interesting debate as the session continues.
Free College Story. When Tennessee implemented a free community/technical college plan last year, it was expected that it would create a buzz. That buzz reached Minnesota earlier this month when Senator LeRoy Stumpf introduced SF 2, a bill that would provide similar benefits to Minnesota students. Last week, President Obama also embraced the plan in his State of the Union address, which amped up interest even further. There are obvious cost (and eligibility) concerns, but given continually rising college costs and the oft-discussed (but never really solved) "skills gap," approaches like this are bound to find their way into the spotlight.
Below is a link to the bill and to an MPR story on the concept.
MPR Story: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/01/28/free-college