On Your Mark. Get Set. It's not "Go" quite yet, but it will be in approximately 15 hours when the 2015-2016 biennium of the Minnesota Legislature begins. I stopped by the Capitol today and it was pretty quiet, with only a handful of legislators in the State Office Building (and most of them in the process of unpacking boxes and assembling their offices), but that will all change tomorrow.
It's difficult to know what to expect at this point. The majority in the Minnesota House has flipped back to the Republicans, but most everyone is saying the right things at this point (of course, the session hasn't started yet) and if everyone is to be taken at their word, the confrontation that took place between the legislature and the Governor in 2011 and resulted in a shutdown will be avoided. It's important to remember "government math," and in this case, the DFL has two legs of the stool and the Republicans one. That doesn't mean that the House Republicans will simply cave and let the DFL have its way, but it also means that they aren't going to run the table. This could be a year when a number of reform initiatives may take root. There's a lot to do across the board in the re-inventing government sense and it wouldn't surprise me if a number of proposals in that vein discussed thoroughly during the upcoming session.
The big news is the budget and while $1 billion sounds like a lot, it basically calculates to funding inflation over the biennium given that the biennial budget is projected to come in slightly over $40 billion given the expected growth in various parts of the budget. That doesn't mean that some of this growth won't be pared back and that the savings moved into other programs. Again, that story is yet to be written, but given the Governor's statement that he would like to put additional revenue into E-12 education to make Minnesota a "State of Educational Excellence" there is indeed a possibility of dollars being directed away from some expenditure categories to education-related programs.
A Lot Being Written About the Teaching Profession. The state of the teaching profession has come under increasing scrutiny over the past few years with the Vergara lawsuit in California and teacher evaluation programs being implemented in a number of states (including Minnesota). But legal and legislative action aren't the only indicators of interest in the topic.
Here is a link to a review of three books about the teaching profession that was published in the December 4, 2014, issue of the New York Review of Books. There's a ton of interesting nuggets in the review. I've got a copy of Dana Goldstein's "The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession," but I doubt I'll get a chance to read it until the session is over.
NYRB Link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/04/why-american-teaching-so-bad/?insrc=whc
In a similar vein, I caught this story on National Public Radio's Marketplace show tonight about a new teacher training program in Baltimore, Maryland. While the program concentrates on prospective urban educators, the concept of "resident teachers" has been around in some form for awhile, but it has never been implemented on a wide scale at least to my knowledge. Anyway, here's the story.
Marketplace Link: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/education/training-urban-teachers-who-stay