Thursday, January 29, 2015

Testimony on Governor's Bill.  It's always one of the more uncomfortable pieces of testimony that a lobbyist has to give during the session; reaction to the Governor's budget.  There's always something to like and always something to dislike in the Governor's recommendations and it's no different this year.  The key is finding a balance that respects all of the work that has gone into the development of the budget, thank the Governor for the things that are there, and politely point out things that one wishes weren't there.

My testimony today thanked the Governor for at least putting some money on the general education formula, suggesting a universal/school-based approach on early childhood education, and advocating for more funding for PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports).  The downside of the budget recommendation is that there isn't more there, especially in terms of funding for facilities and funding for school districts that aren't participating in the alternative compensation program to assist with the teacher development and evaluation mandate.  I wasn't alone in my assessment.  Most every educational organization came forward and expressed concerns in the same vein.  Farmington Superintendent Jay Haugen, representing the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, was pretty much the rock star of the day as he pointed out what a 1% increase on the basic formula will mean in many districts.  In a word, most everyone will be cutting.  Haugen, like superintendents and other school personnel throughout the state, are on the front line on this issue and they are the ones who experience the effects of inadequate funding.

Another item I pointed out is that the Minnesota Department of Education has convened some really terrific task forces and working groups over the past couple of decades.  The problem is that bulk of the work product of these groups never seems to find its way into Governors' budget proposals.  This is nothing new, but it is frustrating.  The findings of the School Facilities Finance Working Group and the task force melding the alternative compensation and teacher development and evaluation programs are the results of a lot of hard work and they address some glaring inequities in the school funding framework.  Hopefully, some progress can be made on these issues as the session continues.  As I wrote yesterday, the Governor's budget is simply the first pitch in a long season.  It's a very important first pitch, but there's a long, long ways to go.

School Support Personnel Push.  Here's an opinion piece from Thursday's StarTribune decrying Minnesota's lack of guidance counselors.  It's not just guidance counselors.  Minnesota school districts are light in terms of all types of support personnel, including guidance counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and school nurses.  There will be an effort made this year to provide incentives for school districts to hire additional support personnel and from what I've heard, it will come in the form of incentives and not in the form of mandates.  Given the increasing challenges facing school districts, support personnel have become more important and it will be interesting to see how this effort unfolds and what shape it takes.


Thursday Bill Introductions.


SF 398 -- Dziedzic -- Authorizes grants for the collaborative urban educator program --

SF 430 -- Kiffmeyer -- Requires a study on concurrent enrollment course --

SF 434 -- Chamberlain -- Postpones the statutory review of state mathematics standards --


HF 392 -- Newton -- Allows school board to renew an expiring referendum levy for up to five years --

HF 394 -- Freiberg -- Integrates service learning into Minnesota's education system --

HF 424 -- Pinto -- Makes technical change to conform the definition of directory information with federal law --

HF 435 -- Newton -- Resolution memorializing President and Congress to uphold federal government's pledge to fund 40% of special education costs --

HF 466 -- Kresha -- Permits September 1 school start date for he 2015-2016 school year --

HF 471 -- Erickson -- Permits September 1 school start date for he 2015-2016 school year --

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