Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Long Days Journey Into Night.  It wasn't at all reminiscent of anything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote, but with the policy committee deadline just two and a half weeks away and so many bills to discuss, we are in the thrall of night meetings.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee tackled 12--count 'em 12--bills today in a hearing that covered about five hours split between the early morning and evening hours.  It was a smorgasbord (where's my umlaut when I need it) of bills, most of which covered teacher training and issues related to improving teacher performance.  There was some SEE flavor to the proceedings, with a delegation from Owatonna led off the day seeking approval of a bill authored by Representative John Petersburg that would clarify their referendum language from their last operating levy to prevent an unintended loss in the revenue that can be collected.  This evening, Litchfield superintendent Dan Frazier testifying in favor of Representative Dean Urdahl's HF 246, a bill that would appropriate an unspecified amount of revenue (a lot of bills have what are termed "blank" appropriations at this stage of the game) to the Minnesota Board of Teaching to more fully develop teacher mentorship programs throughout the state.

The House Education Finance Committee discussed two bills that could prove very helpful for school districts throughout the state as they seek to narrow the achievement gap in their districts.  HF 567 (Wills) and HF 1222 (Hertaus) would give districts the opportunity to flexibly transfer their compensatory revenue to where they believe it would be of the greatest effectiveness in meeting the needs of low-performing students.  Compensatory revenue is calculated on a per site basis with 90% of the revenue generated by the number and concentration of students on free or reduced price lunch in the building required to stay in that building.  In concept, this makes sense and makes certain that revenue will not be moved away from some sites toward other sites on an arbitrary basis.  However, there are instances where the amount of revenue generated at a site is so paltry, nothing of significant value can be purchased with it.  Giving districts more leeway to pool revenue and move it to where it would be most effective in meeting district academic and social/emotional goals.  Currently, a district can move 10% of the revenue earned by a site's formula components.  HF 567 would raise that to 50%, while HF 1222 would allow districts complete flexibility to move compensatory revenue without any barriers.  Concern was raised that districts could conceivably more dollars "politically" within a district with no heed to the needs of students experiencing barriers to learning.  Representative Jerry Newton, who was a member of the Anoka-Hennepin school board and currently represents that area in the House of Representatives, told the committee of Anoka-Hennepin's experience with the compensatory revenue pilot project which the district has been a part of for a number of years.  Under that law, Anoka-Hennepin has complete flexibility to direct the revenue delivered under the pilot project grant to the the sites that the district determines to have the greatest need.  They also have to file a report with the Minnesota Department of Education to justify the decisions made by the school board and district administration.  Anyone familiar with Anoka-Hennepin's experience can attest to how the flexibility has worked extremely well and has narrowed the achievement gap noticeably.  I've prattled on a bit, but I believe if more flexibility in the form of either of the bills would likely be accompanied by some form of report to make certain that the fears of moving revenue indiscriminately are allayed.

Monday's Bill Introductions.  I neglected to post last night (and I apologize for the delay), so here are Monday's bill introductions.


SF 1220--Clausen--Removes language excluding retired principals who serve as a substitute principal fron continuing education requirements--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF1220&session=ls89&version=latest&session_number=0&session_year=2015

SF 1236--Torres Ray--Requires reporting data on homeless and highly mobile students--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF1236&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0

SF 1239--Johnson--Adding school personnel notice and reporting requirements--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF1239&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0

SF 1248--Stumpf--Allows computer science course credit to fulfill math requirement--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF1248&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0

SF 1276--Pappas--Establishes education partnership youth development grant program--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF1276&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0


HF 1302--E. Murphy--Amends provisions to Health Insurance Transparency Act--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF1302&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0

HF 1383--Erickson--Requires school districts to unseal expunged criminal records of prospective teachers--https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF1383&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0

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