Wednesday, March 30, 2016

House Bill Posted.  The first draft of the House omnibus education policy bill was posted online this morning.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee will walk through the bill tomorrow morning and begin taking amendments.  The committee intends to meet in its regular time slot of 8:15 AM to 10:00 AM and re-convene after the end of Thursday's floor session.  The committee has also booked time for Friday the event it does not finish its work tomorrow.

Here is a link to the House omnibus education policy bill prior to amendments:

HF 3066

As you can see in the far right hand column of the House Education Innovation Policy Committee home page, 11 amendments will be offered; 2 by the majority and 9 by the minority.  It will be interesting to see if all of them are offered and how much discussion they elicit.  Here is a link to the House Education Innovation Policy Committee home page:

House Education Innovation Policy Committee Home Page

Senate Hearing.  The Senate Education Committee walked through its omnibus policy bill and will start taking amendments tomorrow.  Here is a link to tomorrow's meeting's agenda.  As you can see, there are 7 amendments that are posted and may be offered.

Senate Education Committee Meeting Agenda for March 31, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Long Day in the House.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee had a king-sized agenda this morning (and afternoon and evening) covering 11 bills.  The text of many of these bills will likely show up in the House omnibus education policy bill that will be posted online tomorrow.  Several other bills were recommended to pass and re-referred to the House Education Finance Committee, where they will be considered when the House assembles its omnibus education bill.  Neither the House nor Senate majority caucuses have announced their budget targets yet and the House Education Finance Committee may not get much, if any, of a target.  Putting a point on it, the chances of the Senate's education funding target being larger than the House's is quite likely.  As was the case last year, both legislative targets are expected to be smaller than the Governor's.

There were a number of interesting bills before the House Education Innovation Policy Committee, but two stood out as being of great interest to SEE.  The first is HF 3132--The Teacher Shortage Act--authored by Representative Sondra Erickson, who serves as the Chair of the House Education Innovation Policy Committee.  SF 2513, authored by Senator Kevin Dahle, is the Senate companion to HF 3132.  The centerpiece of the bill is the creation of a revenue stream for school districts that are not participating in the alternative compensation program to help these districts pay for the costs associated with the Teacher Development and Evaluation program, but there are also grants for teacher training for instructors in shortage areas, money for the collaborative urban educators program, and the creation of a single board for licensing teachers.

The committee also heard HF 3543, Representative Jerry Hertaus' bill that would require any rule changes to the state's Achievement and Integration program be approved by the Legislature before they take effect.  As I wrote last week, a decision handed down by an Administrative Law Judge invalidated the proposed rule changes that were developed by a working group in 2013 and 2014.  The result of those rule changes would have resulted in a sizable revenue hit for a number of districts and several of these districts are SEE members.  Rockford superintendent Paul Durand and Rockford high school principal Peter Grimm provided excellent testimony about the programs that the Rockford district has created by participating in the Northwest Suburban Integration School District and how those programs would have been jeopardized had the Administrative Law Judge had not overturned the results of MDE's rulemaking process.

The House will be posting its initial version of their omnibus education policy bill early tomorrow and I will link it when it becomes available.

Speaking of Omnibus Bills.  The Senate has posted its omnibus education policy bill--SF 2744--online along with a section-by-section summary.

Here are the links:

SF 2744 Language

SF 2744 Summary

House Education Finance Committee.  The House Education Finance Committee spent most of its committee time discussing HF 1529, Representative Kelly Fenton's Education Savings Accounts bill.  Under the bill, parents of special education students could set up accounts with the Minnesota Department of Education which could be used to pay for a variety of services, including tuition at private schools.  Beyond the fact that these Education Savings Accounts are vouchers by another name, there are myriad operational issues, many of them complicated, that accompany the special education funding and delivery systems.  It is unclear what the costs associated with the bill would be.  Some believe they would be minimal while others contend they would be considerable.  One reason to believe that the proposal would be cost prohibitive, especially in a year when budget targets will likely be meager, is the fact that the general education revenue attributable to a student would be placed in the Education Savings Account.  Currently, if a special education student is served in a private school, the general education revenue does not follow the student.  What also complicates the bill's chances for success is that it has yet to be heard in the Senate, making any consideration in that body unlikely at this juncture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Policy.  Policy.  Policy.  The Senate Education Committee tackled 10 bills this morning, all dealing with education policy.  There was great discussion on a number of bills, but the most spirited discussion took place over SF 1407, Senator Eric Pratt's bill to tighten up the requirement that all learners know how to read at grade level by the end of third grade.  The primary concern with the bill is that it would place a new mandate (it could be argued a set of mandates) on school districts that will require a significant investment of money and staff resources to achieve the goal.  One thing the amended bill calls for is a personal learning plan for students who are at risk of not reaching reading proficiency by the end of third grade.  Questions arose over whether that document would constitute a non-special education IEP that, if approved, would have the force of law like an IEP for a special education student.  Concerns aside, the point that so many students are reaching reading proficiency by the end of third grade is very troublesome and dramatic action may be in order.  My guess is this proposal will have some legs as the Senate puts together its omnibus education policy bill.

Bills proposing two task forces--one on unfunded mandates and another on school discipline policy--were also discussed.  Senator Greg Clausen is the author of both of these bills.  Senator Clausen has a bill on concurrent enrollment and trying to ensure that college in the schools programs will continue at school districts throughout the state that also received attention today.

Here is today's agenda with links to the bills.  The amendment to SF 1407 is now the complete bill, so that link is the one to access if you want to read Senator Pratt's bill.

Wednesday, March 23, Senate Education Committee Agenda

House Education Finance Committee.  The House Education Finance Committee had a truncated schedule today.  The primary bill of interest to SEE was Representative Howe's bill mandating that school districts with approved QComp plans receive all of the money due to them rather than be subject to proration.  The bill actually deals with two SEE districts--ROCORI and Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose--who had their QComp plans approved only to not receive the entire aid amount due to them and what they were under the impression they would receive.  The Governor has $240,000 in his budget to give these two districts the revenue due to them, but, of course, there is no guarantee that either the House or the Senate will have a supplemental budget and if they do, it would include this particular expenditure.  Representative Howe's bill would take money from the MDE budget to meet these costs in the event these two districts are not fully funded this session.

Judge Overturns MDE Proposed Desegregation Rule.  Judge Ann C. O'Reilly overturned MDE's proposed desegregation rule that it approved last fall.  The highest profile issue in the discussion revolves around the decision to put charter schools under the auspices of the desegregation rule, but there was another issue that was of more importance to several SEE member districts that are participating in voluntary desegregation programs.  The new rule would have moved revenue away from these districts and put in jeopardy a number of magnet schools and voluntary programs which brought minority students into these districts.  Because of their relatively low levels of per pupil funding, these districts have been using desegregation revenue to to create opportunities for minority students in other districts along with their own students.  These opportunities wouldn't be there without the desegregation revenue.  But what is particularly maddening is that these districts followed the letter of the law to a tee only to have an administrative decision threaten these student opportunities.

To me, the heart of the matter is that this is a decision that should be handled at the legislative level and not through administrative rule-making.  I have worked on this issue a fair amount over the years and I've always believed that laws deal with "what" while rules deal with "how."  Given the scope of this proposed rule change and the fact that it changed definitions and moved around significant amounts of revenue, it clearly falls on the "what" side of the ledger.

I am trying to find a copy of the decision to post, but in the meantime, I will post these two stories in the local media regarding the decision.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Very Busy Tuesday.  The Senate Education Committee dedicated itself to the teacher shortage Tuesday morning, poring through ten bills that deal with every angle of the teacher shortage.  The teacher shortage is very real and is affecting all parts of the state, though in different ways.  Shortages in special education teachers is a problem most school districts are experiencing, but the need for minority teachers is also becoming an issue, especially for urban districts.

The primary bill of interest to SEE heard this morning is SF 2513, Senator Kevin Dahle's Teacher Shortage Act.  Of particular interest to SEE is the provision in the bill that would provide $169 per pupil to school districts and cooperatives to perform the duties related to the state's teacher development and evaluation program.  As I've written before--and something that is in the SEE platform--is that districts that are not participating in the alternative compensation program are at a distinct disadvantage when trying to meet the requirements of the teacher development and evaluation program because it is basically an unfunded mandate.  While the alternative compensation program and the teacher development and evaluation programs are not a perfect match, districts participating in the alternative compensation program do have a pool of money that is generated from their participation that helps them analyze teacher performance.  Districts not participating in alternative compensation have to use general fund money to accomplish the same goals.  The Governor partially recognizes this inequity in his budget by directing $10 million to non-alternative compensation districts for the costs associated with teacher development and evaluation, but that proposal does not go far enough in correcting the disparity.  SF 2513 also provides grants to student teachers in curricular areas that are experiencing a shortage.

Staff from two SEE member districts testified in favor of the bill as Faribault Superintendent Todd Sesker and Owatonna teacher Matt McCarney provided their viewpoints in support of SF 2513.

SF 2513

Senator Vicki Jensen's SF 2908 was also heard.  SF 2908 provides tax credits for teachers and paraprofessionals to advance in their careers.  There is also a troublesome section in SF 2908 that would require that special education caseloads be part of a collective bargaining agreement or be subject to caseload limits defined by law.  One of Education Minnesota's arguments about the special education teacher shortage is that caseloads for these teachers are too high, which causes burnout and forces teachers to leave the profession and serves as a deterrent to those thinking about becoming a special education teacher.  It will be interesting to see if the caseload provision survives as this bill moves forward as most of the education community is opposed to it.

SF 2908

There were also a number of interesting bills to increase the pool of minority teachers and the presentation of those bills by the authors and their witnesses was often times inspirational.  Here is a link to Tuesday morning's agenda for those interested in looking at those bills.

Tuesday, March 22 Senate Education Committee Agenda

The House Education Innovation covered the MDE technical bill (HF 3066), Representative Howe's school board election bill that reverses the decision made in 2013 requiring districts to hold a special election to fill a vacancy on the board instead of allowing the board to appoint a replacement.  This bill is moving in both the House and Senate, so expect at least a partial, and hopefully a full, reversal of the policy enacted last session.  HF 2670, Representative Kresha's bill that revises the early childhood scholarship and early childhood home visiting program, was also heard.  Below is a link to the House Education Innovation Committee agenda from this morning.

Tuesday, March 22 House Education Innovation Committee Agenda

The education committee day ended with a discussion of Minnesota's shared time revenue program and the World's Best Workforce Legislation.  Steve Dibbs from MDE discussed how districts are faring in completing the reporting requirements of the law.  Steve has given a ton of presentations on the World's Best Workforce legislation since its inception and about all I know is that if Steve had a dollar for every one of those presentations, he'd be a pretty rich guy.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Relatively Quiet Day.  You wouldn't know it from all the action, but there were no education-related committee meetings in either the House or Senate today, so things were fairly quiet on that front.

The Senate DFL caucus did release their 2016 education funding and policy priorities, which include a matching grant program for student support services (social workers, psychologists, nurses, chemical dependency counselors, and guidance counselors), programs for teacher recruitment and retention, and a voluntary pre-kindergarten program.

Here is a You Tube link to Senate Media Services coverage of these priorities:  Senate DFL Education Priorities

Things Will be Picking Up.  Healthy-sized agendas for the remainder of the week in education.  The policy bill deadline is Friday, April 1, so the policy portion of the education bill will have to be constructed by then.  It will then be combined with the funding portion of the respective education bills in each house, which will then be folded into an omnibus supplemental budget bill that will contain all budget and policy provisions in all spending areas.  At least that's how the plan was described to me awhile ago.  The question will be whether or not the House will have a supplemental budget bill.  I am confident the House will put together a bill with policy provisions, but it is unclear at this point if any of the House budget committees will receive a target for possible spending.  Targets will likely be announced when the Legislature returns from a short break of Friday through Monday early next week.  I will certainly keep you posted.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Happenin' Thursday.  A full slate of committee meetings today with the House Education Innovation Committee having the most interesting draw as they discussed several bills authored by Representative Eric Lucero concerning student privacy.  With the increasing use of technology and almost every student coming to school with a digital device, concerns about how these devices are protected from unwarranted entry have arisen.  There are also concerns that data that school districts collect, including the student survey administered every three years, inappropriately pries into the lives of students and their families and risks undue exposure of information many deem should remain personal.  All four of Representative Lucero's bills were laid over for possible inclusion in the House omnibus education policy bill.

Here are the links to the four bills discussed today:

HF 2671
HF 2898
HF 2899
HF 2900

The House Education Finance Committee dealt with reports from four organizations:  The Early Learning Scholarship Reprot, Parent Aware, the Sanneh Foundation, and the Career and College Program Incentives.

The Senate heard Senator Susan Kent's Student Support Personnel Act (SF 1364), a grant program that aims to increase the number of school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, chemical dependency counselors, and guidance counselors throughout the state.  The Senate then moved to its policy committee, where it covered five bills, one of which was the MDE Policy Bill.  There is nothing of controversy in the MDE policy bill, which deals primarily with technical changes.  There will be pushback on some of the policies that will accompany the Governor's education budget bill that will likely hit the committee within the next couple of weeks.

Another SEE Bill is Introduced.  The minimum aid guarantee bill that distributes revenue to districts with low levels of general education revenue has now been introduced in both the House and Senate.  The House author is Representative Eric Lucero and the Senate author is Senator Mary Kiffmeyer.  I am still working up the latest cost estimates for the bill.  Previous data runs have come in at around $22 million in statewide costs, but I have yet to run the analysis with the latest data.  Hopefully, the bill will be heard this year even with questions about what the supplemental budget targets will be.

Here is a link to SF 2899/HF 3234:  Minimum Aid Guarantee Bill

Interesting Counterpoint Article.  Below is a link to an article in the latest issue of The Washington Monthly.  The Washington Monthly is a centrist (though clearly Democratic) magazine that covers policy and politics. The article, by Georgetown-based education writer Thomas Toch, bemoans the repeal of many aspects of President Obama's Race to the Top and elements of President Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative.  Agree with it or not, it makes for a good read.

How Obama Got Schooled by Thomas Toch

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Committee Review.  The Senate Education Committee/E-12 Budget Division covered several issues today, most notably, Senator Roger Chamberlain's SF 2308, a bill that would put a dyslexia specialist in the three regional centers of excellence run by the Minnesota Department of Education.  Parents of dyslexic students have been working very hard over the past several years to have school districts employ more aggressive strategies to deal with students who suffer from dyslexia.  Even with all of the work done on reading curricula and innovative approaches to improve reading scores, advocates on behalf of the dyslexic believe that dyslexia constitutes a particular disability condition that needs to be recognized and treated with specific strategies.  I don't have the exact cost proposed by Senator Chamberlain, but it would likely run in the neighborhood of $250,000 to $300,000 annually.

Other bills heard in the Senate today included SF 1386, Senator John Hoffman's bill on licensing early childhood teachers; SF 2605, Senator Eken's bill that facilitates a land swap between the Moorhead and Dilworh-Glyndon-Felton school districts; SF 2517, Senator Patricia Torres Ray's bill that would extend high school graduation incentives to age 24; and SF 2470. Senator Greg Clausen's bill that would require teachers get one hour of suicide prevention training when renewing their license.  The one hour would not be an additional hour to the total number of hours required for renewal, but would be folded into the current time requirements.

The Funding Division portion of the meeting dealt with Senator Susan Kent's bill to require the adoption of the national association of sport and physical education benchmarks.

The House Education Finance Committee spent its meeting reviewing various aspects of early learning, including presentations by St. Paul's Promise Neighborhood and the Northside Achievement Zone.  There were also reports on Parent Aware and the education partnerships that were approved by the Legislature last year.  The testimony from all of these participants was very spirited and there are some very good things happening in these communities.  Some of this discussion will dovetail with efforts toward creating full-service community schools and it shows how important it is that a broad range of services beyond what schools traditionally supply is often needed to improve learning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Governor Releases Supplemental Budget.  As promised, the Governor delivered his supplemental budget recommendations for the 2016 legislative session today.  As foreshadowed in his State of the State Address, the budget is modest and concentrates heavily on one-time money as opposed to on-going budget commitments.  There are tax cuts, but none in the area of property tax equalization for school levies, which I held out some hope for. The largest commitment in the education portion of the budget is a $25 million program for early childhood education.  The budget "tails" are $40 million for FY 18 and $60 million for FY 19. The proposal creates a voluntary program that weights a pre-kindergarten student at 0.6.  While funding would be shared throughout the state, areas that do have high levels of poverty or have an absence of three- or four-star programs pre-school program would receive greater attention.

Here are the other budget recommendations in the education area for this year:

  • $12.3 million in FY 17, $12.1 million in FY 18, and $12.1 million in FY 19 for a teacher workforce package to address Minnesota's teacher shortage.
  • $10.0 million for teacher development and evaluation for all districts and cooperatives not receiving QComp revenue.
  • $1.0 million in FY 17 for Way to Grow.
  • $2.0 million in FY 17 for Full Service Community Schools.
  • $2.8 million in FY 17 for PBIS implementation.
  • $1.0 million in FY 17, $1.0 million in FY 18, and $1.0 million in FY 19 for the Restrictive Procedures Working Group.
  • $69,000 in FY 17, $78,000 in FY 18, and $78,000 in FY 19 for the Metro Deaf Charter School,.
  • $120,000 in FY 17 to fully fund GED testing.
  • $2.0 million in FY 17, $540,000 in FY 18, and $540,000 in FY 19 to fund MDE's online special education reporting system.
  • $4.4 million in FY 17 for technology upgrades at MDE.
  • $34,000 in FY 17, $30,000 for FY 18, and $30,000 in FY 19 for teacher licensure via portfolio.
  • $240,000 in FY 16 into QComp to accommodate two districts with approved QComp plans who did not receive revenue because funding for the program had been totally expended.
  • $30,000 in FY 16, $77,000 in FY 17, $83,000 in FY 18, and $87,000 in FY 19 for a Board of Teaching operating adjustment.

This adds up to:

 $270,000 in FY 16,  $60.8 million in FY 17, $53.8 million in FY 18, and $73.8 million for FY 19.

The Governor also has proposed the $100 million be spent in FY 17 on a statewide broadband grant program.

There are several items here that are contained in the SEE platform in some measure.  The organization has advocated for some teacher development and evaluation revenue for districts that do not participate in QComp.  It would have been nice to see something done on an on-going basis as opposed to a one-time program reminiscent of the one-time program passed in 2014.  Addressing the teacher shortage is also a very high priority of SEE's and it's good to see this addressed in the Governor's budget recommendations, although we haven't seen the details of the approach yet.  Lastly. the $100 million for broadband is an investment that should help many school districts, especially those outside the metropolitan area.

It would have been nice to see more revenue and somewhat different priorities from the Governor's budget, but there are some good things here.  We'll have to wait to see the language, but these proposals provide a decent stepping-off point for the discussions that will take place the rest of this session.

Here is a link to the supplemental budget recommendations.  The education proposals are found on pages 7 through 10.  The broadband proposal is found on page 12.

Link:  Governor's Supplemental Budget

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bill Introductions.  Last year I entered most every education-related bill onto the blog, but with the rush of bills that has been introduced this year (with many of them not likely to receive serious consideration), I've had to pare things back a little bit.  I will start today by pointing out bills that address some of the issues in SEE's 2016 legislative platform and throughout the week I will be reporting on bills heard in the education-related committees.  It appears they will be trying to hear as many bills as possible, but given the likelihood that the spending target for E-12 education isn't going to be too large, it is difficult to see how a lot of bills will be part of the final package.

Here are two sets of bills that are high on SEE's radar this session.  The first is the debt service equalization bill that lowers the eligibility threshold to 10% and raises the equalizing factor to 100% of the state average ANTC.  Both the House and Senate files were introduced today and issued bill numbers.  The House file is HF 2982 and the Senate file is SF 2712.  The chief authors are Representative Duane Quam (R-Byron) in the House and Senator Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) in the Senate.

Here is the link to the bill language:  SF 2714/HF 2982

Another equalization bill was introduced last Thursday.  This bill increases both the second tier of referendum revenue and the equalizing factor for the second tier.  The House file is HF 2714 and the Senate file is SF 2394.  The chief authors are Representative Roz Peterson (R-Lakeville) and Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood).

Here is the link to the bill language:  SF 2394/HF 2714

There are also bills dealing with providing non-QComp districts with money for Teacher Development and Evaluation.  The first, SF 2556 (Pappas)/HF 2940 (Mariani), would provide Teacher Development and Evaluation revenue to districts that are not participating in the QComp.  Here is the link to that bill:  SF 2556/HF 2940

HF 2981 (Howe) would make certain that revenue for the QComp program would be sufficient to cover the costs associated with all school districts with an approved plan.  There is no Senate companion at this point.  Here is the link to that bill:  HF 2981

One bill that will likely get a lot of attention this year is a repeal of the requirement relating to school board vacancies.  Last year, a provision was passed that requires school boards to hold elections to fill vacancies instead of having the vacancy filled by school board appointment.  That provision certainly adds to school district costs by forcing unnecessary elections.  I was talking to a SEE member at a regional meeting this morning and they are being forced to hold an election for a vacancy in which only one candidate filed for the position.  Hopefully, adjustments will be made to the law and school districts will not be forced to hold elections for a single vacancy and can instead fill vacancies with appointments that last until the next scheduled general election.

Here is the link to SF 2393 (Sieben)/HF 3123 (Howe):  SF 2393/HF 3123

Education Minnesota Press Conference on Teacher Shortage.  Education Minnesota held a press conference today outlining several initiatives that aim to alleviate the teacher shortage.  SEE has a great interest in these efforts and hopes to work with Education Minnesota and other education organizations to develop initiatives that will help replenish the pool of teaching candidates, especially in the area of special education.

Here is a link to a study conducted by Education Minnesota that was released at a press conference today.  Link:  Smart Solutions to Minnesota’s Teacher Shortage: Developing and Sustaining a Diverse and Valued Educator Workforce

Martin Sabo.  I try not to talk about the old days that much in my blog, but like many Minnesotans I was saddened by the passing of former state representative and member of the United States House of Representatives Martin Sabo.  When I first started at the Legislature, then Speaker of the House Sabo was at the height of his influence in Minnesota politics.  With an incomparable work ethic and an almost magical ability to store massive amounts of legislative details, Sabo ushered through an impressive amount of important legislation.  Along with Governor Wendell Anderson and Senate Majority Leader Nick Coleman, Sabo formed an impressive triumvirate of Minnesota politicians.  Like I have often said, there have been individual legislators and governors as impressive as each of these public officials, but I cannot think of a time during my 40-year career with a set of leaders this impressive.  Truly heady and exciting times.  So rest easy Speaker Sabo.  The example of your leadership still inspires.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday Wrap-Up.  The Legislative Auditor's report on Teacher Licensure has been the impetus of considerable discussion thus far this session.  Just released last Friday and presented to the Legislative Audit Commission Evaluation Subcommittee that same day, the report was heard in both the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Finance Committee today.  The discussion in the House Education Finance Committee was particularly interesting as a number of legislators with a good sense of history commenting on how the state managed to get itself into the teacher licensure conundrum we now find ourselves in.  I think the bottom line--and the discussion really reinforced this--is that there has been a lot of interference coming from a lot of different quarters that have contributed to the problem.  One legislator even brought up the elimination of the State Board of Education back in the 1990s as a contributing factor and while the Board had its share of problems, I think a strong argument can be made that many parts of the system have become a bit unhinged in the absence of the State Board.  It's also important to remember that the demise of the State Board of Education began with the decision in the early-1980s to place responsibility for choosing the Commissioner of Education with the Governor and not with the State Board of Education.  We've had a number of great commissioners resulting from gubernatorial choices, but it would be hard to argue that Minnesota's education system, both in terms of policy and funding, as been more stable in the absence of the State Board of Education.

A bill introduced by Representative Sondra Erickson and Senator Greg Clausen that proposes to create a legislative study group and develop recommendations for a newly-established single entity to issue teacher licenses (and handle other duties relating to teacher discipline and a clearinghouse for questions coming from teachers.  The bill will be heard in the House next Tuesday (March 15) morning and in the Senate on Thursday (March 17).

Debt Service Equalization Bill.  Thanks to all the House members who showed up at our meeting to discuss debt service equalization this morning.  Representative Duane Quam will be introducing the bill in the House and Senator Susan Kent will handling Senate chief authorship.  The bill will be introduced on Monday, so I will get the bill number out to everyone once it becomes available.  The bill proposes to drop the first tier eligibility threshold from 15.74% to 10%, eliminates the second tier altogether and raises the equalizing factor considerably.  It also indexes the equalizing factor to prevent the erosion of state aid due to property wealth growth.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

State of the State Address.  The Governor gave his annual State of the State Address.  With the Capitol pretty much out of commission, the Governor gave the speech at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center.  In a 40+ minute speech, Governor Dayton outlined some very broad goals that highlighted his priorities.  Among them were a healthy bonding bill, a commitment to early childhood education (didn't say if or how it was different from the universal 4-year-old program he proposed last year), and a transportation package that wouldn't raid the general fund.  Underlying the Governor's speech was the anxiety that the $300 dip in the forecasted budget surplus may mean going forward.  Above all, I sensed the Governor urging caution and wanting to avoid either on-going spending or huge tax cuts that would put the state back into a deficit situation in 2017.  The Governor will be releasing his supplemental budget next week and there will be a lot more in terms of details at that time.

It will be interesting to see how both houses of the Legislature react to this speech.  There doesn't seem to be any appetite for more spending beyond the transportation, tax, and bonding bills in the House and the Senate will likely be avoiding on-going spending commitments as well.  That leaves the one-time money as the pool that most everyone will be seeking to swim in.

State of the State Speech Link:  State of the State Address

Education Meetings Tomorrow.  There's a full slate of education-related hearings tomorrow along with floor sessions.  Items on the docket include the Office of the Legislative Auditor's report on Teacher Licensure, which will be heard both in the House Education Finance Committee and the Senate Education Finance Division.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Legislature IS in Session.  The legislators filed into their respective chambers today--the Senate in a makeshift chamber in the new Senate Office Building and the House in the House chamber (with no running water)--and there was a bit of sparring about space and the difficulties that will be experienced by House members and lobbyists and staff trying to meet with House members while the House is in floor session, but the die has been cast and it certainly will be interesting to see how things play out.

First Education-Related Hearing of the Year.  The House Higher Education Committee heard Representative Bennett's HF 2586.  Under Representative Bennett's bill, the MNSCU chancellor in consultation with the Commissioner of Education, must develop cut scores on the reading and math MCAs that indicate a readiness for student success at the post-secondary level.  Under the bill, a state college or university could not require a student to take remedial work if their MCA score exceeded the guidelines established by the state college or university.  The bill passed on a voice vote and was re-referred to the House Education Innovation Committee.

Link:  HF 2586

Another MPR Installment on the Graduation Gap.  Here's the next installment in the MPR series dealing with Minnesota's graduation rate and efforts to improve it.  This report was prepared by Tim Pugmire and it goes over a lot of the same ground covered by Lauren Yuen and Brandt Williams, but he delves much deeper into the level of support service personnel in Minnesota.

Here is the link:  MPR Story

Monday, March 07, 2016

It's Session Eve.  Unlike Christmas Eve, we won't be opening any presents tonight, but we hope that there will be gifts to education sometime in the next couple of months.  Like every organization, SEE has its list and the Legislature will be checking it twice.  Hey, we haven't been naughty, so hopefully some good things will happen in the next couple of months.

We just started our set of regional meetings today in Owatonna and will be continuing them throughout the month, working around spring breaks and legislative activity.  Check the SEE website for the regional meeting dates.  If you can't make the meeting in your area, feel free to attend at a different site if it works better for you.  Deb Griffiths has also sent out the SEE Days on the Hill schedule and we'd like to have as much participation as possible on these days.  The legislative session will be proceeding at a hectic pace and getting our case out to key legislative leaders will be crucial to any chance for success.  I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in each of these venues in the coming months.

Interesting MPR Story.  Minnesota Public Radio will be doing an interesting series this week on closing the achievement gap and raising the graduation rate.  Today's story zeroed in on Minnesota's relatively low level of expenditure on student support service personnel when compared with the rest of the nation.  One proposal that is rumored to be receiving attention is Senator Susan Kent's bill from last year (that was part of the Senate's omnibus education funding bill at a reduced amount from the original bill) that would create a grant program to help school districts hire school social workers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, school nurses, and chemical dependency counselors.  Because this approach spends one-time money and the Legislature's desire to hold down budget tails into the next biennium, it has a solid chance to receive serious consideration this session.

MPR Link

Legislative Auditor's Report on Teacher Licensure.  The Office of the Legislative Auditor released its study on Minnesota's teacher licensure last Friday.  The report is critical of several elements of the current system, especially the overlap between the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Board of teaching and the confusion created by this overlap.  Given Minnesota's teacher shortage across a broad range of subjects, cleaning up the licensure system is of paramount importance.  Below is a link to the Legislative Auditor's report.

Legislative Auditor's Report on Minnesota Teacher Licensure