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.

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