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.

No comments: