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.

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