Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Full Day.  The education-related events of the day began with Senator Matt Schmit's press conference on broadband.  Senator Schmit has been working on increasing broadband penetration throughout the state and through his work has gotten $85 million in the Senate bill for broadband expansion.  While this is $15 million less than what is in the Governor's supplemental budget recommendations, it does indicate strong support coming from the Senate on the issue.  The House currently has $35 million in a couple of different bills for broadband, but their efforts largely center on increasing access for schools, while the Senate bill is more comprehensive and aims to increase access for community-wide.

SEE was well represented at the press conference, with Litchfield superintendent Dan Frazier providing support for the bill from the perspective of a rural superintendent.  Dan gave a solid depiction of the challenges faced by students in rural Minnesota when it comes to broadband access and how improved access is an important equity issue.  Milaca superintendent Tim Truebenbach was also there and spoke with a reporter after the press conference regarding the need for broadband access for students when they are at home.  Both Dan and Tim stressed that schools often have solid broadband access for downloading and uploading data, but in the era of 1-to-1 devices, students need the same level of access when they are at home.  There is a considerable difference between rural Minnesota and the metropolitan area when it comes to this crucial angle in the broadband debate.  Kirk Schneidewind from the Minnesota School Board Association also provided comments at the press conference.

To me, broadband access (and access to basic technology in general) is a lot like investments in roads or the electrical grid.  While there is a need for cooperation between the government and the private sector, there must be an assurance on the part of government that there will be a measure of equity to which all citizens should have the opportunity to consume.  There has been a lot of work done on broadband to determine the minimum requirements and now the state should work to make that level of service available to everyone in the state.  I always believed that one of the missteps of the stimulus package passed at the federal level in 2009 is that it didn't do enough on this issue.  That has left it to us now to make certain the situation is improved.

SEE and MREA are both supporting this legislation and I want to thank Joe Gould for reaching out to Dan Frazier and lining him up to present at the press conference.

Here are the three amigos (left to right) Milaca Superintendent Tim Truebenbach, Litchfield Superintendent Dan Frazier, and MREA Legislative Liaison Joe Gould.

Senate Passes Education Policy Bill.  The debate got bogged down at times, but the Senate powered through and passed their omnibus education policy bill--SF 2744--by a vote of 51-9.  Eight  amendments were added during the proceedings and here is a brief listing of all the amendments and whether they passed or failed:

  • Kiffmeyer--Civics Test Requirement--Pass
  • Hoffman--Bumping Rights for Early Childhood Teachers Provided District and Bargaining Unit Agree on Procedure--Pass
  • Clausen--Removal of Student from Classroom if Exhibiting Violent Behavior--Pass
  • Kent--Student Privacy Protection--Pass
  • Bonoff--Clarification of Montessori Licensure--Pass
  • Dahms--Reduction in Mandated Reports--Fail
  • Kiffmeyer--No Academic Penalty to Student for not Participating in Standardized Testing or Survey--Pass
  • Nienow--Automatic Expulsion of Student for Assaulting a Teacher--Fail
  • Rosen--Five-Year License Automatically Granted to Teacher Licensed in Another State upon Completion of Exams Required by the Board of Teaching--Pass
  • Nienow--Change in Student Participation in State Student Survey from Opt-out by Parents to Opt-in by Parents--Fail
  • Hann--Mandatory Reporting of the Number of Inexperienced, Ineffective, and Out-of-Field Teachers on District's Website--Fail

The Senate will be taking up its omnibus supplemental appropriations bill tomorrow and it could be a long day.  The proceedings will start in the morning and because all of the appropriations sections are being incorporated into this bill, there may be a lot of amendments offered throughout the day.  It is my guess that the amendments will be offered on an article-by-article basis in order to keep things somewhat organized.  It is going to be hectic enough and difficult to keep track of things as it is.

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