Monday, June 20, 2016

Latest from the Front.  Not a lot of progress toward the calling of a special session last week.  The parties will be meeting again this week, but things seem to have come to loggerheads.  The Governor and the Senate want a bigger bonding bill, but getting a bonding bill larger than the $800 million package passed by the House the last night of session may be difficult.  Without a bonding bill, there will be no tax bill and everything goes onto the bottom line for next session.  

It's difficult to know the mindset of the Governor and legislative leadership at this juncture.  Because the biennial budget has already been set, nothing had to happen this year and it is a little surprising that the only major piece of legislation to pass and be signed into law was the omnibus supplemental budget bill, which seemed to be rank below the tax bill, bonding bill, and transportation bill in terms of the priorities laid out prior to the legislative session.  In a letter to legislative leadership in early June, the Governor outlined his concerns and listed items he wished to see (probably to be read as "required to be in bills in order for him to call the session").  Included on this list were bonding projects for the medical school at the University of Minnesota, reinstatement of the tax exemption for the Minnesota State High School League, requirement that private insurance companies cover services provided related to autism, and a variety of other items.  

One surprise on the list is the reinstatement of the $1.7 million appropriation given to the Minnesota Department of Education in 2013 to develop an online reporting system for special education-related paperwork.  The Minnesota Department of Education directed this appropriation to the Odyssey Fund at MNIT instead of having it cancel back to the general fund after it remained unexpended after the 2013-2015 biennium.  The Governor's budget requested additional revenue to augment the initial appropriation in developing the online reporting system.  Not only did the Legislature not provide the additional funding this past session, they removed the $1.7 million from the Odyssey Fund and added it to the bottom line for the use in the omnibus supplemental appropriations bill.  This was done in HF 2902, introduced by Representative Jenifer Loon and added to HF 3813, the omnibus education funding and policy bill.  I have followed the online reporting system debate since its inception and I don't think it really addresses the special education paperwork problem, but I find it a bit surprising that the Governor has it on his to-do list as a requirement to be met before he will call a special session.

One item I would like the Governor to consider adding to his list would be funding for the University of Minnesota's agricultural school to develop a Creeping Charlie that rabbits will eat.  I have a plethora of both in my backyard and it would be nice if I could create a synergy there.

I will continue to monitor developments surrounding the special session debate.  If I were to put odds on it, I would guess it is less than 50/50 that a session will be called, but that could change tomorrow.

Article on Teacher Preparation from The Economist.  If you are looking for a valuable magazine subscription, let me suggest The Economist.  A little pricey at slightly over $100 per year, but always a set of interesting articles.  It is a British magazine, but it covers American politics and policy quite thoroughly and last week's issue contained this article relating to teacher preparation.  It doesn't contain anything earth-shattering (most educators have heard a lot of these solutions before), but it was good to see them reported in one place in concise terms.

Teaching the Teachers

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