Wednesday Hearings. The education funding divisions in the House and Senate both met today. The House Education Finance Committee received a tutorial on special education in Minnesota. Former St. Cloud Special Education Director Elisabeth Lodge Rogers (who now works at Intermediate District 287) provided background on how students are identified, how an IEP is constructed, and how the process changes as the student continues through their educational process. Her presentation was followed by a panel from the Minnesota Department of Education that provided a statistical outline of Minnesota's special education population. The quest to reduce paperwork was the topic that received the most discussion. Everyone recognizes that paperwork is a problem and that reducing paperwork while ensuring due process rights can be tricky, but there is no question that the mounds of paperwork that is required of special education teachers is driving more and more of them out of the profession.
The Senate E-12 Finance Committee heard once again from a variety of career and technical education programs and the partnerships these programs have made with the business community. There has been a lot of interest expressed thus far this session in working with non-college bound youth and making sure these students have access to "next step" programs that make sense for them. College is the right choice for many (perhaps most) kids, but it's not the right choice for all kids and there's no question that the whole country has been in the thrall of college for all (that rhymes!) since the Reagan Administration's A Nation at Risk. We're closing in on 40 years since that was hatched (Wow! Am I old or what?) and there is no question that career and technical programs have been decimated over that period. The push toward college hasn't been the sole cause of the dwindling of secondary level career and technical education programs (higher per pupil costs in these programs in a time of limited resources has also contributed) and it may be time to allow students (and their parents) to map futures more aligned with their interests and career goals.