Thursday, March 09, 2017

Deadline Approaches.  We're down to one last meeting before the policy bill deadline.  The Senate E-12 Policy Committee will meet tomorrow afternoon and unveil their omnibus policy bill.  Today, in the final House Education Innovation Policy Committee, HF 1376, the omnibus education policy bill was heard held open in committee for amendments.  There were no substantive changes to the bill, but there were some minor adjustments made.  There's no question this is one of the more focused omnibus policy bills I have seen in my 27 years of lobbying education issues and it will be interesting to see what the Senate rolls out tomorrow.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee also heard HF 2259, a bill authored by House Education Finance Committee Chair Jenifer Loon.  HF 2259 proposes to combine almost all of Minnesota's early learning programs and move them to the Department of Administration to be managed there.  Obviously, this is a major change and battle lines are being drawn.  Like so many other policies this year, there is likely to be strong disagreement between what the Legislature proposes and where the Governor stands.

The House Education Finance Committee heard HF 140, the bill that would create the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.  This is the House's recommendations springing from the work of the task force that tackled this topic last interim.  At this point, the bill calls for the establishment of a new 11-member board (and when I say "new," it means no current members of the board will serve on the newly-appointed board) and the implementation of a tiered-licensure system that would help the state and districts determine where teacher candidates--those with licenses from other states or those non-traditional teaching candidates--sit in terms of becoming fully licensed.  There is some pushback from the educator community on the perceived lack of training some teaching candidates will have and still be able to teach with a Tier One license.

The Senate E-12 Policy Committee went overtime, hearing seven bills.  One bill in particular, Senator Justin Eichorn's SF 1281, produced a long, inspired debate.  SF 1281 would allow public school students to take nonsectarian courses at a private school and still get credit for the course.  While there are sharing agreements between public and private schools in communities throughout the state, this bill appears to be different in that parent sentiments about where their child would take a course would be up to them.  Obviously, this raises a lot of questions about whether the courses taught at the private schools meet the same standards as those taught in the public schools, which could become extremely important when it comes to assessment tests.  The bill is still a work-in-progress and the committee will return to it tomorrow afternoon.  Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka's SF 1829, which helps the Eagle Valley School District reorganize its debt and modify procedures for dissolution and attachment, was heard.  Committee Chair Eric Pratt's SF 1475 would penalize districts who do not reach a 95% participation rate on MCA and MTA testing.  Senator Eichorn had a less controversial bill heard--and a bill that SEE supports--in SF 1474.  SF 1474 is the Innovation Zone bill that has been promoted by Education Evolving and has a number of districts currently participating in a framework that allows some freedom from state mandates.  

Other bills heard were:

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