Thursday, March 02, 2017

Full Day.  Between committee hearings and bill introductions, it's been another day of wall-to-wall action at the Legislature.  As is the case on every Thursday, the House Education Innovation Policy Committee led things off.  The committee heard five bills, starting with Representative Paul Anderson's (there is also a Senator Paul Anderson) HF 485.  HF 485 would fund a grant program to pay for agricultural education during the summer months.  It is the companion to Senator Gary Dahms' SF 618, which was heard earlier in the session.  The committee then heard Representative Dave Baker's HF 535, another bill that whose companion--SF 494--has also been heard.  HF 535 makes two sites in the Willmar school district state-approved alternative programs.  HF 1663--Chair Sondra Erickson's bill on alternative teacher licensure--was also heard along with Representative Dario Anselmo's HF 1083 and Representative Steve Drazkowski's HF 1421.  Representative Anselmo's bill would give priority on open enrollment decisions to students who live in the same municipality as a district but due to school district boundaries attend a different school.  The genesis of this bill springs from the fact that there is a small section of the city of Edina that is in the Hopkins school district.  The Edina residents from this neighborhood have long attempted to get their students into the Edina school district somehow, going as far as to have legislation introduced to change the school district boundaries.  Those attempts failed and this is a new approach to solving that issue.  Representative Drazkowski's bill would allow school districts to adopt policies that would promote e-learning on snow days in order to avoid lengthening the school year or cancelling staff development days to meet school calendar guidelines.

The House Education Finance Committee heard HF 1801, Chair Jenifer Loon's bill that would fund the parent-child home visiting program.  This has proven to be a very effective early-learning model.  I don't know if I ever linked this story before, but the left-leaning The Washington Monthly had a story on this model (not the Minnesota experience, but a similar program elsewhere):  Closing the Pre-School Gap at Home.  Representative Joe Hoppe's HF 1612 was up next.  HF 1612 is the companion to SF 1026 and would make up deficits in school district transportation funds with state aid.  This bill would help 14 SEE districts, none more than Forest Lake, which due to geography and development patterns has extremely high transportation costs.  This is a shared experience in a number of districts at the edge of the metropolitan area where the placement of school buildings (often years ago) don't jibe with where development within a school district has taken place.  It has also plagued a number of large rural districts.  The committee also heard two bills that would fund museums:  Representative Dario Anselmo's HF 1449 that would provide funding for The Children's Museum and Representative Clark Johnson's HF 1190 that would provide funding for The Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota.

The day ended with the Senate E-12 Policy Committee dealing with two bills on teacher licensure.  The first was Senator Mark Johnson's SF 1338 that would eliminate the requirement that teachers who hold an Academic and Behavioral Strategist (ABS) license would be required to obtain an anchor license in one of the five disability categories that the ABS license covers in setting one, two, and three.  The bill seeks to help alleviate the teacher shortage in special education by not requiring young teachers who receive the ABS license through their undergraduate training from taking graduate level credits to maintain the license.  Currently, this is the only teaching license in the state of Minnesota that requires a teacher to take additional coursework to maintain the license.  After a spirited discussion on this bill, the committee turned to the delete-all amendment to SF 4, the Senate's bill on creating a single entity to handle teacher licensure.  Several amendments were offered and adopted and the bill is not vastly different from the approach in HF 140, authored by Representative Sondra Erickson.  Getting this done is clearly a shared priority between the Senate and House and progress will be made on this subject this session.




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