Session in Full Swing. We've reached the second lap of the legislative session. The first lap is the "getting to know you" portion of the session, when newly-formed committees become acquainted with the issues the committee will be covering and the interests that will be commenting on these issues. That includes hearing a lot of reports on funding systems and reports on the implementation of policies that were adopted last biennium.
Now in the second lap, we begin to hear actual proposals (usually, but not always) in the form of bills that have been introduced by various legislators. The Senate Education Funding and Policy Committee heard five bills today and all will be held over for possible inclusion in the Senate's omnibus education bill that will be constructed later this spring.
SF 15 was the first bill up and it sparked a bit of spirited discussion. Senator Mike Goggin's bill would require school districts to provide information on careers in the construction, skilled trades, and the military. The language from this bill was included in last year's vetoed omnibus supplemental funding and policy bill and was viewed as largely non-controversial. Three military veterans testified against the bill, urging the committee not to promote the military as an option, believing that decision should be arrived at without encouragement.
The next bill up was SF 295, Chair Carla Nelson's bill promoting P-TECH schools. The concept underlying P-TECH schools has been around for awhile, but serious interest in it is a relatively new phenomenon. A graduate of a P-TECH school would ideally leave school with both a high school diploma and an ISO certificate. That would put them in a position to go directly into the job market, often in a field where there is currently a labor shortage. I believe this is the same framework of the Sarah Goode High School in Chicago that was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in February, 2014. The text of the accompanying article is here: The School that Will Get You a Job.
Third in line was SF 19, a bill authored by Senator Steve Cwodzinski that would require students to take a personal finance course in order to graduate from high school. The testimony from all parties outlined the value of (and need to) learning personal finance concepts and how to apply them, but there is a question as to whether or not requiring a course is the right way to go given the difficulty of fitting the current course requirements into each students' schedule and allowing students ample opportunity to choose some electives.
Senator Justin Eichorn's SF 94--a bill that would allow students in non-public schools to use Post-Secondary Enrollment Options to take career and technical education courses at a Minnesota Technical College--was heard next. This bill would affect very few students statewide, but would create needed opportunities for those students.
Last in the line of bills was Chair Nelson's SF 293, a bill requiring the Minnesota Commissioner of Education to collaborate on construction and skilled trades counseling.
The meeting ended with an report on a provision contained in the 2017 omnibus education funding bill. That provision provided grants to rural career and technical education consortiums (shouldn't that be consortia?) to promote their programs to students. Soutwest/West Central Service Cooperative Director Cliff Carmody and the Cooperative's Career and Technical Project Coordinator provided a very positive synopsis of how the grant they received has led to great opportunities for students in the region.