Thursday, January 19, 2017

Perpich School Under Scrutiny.  The Office of the Legislative Auditor has released its report on the Perpich Center for Arts Education and the report points out some problems that have arisen at the school.  Several of the issues deal with the decision by the Center to undertake a formal relationship with the Crosswinds Arts and Science School, a charter school that has been managed by the Perpich Center since the East Metro Integration District was disbanded.  The Legislative Auditor's report was heard in both the House Education Innovation Policy Committee and the Senate E-12 Policy Committee.

Here is a link to the report:  

Executive Summary

Full Report

The House Education Finance Committee heard from a number of groups on programs that supply college credit to high school students, including Post-Secondary Enrollment Options, Concurrent Enrollment, and Advanced Placement.  With the five-year reprieve from the Higher Learning Commission requirement that instructors of concurrent enrollment classes to have either a Master's Degree or eighteen credits in the curricular area they are teaching for college credit, the discussion surrounding these programs will certainly pick up steam.

House Passes Health Insurance Premium Relief Bill.  The full House passed SF 1--the bill that would provide relief to MN Sure clients who have experienced large premium increases--on a vote of 73-54 (straight party line) this afternoon.  The bill will now go to a conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate bills.  The challenge for the Legislature will be to construct a bill that will get the Governor's approval.  This is a pressing matter, as the enrollment period for MN Sure ends on January 30 and everyone involved would like to have this issue resolved by then.  The primary difference between the Governor and the Legislature appears to be over how the rebate will be delivered.  The Governor would like insurance companies to simply drop the premium by 25% for those consumers that are affected by the increases while the Legislature wants the consumers to apply for the rebates and have their incomes verified before receiving the rebate.  This will be the first test of whether the process can "get to yes" on major issues.




Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Committee Reports.  The two education committees that met today--the House E-12 Finance Committee and the Senate E-12 Funding Division--heard reports from various stakeholders in Minnesota's education arena.

The House Education Finance Committee listened to an overview of Minnesota's charter school network; what differentiates them from traditional public schools in terms of requirements and organization.

The Senate E-12 Finance Committee held a joint committee meeting with the Senate Committee on Human Services Reform Finance and Policy.  The meeting was dedicated to areas where the health and human services system and education systems work together.  Much of this work comes in the area where childcare and early education intersect.  The committees heard from several sites where the two systems are working together well to meet the needs of students and their families.

Lifelong Learning.  The Economist put together a great special report on lifelong learning in its latest issue.  One of the challenges for workers in the modern workforce is to keep their skills sharp and relevant in an ever-changing economy.  This set of articles has a lot of very good insight (we wouldn't expect less from The Economist?)  With President-elect Trump talking about the need for career and technical education and state policymakers also looking to find ways to enhance applied learning opportunities, this material couldn't come at a more opportune time.

I have linked the six articles that comprise the report below:

Lifelong Learning Has Become and Economic Imperative

What Employers Can Do to Encourage Their Workers to Retrain

How Older Employees Perform in the Workplace

Established Education Providers v. New Contenders

Turning Qualifications into Jobs

Retraining Low-Skilled Workers

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Back to Work.  The three-day weekend is over and the Legislature reconvened today with a full set of hearings and floor sessions.  The Education Innovation Committee met this morning and went over the recommendations of the Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensing.  The report is not particularly long and it doesn't contain specific recommendations as to where a single licensing entity should be located (Board of Teaching or Minnesota Department of Education) or provide the exact outline of a tiered-licensure system, but it does give a framework from which the Legislature will be able to pursue and complete the task for streamlining Minnesota's educator licensing system and helping clarify what teaching candidates need to complete before being granted a full Minnesota teacher license.

Here is a link to the report:  2016 Report of Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensing

The House Education Finance Committee devoted its hearing to the early education issue, with presentations from the Minnesota Department of Education and Ericca Maas from Parent Aware for School Readiness.  There will be a lot of debate as the session continues over the proper direction for early childhood education and whether early childhood scholarships are better than (or perhaps mutually exclusive from) school-based programs paid for by increased pupil weighting.

The Senate Education Policy Committee covered the report from the Career and Technical Educator Licensing Task Force.  This report has some very specific recommendations that will likely dovetail with the larger teacher licensure questions that were raised by the Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensing.  Foremost among these recommendations are:

  • Consideration of alternative requirements to be a career and technical education instructor short of a baccalaureate degree.
  • Allowing two-year accredited institutions to offer content-related teacher preparation programs for prospective career and technical educators.
  • Creation of incentives for eligible institutions to provide alternative paths to licensure.
Here is a link to the full report:  Career and Technical Educator Licensing Task Force Report

There was another interesting hearing outside of the education committees that may well have an effect on the education community.  The House Health and Human Services Policy Committee heard the report of the Governor's Task Force on Mental Health.  Like many reports, this one is not heavy on focused recommendations, but it does provide a framework from which  more effective and transparent mental health care can be available for Minnesota citizens.  Schools will play a role in this system and that was made clear from the testimony and questions from legislators.

Here is a link to that report:  Governor's Task Force on Mental Health Report




Federal Watch.  The confirmation hearing for Secretary-designee Betsy Devos began on Wednesday and it sounds like it was a free-wheeling affair.  I will say this about the Secretary-designee.  Whatever her positions, I have never seen a reaction to a proposed Secretary of Education like this one.

Here is an article from The New York Times website on today's hearing:  Betsy Devos' Education Hearing Erupts into Partisan Debate

And here is an article from The New Republic (which is left-of-center) on Ms. Devos' career:  Betsy Devos is Not a Mainstream School Reformer

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Triple-Header.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be triple-headers on the schedules of education lobbyists this session, with the House Education Innovation Policy Committee meeting at 8:15 AM, the House Education Finance Committee meeting at 1:00 PM, and the Senate Education Policy Committee meeting at 4:00.  There are also floor sessions in both the House and Senate on Thursdays as well, so things are hopping all day long.

The House Education Innovation Policy Committee received an outline of the committee's jurisdiction and the description of the duties of a variety of education-related boards and commissions this morning from new House education counsel Cristina Parra.  Ms. Parra is replacing long-time House education counsel Lisa Larson who held the position for 30 years.  The committee also heard from several education groups that did not testify during Tuesday's hearing.

The House Education Finance Committee held a joint hearing with the House Education Innovation Policy Committee in one of the new Capitol hearing rooms in the early afternoon.  If this room is any indication, the refurbished Capitol hearing rooms are fantastic.  The agenda consisted entirely of Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius giving a status report on a number of initiatives that the Legislature passed last biennium.

Senate Education Policy Chair Eric Pratt's committee took more testimony from education stakeholders.  I provided SEE's testimony on Tuesday and there were a lot of common themes coming from most education groups:  (1) teacher shortage, (2) other teacher licensure issues, and (3) greater flexibility for school districts.

Given the schedule, I couldn't get over to the MSBA convention today.  Hopefully, the weather won't stall my car and I can see a lot of SEE folks tomorrow morning.

Recommendations of Legislative Study Group on Teacher Licensing.  The report and recommendations are complete and the document will be presented next Tuesday in the House Education Innovation Policy Committee.  I wish I could figure out how to post it here, but I should be able to get it out to everyone by the weekend.



Wednesday Introductions

Thursday Introductions


Wednesday Introductions

Thursday Introductions

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Double Header of Hearings.  The House Education Funding Committee's hearing was once again dedicated to a tutorial conducted by Tim Strom and Emily Adriaens.  I will post the Powerpoint used to describe Minnesota's education funding system once it is put on the committee's website.

The Senate Education E-12 Funding Committee featured a presentation by Mark Haveman, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence on a 2015 report from the organization entitled How Much is Enough? The Implications of School District Labor Cost Trends for State Education Aid.  The report is fairly straightforward, but it takes a few pages to get to the main point of the report, which is given the cost structure of Minnesota's education labor market there is an impending resource shortage if the cost structure isn't altered.  The report provides some recommendations, mostly surrounding the need to move away from the unified step-and-lane salary schedules used in a vast majority of school districts and to make certain that categorical revenue is used efficiently to meet the intended needs of these formulas.

Something the report doesn't say (but it may infer) is that the property tax may need to play a larger role in education funding.  For that to happen, there will need to be more revenue dedicated to the referendum equalization program.  This discussion puts me in the Way Back Machine with Mr. Peabody (come to think of it, I kind of look like Sherman) to the year 2001 when the Ventura Administration got rid of the general education levy and made the basic formula totally dependent on state aid.  A lot of us warned policy makers of what might happen if the formula became too dependent on state aid and, sure enough, within a year, the state was short on revenue and there was no general education levy to fall back upon to provide additional resources to school districts.  On top of that, districts that could pass referenda soon began to widen the revenue gap between themselves and districts that couldn't, which was largely a function of equalization factors not being adjusted upward to reflect the statewide growth in property tax wealth.  

With the upward adjustment of the first tier referendum equalizing factor in 2013 and the creation of local option revenue in 2014, the gap that had grown throughout the first decade of the 21st century narrowed dramatically.  If we don't continue to pay attention and keep adjusting the equalization factors to reflect statewide property wealth growth, these gains in terms of equity may be sacrificed in the name of adequacy, and it will only be adequacy for some (those fortunate enough to pass referenda).

Here is a link to the report:  MCFE Report on Education Labor Costs

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hearings Update.  As reported yesterday, the two education policy-related committees--the House Education Innovation Policy Committee and the Senate Education Policy Committee--held their first hearings today.  Both committees' time was dedicated to having the members of the committee introduce themselves, introducing staff members, going over the procedures that will be followed by the committee and testimony from a variety of education stakeholders (including SEE).  The House E-12 Funding Committee also held its first hearing and the proceedings were similar with the sole difference being the committee did not hear from stakeholders, but instead got a tutorial on Minnesota's education funding system from longtime House Research analyst Tim Strom and new House fiscal analyst Emily Adriaens.

Tomorrow's hearings will feature more of the same, with the only education-related committees on tap are the two finance divisions.  The House will continue its tutorial with staff while the Senate will hear from Mark Haveman, Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, on cost trends in public education.

Monday, January 09, 2017

First Hearing of the Year.  The Senate E-12 Funding Committee had its first meeting of the year and it was also the first hearing for any education-related committee this session.  The agenda featured testimony from Amelia Cruver from Minnesota Management and Budget and Dr. Tom Melcher from the Minnesota Department of Education.  Their testimony dealt with the increases in the base budget for E-12 education in the coming biennium and where the increases are coming from.  The two biggest drivers of increased funding in the budget is the third year phase-in of the Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue program and pupil growth.  Dr. Melcher also discussed the Governor's proposal to increase debt service equalization by lowering the second-tier eligibility threshold.  A number of SEE districts do very well with this proposed change and as I said in a blog entry last week, SEE is extremely appreciative of the Governor's decision to include this provision in his tax proposal.

There will be three education-related hearings tomorrow.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee meets tomorrow morning at 8:15 AM.  The House E-12 Funding Committee meets at 1:00 PM.  The day wraps up with the Senate Education Policy Committee at 3:00 PM.  The policy committees will be taking testimony from a variety of education organizations outlining their priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

Bill Introductions--January 9, 2017