Tuesday, May 20, 2008

After the Lovin'. I wasn't there when this picture was snapped, so I can't honestly say if these three were actually humming that old Englebert Humperdinck hit (unfortunately for you folks, I'm staying with the musical theme) as they stood together announcing the final agreement, but as proclaimed, after all the loggerheading, hair-splitting, and decimation of mountains and subsequent construction of mole-hills, the Legislature ended its work and it has the markings of a very successful session. Certainly, not everybody is leaving the Capitol with a wide smile on their face, but this was a very productive session given the fact that the state is nearly $1 billion short in its revenue projections for the remainder of this biennium. Painful cuts were made to many programs and reserves were significantly reduced, making the challenge facing everyone in 2009 a formidable one indeed. But in the meantime, let's enjoy the fact that rivers of political blood didn't stain the Capitol stairs and take stock of the fact that some measure of bi-partisan comity (and sometimes, comedy) was achieved this session.

As many of you know, I am quite a baseball fan and I've decided that watching the Legislative Session is a lot like watching a baseball game. There are ample opportunites for second-guessing the manager on his strategic choices. During the session, I found myself often wondering "Why did Kelliher bunt there when she should have swung away?" or "Why did Pogemiller pinch-hit for Stumpf in that situation?" or "Why didn't Pawlenty order a brush-back pitch there?" Time to jump off the analogy wagon, given I think most of you are getting it. The game is over for this year and, in a major difference from a baseball game, we don't know the "winner" in terms of either politics or policy. I guess the lesson is that for those of us in the stands, the folks in the dugout are "doing what they are doing" and while we can venture a guess as to the pressures and strategies being employed to meet those pressures, the ultimate expression of that interplay is largely outside of our control--in the short term. In another difference from the game of baseball, we get to vote for the managers and players every election cycle (making--in my estimation--Ron Gardenhire one lucky guy).

So as we enter another election season, I urge all of you to take the time to get acquainted with the issues and the candidates and express your stances to your local candidates. You folks are the ones living with the results of the recent legislative session and only you can determine whether or not these decisions are rightfully being proclaimed as the greatest thing since sliced bread (what's so great about sliced bread anyway?). The election season makes you part of the game. SEE stands ready to provide its members with the tools and information necessary to make your exchanges with legislative candidates both positive and productive.

Governor Vetoes Statewide Teacher Health Pool. HF 1875--this year's edition of the mandatory school employees health insurance pool legisation--was vetoed by the Governor on Sunday, May 18. I have yet to get a gander at the Governor's veto message, but I will have one available for your perusal at Thursday's general membership meeting.

I honestly don't know what lies ahead for this concept. Last session, the bill was vetoed because the pool would have been self-insured. This session, the pool was to provide only fully-insured products. So it's been deemed a loser on both those counts. So the reason it continues to get final approval is beyond that. Could it be. . .(doing my best Dr. Evil here). . .that Education Minnesota continues to insist that participation in the pool be mandatory? One frustration I have with the continued presentation of this concept is that it really ignores the progress a number of school districts and their bargaining units have made in assembling customized health care packages to their employees that save the districts money while providing the teachers and other employees with the coverage they deem most important to their bargaining unit's most pressing needs. So, stay tuned.

Other Items. For Thursday's meeting, I should be in the position to report on education-related items that were in other bills that passed in the waning days of the legislative session. Primary among these is the pension bill, which contains a number of provisions related to education. With the legislative decision not to pass an educational policy bill this year, I've had time to look at the other bills in much greater depth and will be in a position to report on them.

Regional Meetings Set. The schedule for our June round of regional meetings has been set. They are as follow:
  • Monday, June 9--Owatonna District Office
  • Tuesday, June 10--Hojie's Restuarant (Mmm-Mmm Good), Dassel
  • Wednesday, June 11--MASA Conference Room, St. Paul
  • Monday, June 16--St. Cloud District Office
  • Friday, June 20--Creamery Crossing Restaurant (Another Mmm-Mmm Good), Isanti

Hope to see many of you there. These are always productive meetings.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Park, Another Sunday. Yes, they even write songs about Sundays and I thought I'd remind you of that with mention of this Doobie Brothers' classic. For awhile last night, it looked like I might be titling this entry "Never On Sunday," the catchy tune made popular by the Greek movie of the same name that charted as a hit in 1961 recorded by The Chordettes (Sheboygan, Wisconsin's finest).

Another possible title for this entry--and the one that is most accurate--paraphrases Robert Duvall's classic line from "Apocalypse Now," only this time it would go something like "I love the smell of a roomful of haggard and bedraggled legislators, staff, and lobbyists at 5 in the morning." After a week of being on the physical and emotional yo-yo that is the end of the legislative session, it appears (I have learned to not go further than that), that the final deal has been struck and we have come to the denouement. The budget side of the deal was announced and ratified by the conference committee on HF 1812 just before sunrise this morning and the tax conference committee is receiving its finishing touches. There is some consternation about the tax conference committee, as the Governor appears to have won on the issue of a property tax cap of 3.9% for cities and counties (not counting levying for police) for the next three years. Legislative leadership wanted to have the cap apply for only one year. So, stay tuned.

And the news is comparatively good for E-12. The contents of HF 6, the bill passed by the Legislature last Tuesday and subsequently vetoed by the Governor on Friday, were amended into HF 1812, the mega-ginormous budget balancing bill, and are slated for approval. Again, the primary elements of that bill include:
  • $51 per pupil unit in one-time money.
  • $51 per pupil in one=time transferability from operating capital to the general fund.
  • Increased revenue for pre-kindergarten screening.
  • Increased revenue for the school milk program.
  • An extension of the special education task force.
  • An appropriation for the Principals' Leadership Academy.
  • A correction in the referendum ballot language for referendum renewal questions.
This isn't going to magically make the kinds of deficits we are looking at throughout Minnesota, but it certainly is appreciated and does show legislative support for correcting the financial plight being faced by school districts. I don't want to be accused of taking sides in this, because the Governor did support the proposal in the end, but I don't believe we would have seen this increase accomplished without the efforts of legislators in both the House and Senate, particularly the leadership provided of the respective E-12 funding division chairs: Representatives Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) and Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood) in the House and Senator LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Thief River Falls) in the Senate. Kudos to them for not giving up and making certain the cause of increased education funding stayed in front of the Legislature and Governor all session.

Teacher Health Insurance Pool. That bill--HF 1875--has been sent to the Governor and awaits either signature or veto. Thanks to all of you who contacted both legislators as the bill was being discussed and the Governor's office after the bill was passed. I have written a letter to the Governor outlining SEE's opposition to the measure, but it always helps for the Governor and his staff to hear specific examples of how legislation will adversely affect their school districts in real terms. The Governor has another week or so to decide the bill's fate, so keep those cards, letters, e-mails, and phone calls coming!

And Thanks to All of You. I have always kept the blog up-to-the-minute, but by the looks of the counter, membership is using (and I hope appreciating) this tool. Thanks for getting back to Deb and me quickly when we came to you with questions. It always helps to have the latest information to provide legislators as they wrestle with the issues of the day. So, again, thanks for being great members.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Let's Make a Deal. It's a few minutes before 1 AM on Sunday, May 18, meaning the Legislature has 23 hours to finish its work before it goes home. It appears that a deal has been reached on HF 1812, the budget conference committee. The tax conference committee continues in its mission to finish. These bills are inextricably linked. We will leave here later today with either both these bills or neither of these bills. At this point, it is expected that accord will be reached on both of them.

It is unclear where the funding for E-12 will be in the end. HF 6, the bill that contained the appropriations for E-12 along with a few policy initiatives, was vetoed yesterday. It would be my guess that rather than have a veto override attempted, that the negotiating parties would believe it more prudent to slide those appropriations into HF 1812 rather than leave the session on a sour note of either an overridden or sustained veto. But, if I've learned anything this session, nothing quite conforms to conventional wisdom this year and I'm not going to crawl out on any further on the limb to venture a guess.

So, hopefully, I'll have a report in a couple of hours that will be able to more accurately outline the end game.
Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting. Uh, not really. This place is actually pretty dead while leadership strives to put the final flourishes on the global deal, which would lead to quick decisions on the remaining legislation--which hopefully would include some funding for K-12.

If Saturday night's not right for fighting, what is it good for? Well, for all of the lobbyists, myself included, that are in Room 315 in the State Capitol (the Lobbyists' Lounge) it's good for sitting around and waiting for the dam to break, the stars to line up, or the proverbial whatever to make its way through the goose.

So, in brief, things are hardly flying around here. Back later with more.
Saturday in the Park (and it's not the 4th of July). And it's hardly the park. It's the Minnesota State Capitol.

The Governor has vetoed HF 6, the education funding legislation that was passed on Tuesday. There is no indication at this time if and when a veto override will be attempted. It is more likely that the education funding provisions will be folded into the overall budget bill. There is a rumor about that the Governor has agreed to the one-time $51 per pupil unit provision (let me repeat: THAT IS A RUMOR! and if I had a nickel for every rumor I've heard in the past 48 hours, I could pay off my mortgage). So, it's wait and see on that front.

As reported yesterday, the Senate passed a scaled-down version of the education policy bill in SF 3871. However, because it is a Senate file that is now before the House, it would be open to amendment on the House floor and, at this time, House leadership appears to be reluctant to put forward an education policy bill that may draw a considerable number of amendments and require an extremely long and vituperative (love that word) discussion. So, at this juncture, it appears that the 2008 Legislative Session will adjourn sans education policy bill.

Again, this is not a tragedy, but my condolences go out to those legislators who have worked very hard on a variety of issues only to see that work come to naught. But, as Yogi Berra supposedly once uttered, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday on My Mind. Staying with a musical theme for the week, this title comes from the only hit from those second-tier British invaders of the 1960s, the Easybeats. Unfortunately, the lyric "going to have fun in the city" will not apply to St. Paul, or at least in the building in St. Paul located at the southeast quadrant of the intersection of University Avenue and Park Street.

dit...dit dit dit dit...dit. . .dit dit dit dit. . .dit . . .dit dit dit. . .dit . . .dit dit dit. . .we interrupt this program (and I'm serious here), a fellow lobbyist just got a text message saying that a deal has been reached on the major issues. I'll get back to you with details later.

Deal or no deal, it is going to be extremely busy for the next 48 hours. There is no indication at this time whether or not the Governor will sign HF 6, the bill that expends a modest amount of new revenue and provides some increased budget flexibility for school districts. He has until midnight to make a decision on the bill.

Rumor has it that the Legislature is looking for an appropriate vehicle bill for making another run at passing an education policy bill, most likely one lacking the report card provisions and other items the Governor objects to.

Perhaps I should take a little time to explain what a vehicle bill is. During the legislative session, a number of bills pass through the committees process, but instead of proceeding on their own, their contents are put into one of the omnibus budget or policy bills. Just because the language of a bill is incorporated into an omnibus bill does not mean that particular bill is dead as an individual effort. Sometimes, an author will continue to push a bill to protect against the prospect of the language being dropped by a conference committee.

In any event, think of these bills as abandoned cars or empty boxes. If they are needed, they can be revived and passed on their own or used as "vehicles" for other provisions. To some, this may seem like an underhanded twisting of the process. In fact, it is just another useful way to get important things done at the legislative level in the event other avenues are closed.

Just your civics lesson for the day. I will keep you clued in as the evening wears on.

Update. It's 10:30 PM and both Houses of the Legislature have adjourned for the evening. A deal is imminent. Listening to legislators on both sides and representatives of the Governor's office, something is going have to happen soon because they've run out of cliches to describe how close they are to making a deal.

Some happenings I neglected to report in my earlier missive. SF 3871 now contains a scaled-down version of the 2008 education policy bill. The report card reforms and a few other items the Governor found objectionable have been removed from the bill. It passed the Senate on a vote of 59-0, but it is unclear whether or not the House is going to pick up the bill and pass it. Again, there is nothing in the bill that the fate of the republic rests upon, but there are several useful technical changes and minor policy changes that would be positive steps.

Elsewhere, the Governor has until midnight to veto HF 6--the education funding package passed on Tuesday--or it becomes law. The fate of that bill may rest upon whether or not a "global" agreement that encompasses the rest of the budget situation is reached. In the absence of an agreement, it would be my guess that HF 6 will be vetoed. I will report on this in my first post tomorrow.

The Legisalture is convening tomorrow at 10 AM and it is going to be a full-day affair. I'll think of a good song that features "Saturday" in the title. E-mail me any suggestions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wheels in the Sky Keep on Turning. You guessed it. That's Journey (with vocals by Steve Perry). The wheels in the sky may be turning, but the wheels of government continue to turn very slowly beneath the Capitol dome. Budget negotiations remain at, if not a standstill, a pace that can be timed with a sundial. There was little, or no, movement during the discussions yesterday, which is disappointing, because there were no floor proceedings either in the House of Senate to distract negotiators. I will keep you posted as to the progress of these important negotiations.

What's Playing Now. HF 1875, the newly-minted mandatory statewide teacher health insurance pool. There will be a number of amendments offered to the bill, including one offered by Senator Terry Bonoff (D-Minnetonka) to allow an district option to not participate and one by Senator Kathy Saltzman (D-Woodbury) to further study the possibility of districts having trouble getting health insurance access to the State Employees Group Insurance Program (SEGIP).

I'll keep you posted.

Update: HF 1875--the mandatory statewide school employee insurance pool legislation--just passed the Senate on a vote of 41-25. Amendments offered by Senator Terry Bonoff (D-Minnetonka) to allow districts to opt out of the pool and Senator Kathy Saltzman (D-Woodbury) to require study of the possible use of the SEGIP program were defeated on votes of 27-37 and 29-36 respectively. The bill may be hitting the House floor this evening, where it will likely be passed. Because it is a House File being returned to the House, a motion will likely be made to not concur in the Senate amendment (the mandatory statewide school employee insurance pool language) and send the bill to conference committee. I do not foresee that motion being successful. Instead, I will venture a guess that the amendments will be accepted by the House, the bill will be passed, and then sent to the Governor. I am currently searching my data base for the letter I sent to the Governor after last session urging him to veto last year's edition of this legislation. If you are so moved, be prepared to pick up the phone or turn on the computer to contact the Governor urging his veto.

Health Insurance Update. HF 1875 just passed the mandatory statewide school employee health insurance pool on a vote of 70-57. A motion to not concur with the Senate amendments and send the bill to conference committee failed on a vote of 55-71. The bill now heads to the Governor, where its fate is uncertain. The Governor vetoed last year's bill, but part of the objection to that bill was that the pool was self-insured. That is no longer the case.

We will be getting an alert out tomorrow, urging you to contact the Governor's office and requesting that he veto the bill. I won't go through the talking points now, but if this bill garners the Governor's signature, it will not be a positive development for school districts throughout the state.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday Heartbreak. A song by Stevie Wonder (from the awesome album "Talking Book" pictured at the left) and what is being felt by legislative education policy makers after the Governor's veto of SF 3001, the 2008 education policy bill. The veto message is not available on-line at the moment, so here is a brief synopsis of his objections:

  • Report card provisions--Hate 'em.

  • Expedited rule-making for state and district technology standards--Uffda.

  • Achievement gap plans--Nada.

  • Raising the drop-out age from 16 to 18--No way.

So, the bill (now Chapter 310) will be returned to the Legislature (the Senate first because it is a Senate File) where it is unclear whether or not an override will be attempted. A straight party-line vote would be sufficient to override in the Senate, but given the difficulty an override attempt would face in the House, it will be interesting to see if an override is attempted at all.

More news on this one as it comes available along with a link to the veto message.

An Idea that Keeps Getting Worse. Senator Don Betzold unveiled his proposed changes to the mandated statewide health insurance pool supported by Education Minnesota. One would think after all the time spent refining the bill, it would be getting better after all of these years. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Basically, what the new proposal does is prohibit school districts or cooperatives from self-insuring. In other words, if you, as a district, self-insure, you would no longer be able to do that. Further, the service cooperatives, because their pools are self-insured, would be put out of business.

Under the bill, a board would be created that would sell insurance to all school districts. Under estimates provided by the Service Cooperatives, an additional $111 million in costs would be passed onto school districts due to the elimination of the "wholesale" option provided through health insurance. Being forced to buy insurance through the proposed state pool would constitute a "retail" option, complete with extra taxes and fees. Hence, the increased costs.

The best way to frame this issue is the "wholesale" versus "retail" comparison. Self-insurance currently saves districts considerable amounts because they are able to avoid taxes and fees. As stated in the earlier paragraph, those savings would evaporate under the proposed pool.

It is important to explain procedure from here, the bill number is HF 1875. Senator Betzold amended HF 1875 in the Senate Finance Committee today to contain the newly-developed proposal similar to what is proposed in his SF 2747. So, when contacting your Senators--anjd we need you to contact them as soon as possible--tell them to oppose HF 1875. It is unclear when the bill will hit the Senate floor, but it could be as early as tomorrow (Wednesday). Announced plans have said that neither house of the Legislature will have floor sessions on Wednesday, but with negotiations sputtering, it's anyone's guess as to whether that will end up being the case.

Call your Senators now (Deb will be getting out an alert as well) and tell them to take this dog to the pound.

While I was Writing. The House passed HF 6, the conference committee report that contains the funding provisions agreed upon by the House and Senate education funding working group that was part of HF 1812, the budget reconciliation act. The vote on the bill was 97-35, with 10 Republicans joining all DFLers in passing the bill.

Debate on the bill has now resumed in the Senate--remember that it was briefly discussed last evening--and a vote will be forthcoming shortly.

Edit: Senate passed HF 6 on a vote of 55-10. It know goes to the Governor for who knows what. The initial vote totals are sufficient to override a gubernatorial veto, but I doubt every Republican who voted for the bill on final passage would be there on an override attempt. Because the bill got to the Governor last evening, it will have to be vetoed or signed before the end of the session.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Change of Plans. In a departure from previously-announced intentions, the legislative leadership has decided to pull all of the education funding provisions out of HF 1812--the omnibus budget reconciliation bill--and fold them into a different bill--HF 6--that will be passed separately. This new direction was undertaken on Sunday evening, at a meeting of the conference committee on HF 1812 and a subsequent committee joint meeting of the House and Senate education leadership where the new plan was formally discussed.

Originally, it was expected that HF 6 would be taken up on Monday, but at this late hour (it is now just past 10 PM), it appears more likely that it will be on the floors of the House and Senate respectively on Tuesday. The bill, as previously described, contains the following as its major provisions:
  • $51 per pupil unit in one-time funding.
  • A two-year freeze in Q-comp expansion
  • A one-time fund transfer of up to $51 per pupil unit from total operating capital to the general fund.
  • Increased pre-kindergarter screening revenue.
  • Increased money for the school milk program.

There are a couple of possible problems with this strategy. First, the Legislature is running low on legislative days. Today (Monday) is the 114th legislative day, leaving only six days left. Because no bills can be passed on the last day of the biennium, there are technically only five remaining days on which bills can be passed. Further, if the bill is not to the Governor by Tuesday evening, there will be next to no chance to constitutionally override a gubernatorial veto (again, because the Governor can hold the bill for three business days and no laws can be passed next Monday if that is the last day of the session). If a bill comes to the Governor in the last three days of the session, he does not have to announce his intentions until ten days to two weeks after the session adjourns. All this gets a bit complicated, but let's just say "time's a wastin'!"

Edit: The Senate discussed HF 6 for a bit tonight although the conference committee report is not in their possession. Yes, that's right, this is a conference committee report. The legislature took the bill from an expired conference committee and revived it, amended in the funding provisions from HF 1812, and sent it to the House floor.

Policy Bill Fate Decided Tomorrow. The Governor must pass judgment on SF 3001, the 2008 education policy bill by the end of the day tomorrow. It is expected that he will veto the bill due to provisions related to the school report card that he finds objectionable. If the bill is vetoed as expected, an attempt at an override is likely, but the prospects for such an effort are not bright. What is likely to happen in the wake of a failed veto override is the use of several education-related bills that remain on the House and Senate floors that have not received final consideration for vehicles for some of the less controversial issues contained in SF 3001.

In other words, "Fun, fun, fun, until Daddy takes the T-Bird away." Love those Beach Boys! Some of the most profound lyrics in the history of rock and roll.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One Down. On pretty much a party-line vote, the Senate approved SF 3001, the 2008 education policy bill, on a vote of 45-20. The debate on the bill was relatively short, with most of the questions dealing with the provisions in the bill dealing with the proposed changes to the school report card. The Governor has voiced concern over these provisions, but it is hard to get a read as to whether or not the presence of these provisions is enough to warrant a gubernatorial veto.

SF 3001 will be on the House floor tomorrow. After its passage, it will make a beeline to the Governor's desk either be signed or forced to walk the plank. I will keep you posted as to what happens.

SE Service Cooperative Meeting. With legislative floor sessions not starting until later in the afternoon, I was able to make it down to Rochester to meet with the superintendents from the member districts of the Southeast Service Cooperative. Of course, we've got more than a few SEE member districts down in that neck of the woods and it's always great to get together with them (and the non-SEE member superintendents as well).

I served on a panel with MASA Executive Director Charlie Kyte and MREA lobbyist Sam Walseth. We fielded a number of questions related not only to this legislative session, but the education funding reform efforts that will begin during the interim. There was lively discussion and a set of great questions. It's always great to get out in the field and find out more about what's on people's minds and I always welcome the opportunity to get out of St. Paul. So, if you have a meeting you'd like to have me attend, just let me know. If I can fit it into my schedule, I'll make it.

Speaker Set for May Meeting. I can't give you the exact speaker. It will either be Cathy Wagner or John Paulson from the Minnesota Department of Education will be presenting the results of the Minnesota Department of Education's Technology Task Force and what the future of educational technology looks like from MDE's perspective. Of course, the legislative session will be over and we will discuss what happened during the 2008 session as well. So, register soon. It should be a great meeting.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Don't Look Now. Whoever said that an orderly finish to the Legislative Session was an oxymoron hasn't been watching the past two weeks. In view of the announced deadline of last evening for the major conference committees to be finished with their work, all of the major panels except for the one dealing with taxes managed to get their work completed. The transportation policy conference committee and the budget reconciliation conference committee did not finish last evening, but finished their work at around 5:00 PM this afternoon. Over the next few days, the House and Senate will be taking up the various conference committee reports produced through the conference committee negotiations, approving them, and sending them to the Governor for either his signature or veto. It would be my guess that most of the major conference committee reports except taxes will be on the Governor's desk by early next week, a full five days before the last day bills can be passed (Saturday, May 17). The Legislature must adjourn on Monday, May 19, but no bills can be passed on the last official day of a biennium.

My tongue wasn't firmly in my cheek when speaking of the relative order with which the session is winding down, but I need to point out that it could be a mad scramble next week if the Governor decides to veto any of the conference committee reports. That would send legislators scrambling for last-minute "vehicle" bills to which provisions can be attached through floor amendments on either the House or Senate floor. It is likely--at least from comments I have heard--that the Governor will veto the education policy bill. There have been rumblings that he isn't particularly enamored with the transportation policy bill as well. But it's anyone's guess what the Governor will do and what the Legislature's reaction will be in light of the Governor's decisions on specific bills.

As I stated in yesterday's report, there are a lot of good provisions scattered in the major policy bills. And even though much of this work is undeniably good policy, not much of it rises to the level major policy initiative. I would not be surprised that if the Governor were to veto a conference committee report that the Legislature would not react with a concerted effort. Individual bill authors and committee chairs in both the House and Senate may try to negotiate limited agreements across legislative bodies, find germane vehicles, and try to move them forward next Friday and Saturday, but that would swing the door wide open for all kinds of hi-jinks by the minority party (the Republicans) aimed at slowing things to a crawl. Partisan, and not pretty, but there is an election in the fall and these kinds of tricks have been played in government since the eviction from the Garden of Eden.

So stay tuned. I will let you know what is going on as we amble toward the finish line.

Budget Accord Reached. As mentioned above, the budget reconciliation conference committee came to agreement this afternoon and put together its final package. In addition to providing a list of cuts, transfers, and use of reserves (and in the case of E-12 education, a small increase in funding), the bill also contains a number of policy initiatives.

Policy initiatives of note include:
  • A new reciprocity formula for school districts calculating aid levels for students in Minnesota who attend schools in adjoining states and vice-versa.
  • The creation of a State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.
  • Clarification of ballot language for districts renewing, but not adding to, an existing levy.
  • Extension of the special education task force to examine the differences between federal rules and statutes and Minnesota rules and statutes.
Major funding provisions include:
  • $51 per pupil unit served in one-time money,
  • An increase in the lease levy from $100 per pupil unit to $150 per pupil unit.
  • $275,000 for the Principal's Leadership Institute.
  • Ability for all school districts to transfer up to $51 per its 2007 pupil unit count.
All of this may not seem like much, but in a year when the state is going backward in a big way, getting anything is nothing short of a miracle.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thanks for Catching This. Rest assured I didn't make the mistake in attempt to keep readers on their toes, but a couple of readers were on their toes and pointed out that the May 4 citation in my last blog should be May 5.

And today is May 5 and the proposed midnight deadline for policy conference committees to conclude their work is a mere ten-and-a-half hours away. Progress was made this morning in the education policy conference committee, as several provisions where there were not significant differences were adopted. I will keep you informed of further progress as the day moves forward.

8:40 PM Update. We're back in business and there is an agreement between the House and the Senate conferees on SF 3001, the 2008 education policy bill. Details will be forthcoming.

11:15 PM Update. The education policy conference committee has come to a final agreement and has completed its work. The bill is facing a veto threat, as the report card provisions in the bill--which move the state more toward a growth model based on growth rates as opposed to a criterion-based (pass/fail) model--appear to be not acceptable to the Governor.

Besides the proposed changes to the report card, other provisions in the bill include:
  • Improvements to the comprehensive, reading-based instruction methods passed last session.
  • An increase in the drop-out age from 16 to 18, beginning with the freshman class of 2008-2009.
  • Repeal of the statutes and rules pertaining to aversive and deprivation procedures for special education students.
  • Development of state technology standards.
  • Creation of a P-2o task force.

There are other provisions, of course, and I will provide you with a full summary as the conference committee report is developed and the accompanying summary is provided to the public. It should be noted that the comprehensive sexual health curriculum was not included in the final bill, due in large part to the objections of the Minnesota Family Council, which is a close ally of the Governor.

Without sounding cryptic, it is likely that the bill will be vetoed in its current form. While there are a number of valuable provisions in the bill that provide educational leadership in a variety of areas, the fate of the republic is not contingent on anything in the bill, making a gubernatorial veto far less costly than if the bill contained provisions of monumental importance to Minnesota's educational community.

That being said, a veto would be unfortunate. The proposed changes to the school report card hardly erode the value of the state's accountability system. Instead, the proposal first developed by Senator Sandy Rummel (DFL-White Bear Lake) and Representative Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato) and honed through negotations between the House and Senate during the conference committee would provide a more accurate depiction of how schools are performing. It is not perfect--the qualitative measures relating to school engagement are troublesome--but it still marks an improvement over the status quo.

Again, I will let you know more about the bill in its entirety when it is full organized, summarized, and printed as a single document.