Wednesday, March 25, 2015

House Target Announced.  It's always difficult to predict where the exact spending targets are going to be when they are announced, but veteran Capitol observers were all pretty much surprised when the House budget targets were released yesterday.  The biggest surprise was the budget target for E-12 education, which came in at $157 million above base, which is approximately $400 million below the Governor's proposed level of spending (after the release of the Governor's supplemental budget).  The House budget resolution (which is linked below) pares back spending below the base in Health and Human Services and reduces increases in other areas of the budget in order to propose $2.2 billion in tax cuts.  The tax cuts are unspecified, but $2.2 billion is a lot of moolah, so the possibilities are pretty much endless.  Some tax targets may include the statewide business property tax that was implemented in 2001 as part of the negotiations that eliminated the state general education levy.  There will also be efforts to reduce property taxes on agricultural property, but that's not expected to amount to more than $100 million to $200 million over the biennium (big money, but even at $200 million, it would leave $2+ billion in other tax reductions).

The size of the E-12 education budget is a bit puzzling to many.  The House has been hearing a lot of bills (and a lot of them cost money) and indications were that the House wanted to put revenue on the general education basic formula in excess of the 1% increase in the Governor's budget.  At $157 million, that simply will not be possible.  Further, the House has shown some support for the Early Childhood Scholarship Program, but again, with a target at this level, any significant investment in any program could be difficult to accomplish.  As disappointed as some of us are (and count me among the disappointed), the House has left $315 million in revenue unallocated in their budget resolution and it is possible that some of that revenue will be moved into the E-12 budget category as the process continues.

The House Ways and Means Committee met on Tuesday night to pass the budget resolution to the House floor and amendments were offered.  Representative Mary Murphy offered an amendment that would have pushed the E-12 budget target up to the Governor's recommended level of spending, but that was defeated on a party-line vote.  There were several other amendments offered to either direct portions of the proposed budget resolution in certain directions or raise/lower recommended target amounts, but like the education budget amendment, they all failed on party-line votes.

It will be interesting to see how the process unfolds from this point forward.  The Legislature is breaking for a week starting Friday and legislators will be holding meetings in their districts and the budget will be discussed.  Reaction from the public during the spring break has sometimes (not often) brought dramatic changes in approach as legislators return to St. Paul for the remainder of the legislative session, so if you are upset by the budget targets, it is important to talk to your legislator (politely of course) about the needs of your school district.

The Senate will be releasing its budget targets on Friday and I will make no predictions as to what their targets will look like.  Hopefully, it will be in the range of the Governor's recommended levels of spending and perhaps a little more on the education side of things.  I will certainly post the numbers and my thoughts on Friday.

Link:  House Budget Resolution

Bill Introductions.  Wednesday, March 25.


SF 1995--Dahle--Creates Ag2School debt service property tax credit.


SF 2098--Ward--Appropriates money for the child and adult care food program.

SF 2113--Carlson--Modifies special education payment schedule for certain charter schools.

SF 2115--Swedzinski--Modifies school district reporting requirements and requires Commissioner of Education to annually eliminate obsolete reporting requirements.

Monday, March 23, 2015

On To Education Finance.  With the omnibus education policy bill passing its first hurdle last week, the focus will now turn to the Education Finance Committees in both the House and Senate.  Although the first policy committee deadline has passed, the committees dealing with education policy in the House and Senate have one more week of hearings to cover bills moving individually that have cleared the policy committee in the other body.  There aren't a lot of bills in this category, as most education-related bills get folded into the omnibus bills.

The latest engrossments of the omnibus policy bills have been posted.  Engrossments are versions of the bill into which the amendments passed in the previous committee are incorporated.  If one wishes to see the language of the amendments and where they were placed, the House or Senate Journal contains the committee report for a bill and lists the amendments.  The engrossment is simply the final product.

HF 1591:  First Engrossment

SF 1495:  First Engrossment

Bill Introductions.  Wednesday, March 18


SF 1833--Rest--Makes year-long student teaching program part of teacher preparation--

SF 1864--Jensen--Creates grant program to increase robotics programs in Greater Minnesota--

SF 1872--Hayden--Appropriates money for grant to Urban League for 13th grade--


HF 2004--Peterson--Establishes a global education to workforce initiative--

Bill Introductions.  Thursday, March 19.



HF 2031--Whelan--Appropriates money for grant to Urban League for 13th grade--

HF 2047--Christensen--Provides for information technology certifications through public-private partnerships--

Bill Introductions.  Monday, March 23.


SF 1927--Thompson--Modifies transportation procedures for non-resident charter school students--

SF 1933--Nienow--Creates a financial incentive for districts that enhance proficiency for English language learners--

SF 1935--Wiger--Removes obsolete language in general education revenue statutes--

SF 1936--Wiger--Removes obsolete language in general education revenue statutes--

SF 1939--Johnson--Clarifies that children under 7 who voluntarily enroll in school are subject to compulsory attendance law--

SF 1955--Kiffmeyer--Creates new revenue stream for school districts with low per pupil unit general revenue and low per pupil unit property wealth--


HF 2064--Nornes--Appropriates money for Minnesota Learning Resource Center--

HF 2068--Dettmer--Increases cap on basic alternative teacher compensation aid--

HF 2088--Kahn--Proposes Constitutional Amendment to lower voting age for school district elections to 16--

HF 2096--Peterson--Appropriates money for global education to workforce program--

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not a Ton to Report.  All three education-related committees met and none of them met into the night, which was somewhat unexpected.  The House Education Policy Committee finished its work on the House omnibus education policy bill within its morning meeting time frame.  Rather than offer a raft of amendments one at a time, the Democrats offered an alternative version of the bill that contained a number of measures in the committee bill, but departed from what the majority has put together on a number of items, particularly in the area of teacher tenure.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee has now finished most of its work, but will hear a few bills that met deadline in the Senate and will be traveling through the process outside the omnibus bill framework.

Things were a mite slower in the Senate, as they couldn't finish their work on their version of the omnibus education policy bill in the allotted time and will now meet tomorrow.  The bill will have to be approved by 11:59 tomorrow evening and I will be curious to see how long the committee will go.  The meeting will begin at 8:00 AM and run until 10:30 AM.  If the bill is not finished by 10:30 AM, the committee will return at 3:00 PM and work until they are done.  Discussion appears to be going more deliberately and the minority caucus can always find something to try to amend (that's the nature of the business).  There was a bit of a surprise today when an amendment offered by Senator Gary Dahms that would expand the scope of the use of community experts in agricultural education.  It's rare that an amendment offered by a member of the minority caucus makes it into the bill, but a couple of DFLers joined the Republicans in supporting the amendment.

That's about it for today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday Just Flew By.  The Senate Education Committee discussed its version of the omnibus education policy bill this morning and will be taking amendments tomorrow.  The feedback on the bill was generally positive.  There will always be a few bugs in an omnibus bill when it is first released because so few bills are amended in the committee process prior to their incorporation into the omnibus policy or funding bill that the first opportunity to discuss serious amendment comes after the omnibus bill is released.  The House Education Innovation Policy Committee will also be marking up the first iteration of their omnibus education policy bill tomorrow, so I am prepared for a long day.  I don't get to the gym as often as I would like during the session, but I'll be putting in a few miles in the tunnel tomorrow keeping track of items in both bills.

There are some significant similarities between the House and Senate policy bills, most notably in changes to teacher licensure provisions as they pertain to teachers licensed in other states and the use of community experts.  The bills also contain most, if not all, of the technical provisions contained in the Governor's bill.  There will be discussion surrounding the testing issue.  Both the House and Senate are proposing a reduction in testing, but the Senate has gone beyond both the House and the recommendations of the working group convened by the Minnesota Department of Education in putting together its recommendations.  Most everyone agrees students are subjected to too many tests and many of these tests don't add much in terms of usable information to improve pedagogy.

After the bills are finished tomorrow, they will head to the funding division of each education committee to be incorporated into the omnibus funding and policy bill.  The deadline for the funding bill to be constructed is April 24, a full two and a half weeks after the Legislature returns from a week-long Easter/Passover break.  While most of the discussion that will take place after this week will center on revenue--both in terms of amount and distribution--I am certain policy differences will arise and will continue to be discussed.

Education Property Tax Bills Discussed in House Education Finance.  The House Education Finance Committee discussed four bills relating to the role of the property tax in the education funding system this afternoon.  First up was Chair Jenifer Loon's bill to eliminate the Student Achievement Levy (also known as General Education Levy Lite) that was passed during the 2013 legislative session.  This levy is set at $20 million, which is not an exorbitant amount of money in the whole scheme of things, but it looks enough like the old General Education Levy that some would like to squish it like a bug before it gets too large.  This bill is a classic example of "good news/bad news" depending on how you view it.  First off, getting rid of the Student Achievement Levy creates a $20 million revenue hole in the education funding formula.  That might not be too much of a problem to fill this year with such a robust budget forecast, but keep the Student Achievement Levy may come in handy if the state's economy were to ever experience a downturn.  On the other hand, if the House has a zero levy target, this $20 million in levy savings from the elimination of the Student Achievement Levy could be directed toward other programs into which the $20 million could be folded.  Increased deferred maintenance comes to mind as a possible destination for levy dollars.  It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the House.  The one big plus of the Student Achievement Levy from SEE's perspective is that it is fully equalized and any program into which the levy dollars would be directed will not be fully equalized.  At the same time, other equalization programs could be enhanced to bolster a sense of fairness in the system and the levy could be moved to a different program that would actually infuse new revenue into schools.  Stay tuned.

Representative Steve Drazkowski was up next with SF 596, a bill that aims to provide relief to owners of agricultural property on school district debt service.  Agricultural property is not included in the referendum market value tax base, but it is included in the adjusted net tax capacity tax base that is used on debt service questions.  With skyrocketing agricultural land values, this has saddled owners of agricultural property with a pretty hefty share of the taxes paid on these questions when they are successful.  Like I testified today, fifteen or twenty years ago, all that would have needed to be done to solve this problem was to increase the debt service equalizing factors.  Unfortunately, changes in the student populations--they are declining in most of Greater Minnesota--accompanied by a steady rise in agricultural values have made this avenue a non-viable solution for those districts that have more than half of its total property base in agricultural property.  SF 596 takes a different tack in that it changes the tax base used for future debt service levies.  Under the bill, half of the tax base for these questions would be referendum market value and half would be adjusted net tax capacity.  To cushion homeowners and business owners from assuming too heavy a tax load resulting from the removal of agricultural property from half of the property wealth used to calculate the tax burden, the debt service equalization program would be enhanced.  If I had my druthers, the debt service equalization would be enhanced to an even greater degree, but we still have time to cross that bridge.

The final bill discussed today was Representative Tom Anzelc's bill--HF 1641--that would enhance the equalization factor for local option revenue for school districts with high levels of seasonal/recreational property and high levels of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.  Most of these districts are in Northern Minnesota.  Like agricultural property, the value of seasonal/recreational parcels has continued to rise dramatically, which has sapped the value of the equalization formulas in these districts, forcing the entire burden onto local property taxpayers.  As witnessed by the high levels of free or reduced-price lunch numbers in many of these districts, the income of the residents does not match the value of the land in the district.  This is a double-whammy for districts in this situation.  In order to remedy the situation, Representative Anzelc's bill would hike the equalizing factor for districts in this situation and allow them to access the full $424 per pupil in local option revenue at a reasonable cost to their taxpayers.  Pine River-Backus is one district that finds itself in this unfortunate situation and Superintendent Cathy Bettino and Business Manager Jolene Bengtson provided excellent testimony that provided insight for the committee into the problems faced by these districts.  Like the agricultural property tax issue, the seasonal/recreational property issue falls unevenly throughout the state, leaving many districts at a huge disadvantage when it comes to the union of the property tax and education funding issues.  While SEE does not have a lot of districts that would either be considered "deep rural" with heavy concentrations of agricultural property or with heavy concentrations of seasonal/recreational property, our organization has always stood on the principal that students should have access to high quality education programs regardless of where they live in Minnesota and if the property tax system is an impediment to districts to ensure a reasonable shot at this goal, changes need to be made.

So thanks to all of the Representatives who came forward with these bills.  It's always an enlightening discussion when bills like these are heard and indications are the area where education funding and property taxation meet will receive considerable attention during the remainder of the session.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Senate Education Policy Bill Unveiled.  The Senate has released its strike-everything amendment to SF 1495, the Senate omnibus education policy bill.  There's a lot in it and there are some similarities to the House bill in the area of teacher licensure, especially for teachers licensed in other states and those seeking alternative paths to licensure.  There is also language in the special education article that makes the online reporting system passed as part of last year's omnibus bill optional for school districts and not mandatory beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

Here is a link to the strike-everything amendment that will be discussed tomorrow in the Senate Education Policy Committee beginning at 8:30 AM.

Link:  Strike-everything to SF 1495

Bill Introductions for Tuesday.


Did Not Meet


HF 1949--Whelan--Requires a school board to publicly inform parents of a decision to keep available instructional materials a parent considers harmful to minors--

HF 1973--Mariani--Creates program and appropriates money to recruit, educate and license underrepresented student populations to teach--

Monday, March 16, 2015

House Education Policy Bill Released.  The House has released its initial version of the 2015 omnibus education policy bill on Monday.  The bill is currently in the form of a "strike-everything" amendment to HF 1591.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, a "strike-everything" amendment is a streamlined way of constructing a large bill.  Instead of offering amendments one at a time to the "vehicle bill" (the bill that is serving as the "shell" for the entire span of policy initiatives), a "strike-everything" amendment incorporates initiatives that have, traditionally for the most part, been heard by the full committee and for which there is general agreement among committee members (especially from those in the majority caucus) to be included in the omnibus bill.  Obviously, the bill is constructed by the majority and while there are some initiatives that were sponsored by members of the minority caucus, some of the proposed changes are clearly the will of the majority caucus.

The contents of HF 2, the comprehensive teacher tenure and licensure bill sponsored by Representative Jenifer Loon, are contained in the bill.  You may recall that HF 2 passed the House floor a couple of weeks back on a straight party-line vote.  That bill, along with Senator Terri Bonoff's SF 97, were heard by the Senate Education Policy Committee last week, but there is little indication that those bills will be moved forward in the Senate this session (At least as bills.  I am certain they will be offered a number of times in both committee and on the Senate floor as amendments to other bills), leaving the House majority with limited options for this measure to have a chance of passage in 2015.  Given the Governor's assumed opposition to the changes in teacher tenure, it will likely be an uphill battle for these House's tenure changes, but a lot of things happen during the negotiations that lead to the final education funding and policy package constructed at the end of each session, so the teacher tenure and licensure changes that are contained in HF 1591 certainly are not dead.

Here is a link to the strike-everything amendment to HF 1591:  HF 1591 Strike-Everything Amendment Text

Monday Bill Introductions.


SF 1728--Nienow--Authorizes Commissioner of Education to help coordinate school crisis response teams--

SF 1750--Hayden--Appropriates money for a planning grant for the W. Matthew Little Cultural and Educational Excellence Center--

SF 1769--Kent--Expands the list of offenses that authorizes the Board of Teaching or Board of School Administrators to deny or revoke a license--

SF 1780--Hoffman--Clarifies location of automatic external defibrillators in school buildings--

SF 1781--Pappas--Provides a program to engage Hmong and Southeast Asian children and families in accessing early childhood care and education--

SF 1782--Clausen--Establishes a work group on career and technical education educator licensing--

SF 1795--Torres Ray--Creates program and appropriates money to recruit, educate and license underrepresented student populations to teach--

SF 1808--Johnson--Lowers the age of compulsory education from seven to six--


HF 1893--Newton--Provides for the condemnation of certain school trust lands--

HF 1895--Davnie--Protects online data and establishes student digital privacy rights--

HF 1896--Mariani--Appropriates money for a planning grant for the W. Matthew Little Cultural and Educational Excellence Center--

HF 1897--Isaacson--Establishes grant programs for career and technical education needs--

HF 1925--Urdahl--Establishes a work group on career and technical education educator licensing--

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Another Long Day.  The LIFO Express stopped in the Senate Education Committee this morning with discussion of Senator Terry Bonoff's SF 97 and Senator Eric Pratt's HF 2 (the House File has passed the full House and has thus been substituted for Senator Pratt's Senate companion SF 473).  HF 2 is the more comprehensive bill, as it contains provisions that deal with teacher licensure, the use of community experts in the classroom, and the status of teachers licensed in other states in addition to changes made to teacher tenure provisions as they relate to teacher layoffs.  SF 97 concentrates almost solely on how unrequested leave of absence decisions will be made by school districts and how teacher performance will figure into those decisions.  Given statements by Senate leadership, it's doubtful that these bills will go any further than they have in that body.  That doesn't mean that changes in teacher tenure are dead for the session, as the contents of HF 2 may well find their way into the House omnibus education funding bill and would be part of the negotiations that will develop the final funding and policy package relating to education during the 2015 session.

The House Education Innovation Policy Committee met for four hours (two hours in the morning, two hours in the evening) and covered a variety of topics.  The Governor's omnibus education policy bill absorbed most of the time during the morning session, with the evening session dedicated to a number of bills, most notably Representative Ron Kresha's bill that would provide a tax credit for contributions to foundations that provide early learning opportunities (HF 1368) and Representative Anna Wills' HF 964, a bill that aims to reduce special education paperwork.

Link:  HF 1368

Link:  HF 964

The House Education Finance Committee covered five bills, some of which will likely find their way into the House omnibus education funding bill.  To me, the highlight was HF 733, a bill authored by Representative John Petersburg that would correct an error in the ballot language passed by the Owatonna school district in the fall of 2013 (the same year the Local Optional Revenue took effect).  The Minnesota Department of Education approved the language prior to the election, but then changed their interpretation, leaving the district with confused taxpayers and the prospect of not being able to collect their entire referendum.  Owatonna Superintendent Peter Grant and Director of Operations Tom Sager have set a land speed record in getting this bill approved by two committees.  I think they've spent less than ten minutes total at the witness stand.  I might need these guys at some point to push SEE's platform through.

Thursday Bill Introductions.


SF 1668--Chamberlain--Authorizes reverse referendum for school-board approved revenue authority under certain circumstances and prohibits public school employees from using public funds to advocate, pass, elect, or defeat a political candidate--

SF 1697--B. Petersen--Empowers authorizers to terminate contracts based on student performance--


HF 1787--Newton--Changes announcement policy for location of defibrillators--

HF 1800--Backer--Authorizes a grant to expand robotics programs in schools in greater Minnesota--

HF 1806--Hancock--Appropriates money for construction and renovation of school facilities in Red Lake School District--

HF 1818--Baker--Increases funding for community education youth after-school enrichment program--

HF 1839--Wills--Confirming how statewide testing requirements apply to nonpublic and home school students and out-of-state students transferring into Minnesota public schools--

HF 1849--Selcer--Increases general education basic formula allowance by 2.5% each year of the biennium--

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Busy Wednesday.  It was the Senate that ran long today.  With the policy committee deadline looming, there is a lot of work to be done and the Senate Education Policy Committee tackled a couple of big bills today.  The day led off with discussion of the Governor's omnibus education policy bill.  Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and MDE Legislative Coordinator Steve Huser presented the bill section-by-section.  This bill is largely technical in nature, seeking to clear up and streamline a lot of provisions that have been enacted over the years.  The big noise will come when the Governor's budget bill is released shortly.

Link:  SF 1495--Governor's Policy Bill

The committee tackled a couple of other bills this morning, but two interesting bills were left for the evening.  SF 979 is Senator Mary Kiffmeyer's bill that would require prior written consent from parents before a student survey could be given to a student.  There was testimony on both sides of the bill from those who believe the student survey is a valuable tool that provides information that is helpful to school districts and state agencies as they fashion policies to meet the social needs of today's high school students.  The data is private and is only available in aggregate form, so concerns that the responses of individual students become public is unfounded.  Still, given the legitimate concerns over the use of public data, there is growing skepticism surrounding the collection of survey data regardless of how general it might be.

Link:  SF 979--Student Survey Bill

Rounding out the evening, the committee addressed SF 589, Senator Greg Clausen's bill on alternative teacher licensure and granting licenses to teaching candidates who have acquired licenses in other states.  Headway is being made on this bill as all parties directly involved in the debate appear reasonably satisfied with the compromise Senator Clausen has fashioned.  I don't have a copy of the amendment that was attached to the bill tonight to link here and one probably won't be available in an electronic copy until the committee finishes its work on its omnibus policy package.  Rest assured, it's all-around good work by Senator Clausen, whose experience as a school administrator is proving invaluable as policy is developed.

Tuesday Introductions.


HF 1676--Kelly--Establishes youth development educational partnership fund--

HF 1689--E. Murphy--Requires sexual assault and sexual harassment policies to contain an affirmative consent standard--

HF 1692--Atkins--Allows charter school students to participate in extracurricular in their resident district--

HF 1712--Quam--Authorizes commissioner of education to help coordinate crisis response teams--

Wednesday Introductions.


SF 1585--Metzen--Allows charter school students to participate in extracurricular in their resident district--

SF 1632--Pratt--Allows school districts to transfer revenue between funds--

SF 1635--Rest--Modifies special education payment schedule for certain charter schools--

SF 1642--Tomassoni--Appropriates money to cooperative unit to provide staff development--


HF 1740--Kelly--Exempts certain property used to provide services to school district personnel through taxation--

HF 1762--Erickson--Creates a financial incentive for districts that enhance proficiency for English language learners--

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Committees Running Overtime.  Less than two weeks to the first policy committee deadline means lots of meetings and lots of bills being heard.  The Senate Education Policy Committee met Monday morning for close to three hours and the House Education Innovation Policy went into the night this evening.  Both committees covered a wide range of policy bills.  Very few of the bills will be going directly to the floor.  Instead, most are being held in the committee for possible inclusion in the omnibus education policy bills in each body.

Of all the bills being heard, the ones that elicited the most discussion were HF 645, Representative Deb Kiel's bill to streamline the teaching licensing procedure for teachers licensed in other states.  There are teacher shortages in a number of curricular areas throughout the state that could be filled by teachers who have been licensed in other states.  Initially, the variance process for these candidates isn't that onerous, but, of course, variances don't last forever and if these individuals don't get the necessary coursework done, they don't get a Minnesota license.  Most education groups support the bill, but the Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Association of Colleges of Teacher Education have concerns, mostly over what they view to be requirements for Minnesota teachers that ensure high-quality instructors.

Link:  HF 645

Representative Peggy Bennett's HF 1392, which would reduce the number of tests required of Minnesota students and change the testing regime to give teachers more useful information about their students' performance, was also heard.  Of course, the state's testing policy has been under almost constant scrutiny over the past decade and there will be changes to it this year.  A working group was convened by the Minnesota Department of Education last fall and those recommendations have been released.  Representative Bennett's bill is a variation on that theme and it was supported today by a delegation of administrators from the Albert Lea School District.

Link:  HF 1392

Link:  Governor Dayton's Comments on Testing

The other bill that generated considerable interest in the House Education Innovation Policy Committee today was HF 1220, Representative Ron Kresha's bill that deals with early learning scholarships.  Early learning is going to receive a lot of attention throughout the session.  It was clear that was going to be the case before the session started.  It became increasingly clear when the Governor released his budget with over $100 million dedicated to universal pre-kindergarten.  After the Governor's announcement that he was "tripling down" on his universal pre-kindergarten last week by adding an additional $200+ million to it, it became the centerpiece of discussion; not that it will necessarily happen, but certainly in that its magnitude has put the overall budget target for education at a level that could accommodate a lot of programs and that dollars will probably be moved from universal pre-kindergarten for other purposes in both the House and Senate.  Representative Kresha's bill deals with the scholarship program and there is concern that the bill as currently written would severely limit school district participation in the program.  That has yet to be determined, but this, like many other issues related to early childhood education will be discussed as the overall issue is addressed over the remainder of the session.

Link:  HF 1220

Monday Bill Introductions.


SF 1467--Johnson--Provides full funding for concurrent enrollment program--

SF 1498--Wiger--Allows districts to compensate effective and highly effective teachers in hard-to-staff settings--

SF 1501--Torres Ray--Appropriates money for family literacy services and a high school community action program--

SF 1502--Clausen--Directs Board of Teaching to adopt standards for an endorsement enabling licensed high school teachers to provide dual enrollment instruction at a high school--

SF 1505--Dahle--Implements portions of the 2013 legislative auditor's report on special education--

SF 1508--Bonoff--Allows charter schools to give an enrollment preference to children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch--

SF 1513--Hann--Dissolves Minneapolis school district and creates six separate districts--

SF 1528--Hoffman--Enhances PSEO payments to postsecondary institutions to include textbook and equipment costs--

SF 1541--Bonoff--Requires reporting school and district data on foreign exchange and study abroad programs--


HF 1542--Selcer--Requires reporting school and district data on foreign exchange and study abroad programs--

HF 1571--Newton--Enhances PSEO payments to postsecondary institutions to include textbook and equipment costs--

HF 1592--Bly--Provides for a placement policy for practice and student teachers--

HF 1626--Erickson--Modifies revenue distribution for regional library system support formula--

HF 1629--Mariani--Allows districts to compensate effective and highly effective teachers in hard-to-staff settings--

HF 1636--Christensen--Creates greater ability for districts to transfer revenue between funds--

HF 1641--Anzelc--Modifies equalization rate for local optional revenue for districts with high concentrations of seasonal/recreational property--

HF 1642--Selcer--Recommendation #4 from School Facilities Finance Working Group report--

HF 1643--Sundin--Allows districts to transfer funds from ECFE to Learning Readiness--

HF 1657--Erickson--Empowers authorizers to terminate contracts based on lack of student performance--

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Another Week in the Books.  The first week of March featured a lot of committee hearing time and the passage of a piece of legislation that is of primary importance to the House majority.  First, Thursday's hearing in the House Education Innovation Policy Committee featured a number of bills related to special education.  There was a lot of discussion, some of it very spirited, on the bills before the committee.  The two bills that elicited the most discussion are both authored by Representative Drew Cristensen; HFs 804 and 1237.

I'll outline HF 1237 first.  HF 1237 would require that paraprofessionals working with disabled students receive disability-specific training in order to work with students.  As I read the bill, costs would be incurred locally for this training and the costs would obviously vary by the volume of training needed in each particular instance, both for the paraprofessional and the nature of the disability category.  This is clearly a worthy goal, but if estimated costs look to be prohibitive, it could conceivably derail the effort.  The questions that need to be answered are:  (1) is disability-specific training required for or simply need to be offered to prospective employees, and (2) how comprehensive must the training be?  As I said earlier, from my reading, the training would be required before a paraprofessional could work with a specific student, but that is not entirely clear.  The other question about the nature of the training is wide open.  Would training packets need to be approved by the Minnesota Department of Education?  Would there need to be a demonstration of skills?  Would a list of required readings to be completed on a prospective employee's (or current employee's) own time suffice?  Would the paraprofessional have access to the full IEP?  These and many other questions need answers and I'm sure we'll get them as the bill moves through the process (the companion--SF 1002--will be heard in the Senate this week).

Link:  HF 1237

HF 804 spurred the most discussion and it was spirited.  Many of you remember the provision passed last year that required the development of an online reporting system for special education paperwork.  In 2013, $1.8 million was appropriated for the project and language that directed the Minnesota Department of Education on the specifics of what that system should be able to accomplish passed last session.  In addition, last year's legislation made the system mandatory for all school districts beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.  HF 804 would repeal the language passed last session, including mandatory participation by school districts in the future.  The bill would require portability of due process information between school districts and in order to accomplish that goal vendors currently serving Minnesota school districts would have to make some changes to ensure compatibility.  Clearly, the language passed in 2014 causes a lot of havoc for school districts without ensuring any reduction in paperwork.  I've overworked my analogy capabilities discussing this angle in the past, but here comes another one.

Think of student reporting systems as vehicles and think of paperwork as miles.  Some districts drive trucks.  Some districts drive cars.  Some districts travel by motorcycle.  The state tells each district that they have to drive 500 miles.  Now it doesn't matter which vehicle is used to travel the 500 miles.  The pertinent fact is that each district has to drive 500 miles.  If the online reporting system were to become mandated, the state would simply choose the vehicle every district would have to use, which would not reduce the mileage districts would have to drive.  Until those 500 miles are reduced, districts will be be filling out the same number of forms and facing the same level of scrutiny.  In other words, no paperwork reduction.  Stay tuned.

HF 2.  The House passed the teacher tenure and training bill on Thursday evening after a considerable amount of debate, some of it contentious.  The seven-hour debate ran past 10 PM and featured a number of amendments offered by DFLers to an amendment offered by DFLer Carlos Mariani, the chair of the House Education Policy Committee prior the change in the majority brought about by the 2014 election.  The amendments ran the gamut of education policy and funding issues, but because almost all contained some measure of funding, the amendments were found to be out of order.  Of course, whenever the speaker rules an amendment to be out of order, the party seeking the amendment's approval questions the ruling of the Speaker of the House (or President of the Senate if the bill is before the Senate), which inevitably leads to more debate.  After the Republicans successfully added several amendments to Representative Mariani's proposed amendment, Representative Mariani withdrew his amendment.  Several other amendments were offered by DFLers, both as stand-alone amendments and as amendments to amendments offered by other DFLers, but only two relatively minor amendments--offered by Representatives Yarusso and Slocum--were accepted.  The bill then passed on a vote of 70-63 with no DFLers voting for the bill and no Republicans voting against it.

Here is a story of the Pioneer Press on the debate and vote:  HF 2 Debate and Passage

Bill Introductions from Thursday, March 5:


SF 1370--Westrom--Authorizes early education services for certain students from adjoining states--

SF 1385--Dahle--Directs Board of Teaching to adopt standards for a specialized licensed, endorsement, or credential for project-based learning--

SF 1407--Pratt--Allows a school to retain a student in grade three if they are not reading at grade level--

SF 1408--Pratt--Requires a minimum score on certain assessments to receive a high school diploma--


HF 1485--Erickson--Allows charter schools to give an enrollment preference to children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch--

HF 1497--Urdahl--Amends state high school graduation requirements to include demonstration of knowledge of civics--

HF 1528--Bernardy--Clarifies advanced placement and international baccalaureate program requirements--

HF 1529--Fenton--Creates education savings accounts for students with special needs--

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

When They Start Meeting Wednesdays . . . It means things are picking up steam.  Both houses met today to process bill introductions and committee reports.  The first policy committee deadline is just a little over two weeks away (March 20) and that means all non-budget bills are racing against the clock.  If a bill has to go to more than one policy committee, time is going to be really tight because those bills must clear all policy committees to which the bill has been referred before the first deadline.  That means two things:  (1) a lot of floor sessions to get bills introduced and processed from one committee to another, and (2) a lot of looooooooooooong committee meetings.  Like I reported yesterday, the House Education Innovation Policy Committee met for nearly five hours on Tuesday (and may meet that long again tomorrow).  So look forward to some long reports from me on the blog.

While the budget and tax committees (and subcommittees) are meeting, they are deferring to the policy committees at this point due to the fact that the budget bills won't have to be put together and on the floor of their respective house by the third week of April.  Of course, the omnibus bills will contain both budget and policy provisions (it does not appear that the omnibus policy bills will travel separately at this point, but that remains a possibility), but to be on the safe side and follow protocol, both the House and Senate committees that deal with education policy are hearing bills that I fully expect to be considered for inclusion in the larger omnibus package.

Bill Introductions.


SF 1313--Hann--Creates Education Savings Accounts for students with special needs--

SF 1314--Jensen--Provides for information technology certifications through public-private partnerships--

SF 1323--Saxhaug--Increases local optional revenue equalization for certain districts--

SF 1327--Wiger--Establishes a global education to workforce initiative program--

SF 1352--Cohen--Adjusts current aid payment percentage and estimated entitlements--

SF 1364--Kent--Creates grant program to increase student support personnel--


HF 1409--Mullery--Appropriates money for Northside Achievement Zone program--

HF 1428--Moran--Qualifies certain homeless children for early educational services--

HF 1431--Swedzinski--Creates choice scholarships for high school dropouts--

HF 1436--Quam--Establishes basic needs revenue and reserves revenue for essential uses identified by school boards--

HF 1444--Davnie--Directs the Board of Teaching to adopt standards for an endorsement enabling licensed high school teachers to provide dual enrollment instruction at a high school--

HF 1445--Selcer--Expands the list of offenses that authorizes the Board of Teaching or Board of School Administrators to deny or revoke a teaching license--

HF 1446--Selcer--Appropriates money for school districts to develop STEM based courses--