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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is an update from St. Paul.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
Board of Teaching
Thank you to everyone who attended the recent Eden Prairie Town Hall that I co-hosted with Senator David Hann. We had a great turnout, covering issues that will be important in the upcoming session including middle class tax relief and a comprehensive transportation bill to improve our roads and bridges.
The Town Hall provided a wonderful opportunity to hear directly from people in our community about their priorities for state government. If you were unable to attend the meeting but have questions, ideas or input about what is happening at the legislature, please do not hesitate to contact my office. I am here to serve you!
On January 28, the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released a scathing report on our health care exchange, MNsure, revealing millions in improper payments to ineligible public program enrollees. OLA estimates that anywhere between $115 million and $271 million of taxpayer dollars were given away in overpayments during a five-month period. What's more, anywhere from 80,000 to 132,000 people who enrolled in MNsure during the first quarter were either ineligible for the coverage they received or were placed in the wrong program.
This kind of extreme government waste is unacceptable and must be addressed. Last session, House Republicans passed legislation to improve public program eligibility verification which was estimated to save taxpayers $300 million. Unfortunately, the governor and senate disputed those savings, but with this most recent report on MNsure, it's clear these kinds of steps must be taken to end these egregious overpayments.
Tied in with skyrocketing premiums for individuals and families, the hundreds of millions in overpayments demonstrate the continued problems MNsure is experiencing at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.
Board of Teaching
Recently, both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press printed editorials on the Board of Teaching's continued lack of compliance to fix its out-of-state teacher licensure process. I am continually frustrated over the board's lack of action when they have been given clear directives from lawmakers, including measures passed in 2011 and 2015 to help clarify the pathway for qualified educators to be licensed in Minnesota classrooms.
The Board of Teaching is breaking the law by not complying with the bipartisan wish of legislators and ignoring directives in state statute. As a result, a Ramsey County judge recently ruled that the board must return to using a portfolio licensing system for teachers trained in other states as a pathway to licensure, but they are now appealing that ruling—further delaying a fix to this serious problem.
Minnesota is facing teacher shortages in several key areas including math, science and special education. This is particularly serious issue for parts of Greater Minnesota. Refusing to license quality, qualified out-of-state educators by forcing them to take additional redundant college courses, or by making the licensing process unnecessarily complicated and unevenly applied doesn't benefit anyone. It does not help our students, our schools or our teachers.
I think the Pioneer Press summed it up best when it said, "Policies and a process that confound lawmakers, out-of-state teachers and the public have no place in a system that should put students first."
As the Chair of the Education Finance Committee, I will continue to work on this important issue.
If I can be of any assistance to you with a state government matter, please feel free to contact me. I also welcome your views, questions and suggestions on issues of interest or concern. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call my office at 651-296-7449. I look forward to hearing from you!
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