Discord over an alternative teacher licensure pathway endorsed by the governor, many Republicans and some DFLers helped kill an omnibus K-12 bill, as well as the possibility of a federal grant that could have brought scarce new funds to Minnesota schools.
Of four omnibus education bills compiled this year, none landed on the governor’s desk, each dead-ended for various procedural and political reasons.
The House passed one of them, HF3833, May 11 after voting down an amendment that would have included the controversial licensure provision.
The provision, originally sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), chairman of the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee, would have allowed limited two-year licensure for Teach for America members and others who meet certain criteria. They could have been placed in certain school districts to meet specific needs. However, other DFLers and the state teachers’ union, Education Minnesota, said it lacked requirements for adequate student teaching experience and close supervision by a licensed teacher.
“Unfortunately, it was the teachers’ union who threw the sand in the gears and blocked reform from happening,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), by “bullying” enough DFL members into voting no.
Garofalo praised Mariani and Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Finance Division, for their leadership on policy reforms. He said that if the proposal and other reforms had passed, he could have asked his colleagues to support “a reasonable compromise” on a proposed temporary extension on school operating levies, also in the bill.
The proposal would have given school boards authority through June 30, 2016, to renew expiring levy referendum without putting the question to voters. It included a reverse referendum.
Greiling said that proposal was supported by most education groups, who saw it as a needed strategy to maintain fiscal stability as the state dips further into school revenue to help balance its budget.
Because the Senate did not take up HF3833, or sponsor a companion, it died.
Race to the Top hopes over
Greiling called this “the worst year we’ve ever had for education.” While schools were spared cuts, policy reforms that could have helped Minnesota win a federal Race to the Top grant and others offering budget relief for school districts were left on the table, as was the funding reform plan Greiling proposed, known as the “New Minnesota Miracle.”
Reforms in the bill included annual teacher and principal evaluations, alternative licensure for mid-career changers, stronger teacher licensing requirements and an end-of-course algebra examination that could lead to new accountability measures.
Without policy reforms in place, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced May 19 he won’t re-apply for the grant, which could have been worth as much as $175 million.
Losing out on the grant is one thing, but schools’ problems are going to get worse before they get better. Accounting shifts delaying state aid payments to schools up to 30 percent in the next biennium became law.
What got left behind
Left behind were several strategies Greiling hoped would give school districts strategies to maintain fiscal stability.
One proposal would have smoothed bureaucratic snags that left $8 million of special education reimbursement by Medicaid and Medicare uncollected by school districts last year. It would have made it easier to bill the third-party payers by streamlining required consent forms.
School districts would have gained easier access to health and safety revenue through reductions in red tape involved in applying for the revenue.
An idea to hire a quasi-independent analyst to monitor school trust lands activities, based on a successful model that has grown Utah’s school fund to $1 billion, won’t happen this year.
A few accomplishments made
A few provisions survived as parts of other laws or stand-alone laws:
• Metro Deaf School-Minnesota North Star Academy, a St. Paul charter school, likely would have folded without legislative authorization in HF3329, sponsored by Greiling, for the Education Department to accelerate its reimbursement for special education services;
• statewide physical education standards, plus other voluntary measures promoting children’s health and fitness, are part of a health care law signed May 25 by the governor; and
• a proposed repeal of the statute that led to $416 million of short-term lending by school districts to the state this spring was modified, becoming a provision in the supplemental budget law. The state may now tap those schools for cash flow help, but no longer must do so before seeking other loans.
The year without a K-12 law
School funding is flat, no reforms enacted
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010
House K-12 omnibus bill fast-tracked
Senate slow to respond with companion legislation
(view full story) Published 5/13/2010
K-12 education omnibus bill stalls
Teacher licensure proposals in contention
(view full story) Published 5/6/2010
K-12 education bill moves forward
Measures would activate reforms, stabilize school funding
(view full story) Published 4/29/2010
Resuscitating Race to the Top bid
New bid could hinge on proposals to boost teacher effectiveness
(view full story) Published 4/22/2010
Raiders of the lost fund
Slew of reforms could boost Permanent School Fund income
(view full story) Published 3/25/2010
Schools shore up state’s checkbook
Obscure law forces drawdown of school reserves before state can borrow
(view full story) Published 2/25/2010
At Issue: No shifts, no cuts
Education funding in a holding pattern
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009
At Issue: E-12 education bill that might have been
Funding held steady with no shifts proposed, but no Minnesota Miracle
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009
At Issue: Investing in quality care for kids
Lawmakers hope for long-term benefits of early investment
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009
At Issue: Building a better formula
Omnibus K-12 education finance bill floor debate highlights obstacles
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009
At Issue: Whose values are they anyway?
Lawmaker carries on family legacy with sex education bill
(view full story) Published 4/17/2009
First Reading: One school doesn’t fit all
Efforts put forward to tailor charter school law
(view full story) Published 4/10/2009
At Issue: Hopeful education goals in a dismal year
Omnibus bill addresses changing needs and future demands
(view full story) Published 4/3/2009
At Issue: Getting kids to move
Bill aims to ensure ‘No child left on their behind’
(view full story) Published 2/20/2009
First Reading: Accountability funding for all
A ‘New Minnesota Miracle’ requires a leap of faith
(view full story) Published 2/13/2009
At Issue: Q Comp found wanting
Performance measure has perks, but is it affordable?
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009
At Issue: Reforming education, saving money
Bipartisan support shown for mandate reduction and shared services
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009
Feature: Passing the torch of democracy
Youth immerse themselves in lingo and actions of lawmaking
(view full story) Published 1/16/2009