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Slow going on E-12 finance bill

Published (5/6/2011)
By Kris Berggren
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During a May 2 meeting of the omnibus education finance bill conference committee, Kathy Saltzman, right, executive director of Minnesota Education Corps, listens as Lorien Parson, Minnesota Reading Corps development and training coordinator, shows on a projected graph the progress a third grade boy made in his reading skills. (Photo by Tom Olmscheid)The conference committee on HF934*/ SF1030 inched toward adopting slivers of the big bill that would appropriate approximately $14.16 billion for early childhood through high school education over the next two fiscal years. House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) are the bill’s sponsors.

Senate conferees offered May 4 to accept House language in some provisions that were identical or nearly so. They include proposed changes to sparsity revenue for elementary and secondary schools and schools that will close; the Kittson school closing; repealing the Safe Schools levy maintenance of effort requirement; allowing parents to request trial placement at the Minnesota state academies for blind or deaf students; eliminating growth factors in the calculation of special education funding; and budget forecast numbers.

The Senate conferees prefer the language in their bill regarding the Northland Community School closing; early graduation scholarship proposal; and reallocation of revenue allocated to early graduates who don’t participate in the scholarship program.

No action was taken.

Some key proposals in the House bill not included or significantly different from those in the Senate bill are: a new small schools revenue category, expansion of extended time revenue, a very specific teacher appraisal framework linked to hiring decisions and a voucher program for low-income students in low-performing schools to attend nonpublic schools.

Both bodies propose teacher tenure, collective bargaining and strike limits.

The committee also heard from testifiers including Jeri Powell, engagement specialist with Students First. Powell said research indicates that “last-in, first-out” employment policies are counterproductive for three reasons. She said they harm high-need districts mostly because that’s where more new teachers work; they cause greater numbers of teachers to be laid off, since more newer teachers earning less are needed to reach a budget target; and that such policies target new graduates with high enthusiasm and current skills.

Members heard May 2 from a group informally known as “Moms on a Mission” who advocate for reading instruction for teachers and literacy specialists and tutors in schools. The Senate bill proposes

$85.2 million in literacy incentive aid. The category is not included in the House bill.

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