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Minnesota Legislature

Vetoed: No early ed? No K-12 policy law

Published (7/15/2011)
By Kris Berggren
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Gov. Mark Dayton agreed with a few provisions in the omnibus education policy bill sponsored by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista), such as a statewide plan to promote literacy by third grade. On balance, he could not support the bill and sent it back to lawmakers.

Dayton wrote in his veto letter that other provisions “must be removed or resolved before I can support it” and indicated he was troubled by its lack of an early childhood education plan.

The original literacy proposal sponsored by Rep. Pam Myhra (R-Burnsville) would have ended “social promotion” of children who cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade, and required earlier and frequent literacy assessment, parent notification and targeted reading interventions. By the time the omnibus bill reached the governor, the controversial retention policy was removed but the supports and literacy monitoring were retained.

The governor appreciated proposals regarding principal development and evaluation, but did not support a two-year probationary period for principals and assistant principals while teachers have three years of probation. He called a proposed three-year probationary period any time a teacher switches school districts “excessive and unwarranted, even with the school board’s option to modify it.”

Dayton also found limitations on the education commissioner’s role in rulemaking related to academic standards “unacceptable.” The bill would have required the Legislature to approve the standards before their adoption by the Education Department; Dayton wrote that the proposal would add a “layer of bureaucratic delay, which runs contrary to our shared desire to streamline government decision-making and reduce its timelines.”

The bill also would have prohibited the commissioner from adopting Common Core Standards without legislative approval. Dayton said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called him to urge his support of the standards, already adopted by 42 other states.

The governor wrote that a proposed pilot program allowing small groups of school districts to operate as charter schools “has not been crafted carefully enough to be enacted.” The plan triggered his concerns about their governance, funding allocation, accountability for student performance and whether they would honor collective bargaining agreements.

Finally, the governor cited the lack of early childhood funding or programs as a key reason for his lack of support for the bill.

“I am also extremely reluctant to sign any education policy or funding bill, which does not contain language and/or funding for early childhood education. … Such drastic and misguided actions would wrongfully reverse the state’s modest progress in supporting this critically needed service,” he stated.

“After all of the rhetoric during the legislative session about closing the achievement gap, it is incomprehensible why early childhood education programming and funding, which educational experts say is the key first step toward education equity, would be eliminated.”

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