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Education omnibus bill unveiled

Published (3/30/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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A bill that would expand high school students’ opportunities to take college courses through the Postsecondary Enrollment Options program advanced in the House after receiving committee approval.

The House Education Finance Committee approved HF2949 March 27. It now awaits action by the full House. Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) sponsors SF2482, the companion that awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Sponsored by Committee Chairman Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), the second education omnibus bill of the session, provides for a variety of changes to statewide education.

Besides expanding post secondary options, the bill would also ban public school employees from using school resources to engage in political activities. During a previous committee hearing, some parents praised the bill’s emphasis on unbiased political education, while educators worried that it would overreach and stifle teachers’ rights to free expression.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) unsuccessfully proposed two amendments. One would alter testing requirements for those attempting to obtain their high school diplomas, which Mariani said would especially affect immigrant students.

The second would implement a school integration program based on findings of a task force created by the Legislature last session. The program would focus on increasing achievement, as well as promoting interaction between different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Garofalo opposed the amendment, which he said needed to be more closely examined through hearings with the Senate.

Representatives of education groups objected to a portion of the bill that would redirect general education revenue paid to schools for students who graduate early. The money, instead, would go to early graduation achievement scholarships and military service awards, which eligible students could apply. Roger Aronson, legal counsel for both the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals and the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association, worried that the change could harm schools mid-year when they need the funding.

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