House passes omnibus education bill
Erin Schmidtke, Session Daily, April 2, 2012 –
An omnibus bill that would, in part, expand opportunities to take college courses through the Postsecondary Enrollment Options program was approved by the full House .
Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), the bill provides for a variety of changes to statewide education.
Besides expanding postsecondary options, the bill would ban public school employees from using school resources to engage in political activities. It also addresses early graduation achievement scholarships for high school students and establishes a task force that would examine methods of incorporating career and technical education into high school curriculums.
Members heard a series of amendments, including one unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood), that sought to strike a controversial portion of the bill that would set aside $250,000 of a $4 million early childhood education scholarship fund created by the Legislature last session. The money would create need-based grants for a parent-child home program, which critics say only serves to defund similar programs that also help low-income children.
Slawik said that she hoped to strike that language because the grants may be paid to a variety of child care providers, regardless of quality standards. She also spoke against the requirement that the grants be divided evenly between Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Garofalo called on members to vote against Slawik’s proposal, which he called an “anti-rural amendment.”
The amendment divided members along party lines, as did the larger bill.
“It’s full of mandates, it cuts education funding and it does so in a way that particularly destabilizes our schools and opportunities for our children,” said Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls).
Garofalo refuted this claim, saying that “if there was ever a white flag of surrender from the Democratic Party, I think we just saw it.”
– Erin Schmidtke