Parents United Final Update and Goodbye

/ 8 June 2016 / Shawna

This will be our final Update. For fourteen years, it has been a pleasure reporting the happenings in the political arena that impact our public schools. We have learned so very much and hope that we passed those learnings along to you.

We look forward to reading the epilogue of our story in the years to come and have two wishes. First, that you recognize your power–your ability to influence the direction of our public schools. And, second, that you have a profound understanding of the relationship between state/federal legislation and our local schools.

If we have left you with any thought, let it be:

Great schools begin at the ballot box!

Thank you and goodbye!

Looking Toward the Future

Before heading to the ballot box and into the next legislative session, know what your candidates think about public schools, what they are willing to do about it and hold them accountable once elected.

We believe there will be recurring themes in the coming years since many of these issues still need much attention:

  • Equity – access to quality and opportunity for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, race or zip code
  • Teacher shortage – recruiting and retaining people who want to teach, particularly in hard to fill areas and among people of color
  • Student mental health – adequately addressing the tremendous need that educators have identified. As one testifier observed, “schools have become the de facto mental health providers to children.”
  • School funding – Minnesota Schools are still being funded at 2003 levels in 2016. A child who entered kindergarten in 2003 has graduated from a system that had no real funding increase throughout their entire schooling. While legislators from both sides of the aisle publicly admit Minnesota has underfunded schools for decades, policymakers must change this if schools are going to succeed

As you go forth, please be wary of policy solutions that:

  • Are not solutions, but rather indicate a lack of funding
  • Create new unfunded mandates
  • Do not match in fund the scale of the real need
  • Pit one region of the state against another

It is time for Minnesota to develop an overall strategy to provide adequate sustainable funding to meet state and federal requirements so that all students are career- and college-ready.

At the Capitol

While all the fire and heat has been focused on what legislators may have failed to accomplish and the drama of a special session, Governor Dayton has signed the Supplemental Budget bill. This is the large omnibus bill that holds the education policy and funding provisions.

These last two legislative sessions have deep significance for our schools. Voters tend to vote based on the old adage, “What have you done for me lately?” and if true, this may impact control of Minnesota’s House and Senate in the coming years. It cannot be stressed enough, every Senate and every House seat is up for reelection in November. And let’s not forget the presidential race: as presidents have taken on a greater influence over our schools, their vision for public education becomes increasingly relevant.

If we’ve learned one thing in the political world–never underestimate the power of angry voters. Angry voters show up to vote!

Regarding school funding, we have spoken of the newest trend where legislators appropriate smaller funding requests to a variety of education initiatives, and how this is indicative of the need for greater overall funding. That trend needs to disappear.

We need education policies that are research-based, implemented with fidelity and evaluated for their efficacy. We can no longer afford to pass legislation for political expediency, or to assuage special interest groups. We have to get this right.

Agreed upon 2016 Education Funding provisions

  • $25 million ongoing for pre-k
  • $12.1 million one-time money for student support services grants.
  • $4.9 million non-metro equity
  • $4.5 million for staff development for the intermediate districts.
  • $3 million for the NW Regional Partnership
  • $2.8 million for Grants for Teachers in Shortage Areas.
  • $2.8 million for Positive Behavior Intervention Supports
  • $2.2 million in Maximum Effort Grandfather Aid
  • $2 million for Parent Home Visiting Program
  • $2 million for Teacher Loan Forgiveness
  • $2 million for Parent Aware
  • $1.5 million for the Sanneh Foundation
  • $1.5 million for Girls in Action
  • $1.5 million for Grow Your Own and other Teacher Preparation Programs
  • $1.5 million in FY 19 for Debt Service Equalization
  • $1 million for MDE IT Security
  • $1 million for Reading Corps
  • $1 million for Full Service Community Schools
  • $900,000 for the Western Minnesota Manufacturing Lab
  • $800,000 for ABE Pilot Grants
  • $775,000 for MDE Operating Increase
  • $500,000 for Innovation Partners Center
  • $500,000 for Eden Prairie Grants
  • $500,000 for Teacher Governed Schools
  • $500,000 for Broadband Innovation Grants
  • $430,000 for St. Cloud Early Learning Program
  • $385,000 for Southwest MN State U Sp Ed Teacher Preparation Program
  • $310,000 for Collaborative Urban Educator Program
  • $294,000 for Grant to Glenville-Emmons
  • $270,000 for Indian Education Teacher Preparation Grants
  • $250,000 for Board of Teaching Base Funding Deficiency
  • $250,000 for Graduation Incentives for ELL Students Ages 21 and 22.
  • $250,000 for Agricultural Educators
  • $250,000 for Minnesota Council on Economic Education
  • $240,000 in Current Year to Make QComp Fund Whole
  • $200,000 for Vision Therapy Pilot
  • $150,000 for Race2Reduce (Water Conservation Project)
  • $120,000 for GED Testing
  • $100,000 for Rock and Read Pilot
  • $80,000 for Statewide Educator Job Board
  • $69,000 for Metro Deaf Charter School
  • $50,000 for Headwaters Science Center
  • $50,000 for Promise Neighborhood/Greater Partnerships

Agreed Upon Notable 2016 Policy Provisions

  • Legislative Teacher licensure study group
  • Student discipline working group
  • Equitable distribution of effective, experienced teachers to children with greatest needs requirements throughout legislation
  • Pathways to licensure including Grow Your Own and Collaborative Urban Educators
  • Adds prone restraint to list of prohibited procedures
  • Matching grants program for districts to expand student connectivity
  • Charter school provisions to improve oversight
  • MDE language re: gifted and talented identification and instruction
  • Physical education national standards and exemptions
  • Paraprofessional pathway to teacher licensure
  • MDE assures contract providers protect student user data
  • Dyslexia and Convergence vision disorder identification
  • Alternative instruction for 3rd graders unable to read
  • Standardized and published “Opt-out” form
  • Site-based teams advising districts on use of standardized tests beyond state required
  • One hour of suicide prevention training for teachers
  • Parents’ rights and responsibilities codified
  • Teachers allowed to access their student’s current and longitudinal performance and progress data
  • Teacher of record granted the general control and government of the school and classroom with specific provision to remove students from their classrooms
  • Commissioner and Minnesota School Safety Center support for creating school crisis response teams in regions where there are none
  • Parent/guardian informed of surveys
  • Perpich Center for Arts Education require 15 members and board training
  • A civics test required for all students, however, diplomas cannot be withheld if a student does not pass
  • MCA cut score where MnSCU schools cannot require students to take remedial courses
  • Districts may offer ACT or SAT or both. If district only offers one and the student wishes to take the other, they qualify for reimbursement, as long as the funding remains.

Education provision in other bills

  • $33,000 for children’s mental health grants
  • Vacancy on a school board to be filled by appointment until the next election in November.


The draft rules regarding the implementation of the Every Student Success Act have been released by the federal Department of Education. In its summary, the DOE said of ESSA:

“[T]he proposed regulations clarify ESSA’s statutory language by ensuring the use of multiple measures of school success based on academic outcomes, student progress, and school quality, thereby reinforcing that all students deserve a high-quality and well-rounded education that will prepare them for success.”

New ESSA assessment provisions

Minnesota is fortunate that we currently have a waiver to NCLB for accountability measures. We already use a Multiple Measure Rating System (MMR) similar to what ESSA now requires: at least one indicator of school quality, student performance on a statewide assessment, high school graduation rates and English language proficiency. Assessments, or tests, are one part of a broader accountability system. New provisions on assessment include:

  • Opt Out: for schools that do not successfully test 95% of students and 95% of subgroups there are a range of possibilities. The state must take “robust action” or develop “rigorous strategy” for assessing performance in those schools. Robust action includes assigning a lower summative rating, the lowest performance level, or identify the school for targeted improvement. “Rigorous strategy” is left undefined.
  • Critical thinking: states can use, in part, portfolios, projects or performance tasks as well as comprehensive assessment instruments.
  • Single summative score: states can select multiple interim assessments or a single summative assessment, as long as they result in a single summative score.
  • Consortium: up to seven states can implement an innovative assessment and accountability pilot including competency and performance based assessments. A consortium not to exceed four states can also work together to pilot an assessment plan.
  • National assessment: any district may submit for approval from the state to use a nationally recognized high school assessment instead of the state’s selected assessment plan if that exam is equally rigorous.
  • Balance: ESSA comes with federal funding for state assessment systems that balance the measure of state standards, competency and mastery of skills. Some argue states will find it easier to test higher order thinking and depth of knowledge.
  • Formative assessment: Funding may also be used to help teachers to develop classroom-based assessments, learn how to interpret the data and use it to inform instruction.

Worth a Second Look 

Our website has maintained 18,000 unique visitors in recent years. We will no longer be updating or maintaining our site. However, it will be available as long as it maintains relevance. Please access it and download any information valuable to your work on behalf of public schools. When it no longer remains accessible, please know archives images of previously available websites.

Our final Wrap Up on June 4 ended in a great discussion about this session and the future. Please access the power point slides for a deeper explanation of the Supplemental Budget Bill and implications. A video is also available.

Our newest Annual Report details our activities in 2015.

Finally, we are excited to see this work continue through groups including but not limited to the excellent organizations we have worked with over 14 years.

We are so very proud to have served the public school students and families of Minnesota, and will be eternally grateful for the contributions that parents and concerned people like you have made to this important work.

Thank you,

Laura, Mary, Lisa, Ann, Shawna

-Childhood has no rewind