Update for January 9, 2015: They’re Out of the Gate!

/ 9 January 2015 / Shawna

Stay Connected!

The Minnesota Legislature is officially in session, and we will be there for the next five months so you know what’s being proposed for our schools. Take time to subscribe to our weekly updates. If you’d like to link to past sessions, you can easily find 2014 updates and updates from all the past years we’ve been around! We’ll be tweeting from the Capitol, too – follow us. And of course, like us on Facebook.

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Collaboration in the wind

The 89th session of the Minnesota Legislature opened this week, with promises of collaboration and bipartisanship. In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL – Cook, MN) remains at the helm and the newly turned over House will be led by Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown, MN). A relative newcomer (2010), Daudt expressed hope that the session might bring collaborative progress within the House itself and between the two bodies (Read more). Because of this year’s division in party leadership, as well as the projected $1 billion surplus, some believe that such collaboration may be possible. Along with Governor Dayton, who gave his inaugural speech on Monday, both legislative bodies say they will make education a priority.

At a legislative preview hosted by the Humphrey Institute on Thursday, Speaker Daudt and Majority Leader Bakk expressed a conciliatory tone between them for the session. As far as education is concerned, both named vocational and technical training needs statewide, reducing the achievement gap, and student and teacher accountability systems as education priorities. Majority Leader Bakk mentioned the unrolling of new statewide teacher evaluation systems as a good start, and asserted that concern for student and teacher performance are not new. He believes Minnesota’s employment gaps indicate career counseling, tech classes, and additional non-tested subjects are more significant to educational success than they are credited. Daudt has committed to a new approach in the House, wherein they start with identifying problems, gather citizen and expert input, and work together toward solutions. He stated, “MN deserves a great debate on issues it cares about.”

Moderator and former House Speaker Steve Sviggum offered to pay for dinner once a month during the session if the two leaders will continue such collaboration. Time will tell if this bipartisan tenor will remain…stay tuned!

Come see what we think: Legislative Kick-Off!

Join us this Saturday, Jan. 10 at TIES, St. Paul for our annual “don’t miss” conversation for political junkies and newbies alike! We’ll update you on implementation of education policy decisions from the 2014 legislative session AND look through a crystal ball, sharing the wisdom of those in the room to see what we can expect in the coming session. This is an informative and popular event – join us! There is no fee for this event, but please register so we know to expect you.

This Week at the Capitol

The House released a slate of first bills on Thursday, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of greater Minnesota. The authors stated that passage of these bills will have longer lasting effects on economic recovery for greater Minnesotans, who they feel were not given a “fair shake in the last session.” A handful of bills were referred to the two education committees, and they included proposals on teacher licensure, challenges to seniority, alternative licensure and universal pre-K. This is just the beginning – time will soon tell which proposals are heard and debated.

The only education hearing this week was in the Senate. Testimony was taken from several dozen education stakeholders who highlighted their priorities for the session. Common topics included early childhood, with an expansion of scholarship programs to rural areas; training, attracting and retaining high-quality teachers; examining the burden of testing on students and teachers (MDE currently has a task force working on this); and aligning and extending high school-to-college programs such as dual credit courses, PSEO and College in the Schools. In addition, the Senate introduced its first bills, including some for universal 4 year old pre-K, free vocational/technical training for high school graduates, and adoption of the Governor’s Task Force recommendations on child protection. There appears to be some alignment with House goals.

Because of limited physical space at the Capitol this session, the Senate will have a single education committee: Senate E-12 Education. The House will have two – House Education Finance (chaired by Rep Jenifer Loon, R- Eden Prairie) and House Education Innovation Policy (chaired by Rep Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton).

Don’t forget the federal level—it impacts us mightily!!

In Washington, keep your eyes on what’s happening in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Chair John Kline and others are very interested in overhauling No Child Left Behind, possibly removing the federal government from its role in state education policies. It has been rumored that they wish to leave all responsibility for education oversight in the hands of state governments.

What would this mean for common core standards? Standardized testing? Test scores tied to teacher evaluation? How might a state like Minnesota respond, given what we already have put in place to comply with the feds? Read more in MinnPost…Interesting to think about the pros, cons and political bedfellows. Be sure to also read the Politico article that analyzes politics behind this issue, referenced in the article.

A bit of necessary background…..NCLB is the most current iteration of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary School Act) first passed in the 1960’s. ESEA is to be reauthorized every 5 years by Congress and whomever the sitting president is helps shape and names the newest iteration. In 2001 it became No Child Left Behind.

NCLB’s provisions expired in 2007, yet reauthorization has languished. As schools across the country have struggled with implementation, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan granted waivers to certain states who created their own accountability plans. Minnesota is one of the states whose waiver application was approved. That is why we now use the MMR (Multiple Measurement Rating) accountability system.

A Look Ahead

Next week, Senate E-12 expects to discuss World’s Best Workforce legislation and its initial implementation. The House has two hearings scheduled where the agenda reads “an overview on select prominent education topics”. We can expect to hear what the priorities of House Education Policy Innovation members will be for the next two years.

The Capitol is shrink-wrapped!

Just a heads up–it really is a very difficult time to visit the Capitol right now. The Senate is down to three meeting rooms. Committees will be juggling space and times, so hearings will be held whenever space is available—Monday through Saturday and expect many evening meetings. Parking is very limited and public bathrooms are almost non-existent. Please consider meeting with your local legislator in your home district.

We will keep you apprised of these hearing changes as quickly as we can and tweet the changes! Are you following us?

Reminder: don’t ever come to the Capitol without first checking to see if the committee is actually meeting and if the bill you are interested in has been removed from the agenda! All this information can be quickly found on the Minnesota State Legislature front page calendar.

 Bookmarks for You!

Both House and Senate have several committees that deal with education. Our updates will refer to legislation considered in these committees. You may wish to bookmark our Current Legislative Session info or subscribe to each committee at the House and Senate to receive meeting information delivered to your email inbox!

To see what bills are scheduled to be heard on any given day, this list of committees will link you to each committee home page. Each bill to be heard will be hyperlinked and easily accessible. If you ever have a question as to the implication of a bill, please call us, 651-214-6565.

What is Parents United’s agenda?

This last Thursday, Majority Leader Bakk reminded his audience that, “At the legislature, the public gets to participate in the process.” That’s why Parents United exists!

Our agenda is simple: we don’t speak for parents, but work to provide credible, timely information about education policy and the law-making process so parents can speak for themselves

Truth be told, Parents United is a translator of complex terms and policy implications, as well as a navigator fora legislative process often oblique to the public.

Mary Cecconi, Legislative Director