Session Snapshot: Omnibus education policy bills in the works

Session Snapshot SessionSnapshot2016

Week 4: March 28-April 1

A GLANCE AT THE WEEK

Today is the first bill deadline of the 2016 legislative session. All policy bills must have had a hearing in their body of origin by the end of today. Lawmakers were out on Easter/spring holiday on Monday, so the four-day week was extremely busy for getting bills heard. The next bill deadlines are April 8 and April 21. We saw the introduction of the House and Senate omnibus education policy bills and some amendments. Take a look in this week’s Session Snapshot.BinderImage

Omnibus Education Policy Bills

The Senate released its 127-page Omnibus Education Policy Bill (SF 2744) at Wednesday morning’s Senate Education Committee meeting. Traditionally, the bill is gone through in detail by members. Instead, the committee heard support and concerns from 15 education associations or departments. See the “Senate Hears Education Omnibus Bill” blog post for more information. The committee met again Thursday morning and adopted a handful of clarifying amendments.

The House Omnibus Education Policy Bill (HF 3066) was heard Thursday morning and is a little more than half the size of the Senate bill. The bill’s author and committee chair, Rep. Sondra Erickson, said this bill is “about empowering schools and parents.” Here are some highlights:

Article 2, Section 22 — Charter Schools
The original draft gave charter schools and online school students the ability to participate in public schools extracurricular activities. From a “behind-the-scenes” look, the provision was in the bill, then out, then back in and finally Chair Erickson removed it. | MSBA RESPONDS:  When a family makes a choice to attend a public school, private school, charter school or alternative, that enrollment choice comes with potential consequences (both good and not so good).

Article 2, Section 6 —Statewide Testing
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and the commissioner of education of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) must identify college-ready scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) for high school math, reading and writing to indicate when a student can successfully complete college course work for a 2-year or 4-year institution. Scores are intended to be used as a guideline to inform families, students and teachers of career and college preparedness. There is another provision later in the omnibus bill that states a higher education institution can’t force a student to take remedial coursework if they received a “college ready” score on the MCA. | MSBA RESPONDS: There is a concern when a cut score is the only measure. Multiple measurements should be used.  The department currently provides MCA information to schools and parents on academic proficiency and growth. 

Article 2, Section 13 —Citizenship
In an effort to ensure students have a solid understanding of our government and be able to pass the same test our incoming immigrants have to pass, an amendment was authored by Chair Erickson allowing districts to administer the test or conduct a school program to honor Constitution Day and Citizenship Day as fulfillment of the requirement. | MSBA RESPONDS: We appreciate the ability to make choices that are best for our district, rather than having an additional mandate.

Article 2, Section 25 — Parental Rights
Parental rights on topics related to pre-K through grade 12 were consolidated from the statutes into one new statute. | MSBA RESPONDS: Parents and school officials should find it helpful as there is now a single source to reference.

Article 2, Section 26 — Data Privacy
Minnesota administers student surveys, which would generally provide information about students’ activities, opinions and experiences related to chemical use, family makeup, gambling, sexual activities and other personal topics. This provision prohibits the commissioner from developing or participating in these surveys/tests. | MSBA RESPONDS: We are opposing this provision. We find this information gives us indications of what our student population is experiencing and how we can promote better health and wellness.

Article 2, Section 30 — Legislator Study Group
Establishes a study group to take the recent Office of the Legislative Auditor report on teacher licensure and make recommendations for restructuring the Minnesota teacher licensing system. | MSBA RESPONDS: There is a concern the two reports may have different outcomes and different time frame. The Legislature should establish one clear set of expectations for both groups. 

Article 2, Section 32 — Data Security
Minimum privacy compliance standards based on reasonable and enforceable security measures and practices. | MSBA RESPONDS: This is a relatively new issue that must be dealt with and it will take a great deal more exploration in legal and practical application. 

The committee adopted a handful of amendments Wednesday, the most notable were:

  • Rep. Carlos Mariani’s amendment that would include aggregate data on teachers’ self-reported race and ethnicity in the state commissioner of education’s report on teacher preparation programs.
  • Rep. JoAnn Ward’s amendment that would make the board of directors of the Perpich Center for Arts Education consist of 13 people (down from 15). Ward’s amendment also included the creation of a seven-member nominating committee for the Perpich board. One of the appointments would be granted to MSBA.

After the House Education Innovation Policy Committee concludes its work, the bill will go next to the House Education Finance Committee.


Teacher Shortage Act

The House version of the MSBA Teacher Shortage Act bill (HF 3132) was introduced Tuesday. Rep. Sondra Erickson (author of the House bill) and the House Education Innovation Policy Committee listened to several testifiers on key points of the bill.

MinnesotaSuptTestifiers3292016

(From left to right) Osseo Area Superintendent Kate Maguire, Cannon Falls Area Superintendent Beth Giese and Spring Lake Park Director of Human Resources Ryan Stromberg provided support for the Teacher Shortage Act bill on Tuesday.

A special thanks to Osseo Area Superintendent Kate Maguire, Cannon Falls Area Superintendent Beth Giese and Spring Lake Park Director of Human Resources Ryan Stromberg for their impactful testimony. The bill passed and was referred to House Education Finance Committee, who heard testimony on the bill Wednesday afternoon. With deadlines looming, meetings are long and go into the evening. The House Education Finance Committee continued hearing testimony Thursday afternoon.

MSBA provided two supporting documents to legislators in both the House and Senate:

MSBA RESPONDS: This is a unique bill. Some bills were introduced relating to the lack of teachers in Minnesota. However, those bills are very singular in content, with one or two issues benefiting one school district. The MSBA bill is the only one that provides multiple supply-and-demand solutions to the growing teacher-shortage problem. 


Teachers, Students and Continuing Education

There were several bills heard during the week that had an aspect of MSBA’s Teacher Shortage Act. There is a universal understanding that the lack of teachers and prospective candidates is concerning.

Two groups in northwest Minnesota are working with Rep. Bud Nornes to establish a continuing education program designed to provide teachers a pathway to attain the requisite graduate credits necessary to be qualified to teach secondary school courses students take for postsecondary credit. The other components of the bill provide funding for course development, scholarships and stipends for teachers.

Jeremy Kovash, executive director of the Lakes Country Service Cooperative, testified before the House Education Finance Committee Thursday afternoon. He said in their nine counties and 35 school districts, there are 300 concurrent enrollment teachers teaching 4,000 student-PSEO courses. The students have generated an average of 12,000 credits — a savings of approximately $2.4 million.

MSBA RESPONDS: Creative, cooperative and effective programs can be great solutions to issues such as the teacher shortage.  Providing teachers with career development and students with cost-saving, academic advancement opportunities is a win-win.


Here are links to some of the past week’s blogs. If you didn’t have a chance to read them, please take a look now.


A LOOK AHEAD

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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