Conference committee OK’s omnibus education bill

/ 20 April 2012 / jennifer

Erin Schmidtke, Session Daily, April 20, 2012 –

The omnibus education bill has received conference committee approval.

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista), HF2949*/ SF2482 returns to the House and Senate for passage.

Measures included in the report would facilitate transportation and enrollment of homeless students.

Under the bill, if a homeless student’s parent moves to another district, the student would still be allowed to attend class in the original district. The bill also states that districts would be responsible for the transportation of homeless students, even if their residence within the district cannot be verified. Additionally, it would guarantee funding for homeless students’ resident districts.

The omnibus bill seeks to expand postsecondary enrollment options, as well.

Currently, high school juniors and seniors may take classes at certain colleges while still completing high school. The bill would extend PSEO to 10th grade students by permitting them to enroll in career or technical courses at qualified postsecondary institutions. If a student receives a “C” or better in the class, he or she would be able to take additional credits at the school. The bill would also increase opportunities for low-income PSEO students by allowing them to apply for transportation reimbursement.

Another part of the bill provides for an individualized learning agreement for districts. Individualized learning allows schools to work with students to develop their own curriculum based on their unique interests and strengths. Supporters say this helps remove a “one-size-fits-all” style of classroom learning.

A portion of the bill that was struck by the committee sought to allow charter schools to be designated as area learning centers, for the purposes of evaluating student performance and graduation rate. Charter school officials previously testified that they are often penalized for taking on students who have trouble succeeding in other settings. Changing this designation would hold those schools to different standards than other institutions. Members indicated that this measure could later progress through the Legislature as a separate bill.

However, the committee retained a measure within the bill that would allow charter schools to enter into two-year collaboration agreements with school districts. The agreement would allow the two to work together to promote student learning.

Teachers who are charged with felonies would also be impacted by the bill. Those under that type of investigation could be suspended without pay, pending the conclusion of a hearing. Proponents say that this will authorize schools to withhold salaries from those who may be dangerous to students.

A controversial section of the bill reserves $250,000 for a parent-child home program designed to help children obtain literacy skills. This measure generated debate in various committees and on the floor this session because it would draw that money from a fund already intended to be used for early childhood learning.

– Erin Schmidtke