July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011

End of session (really)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action

Washington, D.C.

www.saveourschoolsmarch.org

Once again our children are used to balance the state budget
We began the session with a $5 billion deficit. The reason? A recent history of kicking the can down the road in our state budgeting process, exacerbated by the downturn in the economy.

Republicans wanted to solve the current deficit with an “all cuts” approach and the DFL wanted to use “spending cuts and increased revenue.” When all is said and done, the budget deal reached meets the Governor’s compromised spending level but revenues come from delays in school payments and borrowing from future income.

What’s in the bill that I should know about?
On a straight party line vote, HF26 became the 2011 E12 Education bill. The provisions are well laid out on our homepage—official summaries, news article and partisan press releases.

Although you may not hear it often, many of the policy provisions that made it into this final agreement had bipartisan appeal and growing appeal over the last year. Some key provisions: early graduation scholarship, third grade literacy, annual teacher evaluations, literacy aid in 2013, evaluation for principals, new task forces, and early childhood provisions.  

  • Early graduation scholarships redirect early graduation savings from a district to a scholarship program for students who graduate early.
     
  • A goal to have all children reading at grade level by third grade requires districts to have literacy plans, staff development for teachers to implement the five reading areas, reading interventions to accelerate student growth, parent notification and involvement, and a requirement that the Commissioner provide exemplars for this work.
     
  • A requirement for teachers to be evaluated annually—agreed-upon teacher value-added assessment models and measures of student growth will provide a basis for 35% of the evaluation; local school boards are required to develop a teacher evaluation and peer review process or they may use the one this provision directs the MDE to create; probationary teachers will have more frequent evaluations and mentoring programs are allowed. 
     
  • Beginning in 2013 literacy aid will be provided for schools whose students show proficiency and growth in literacy.
     
  • A performance-based evaluation system implemented for principals.
     
  • Two task forces convened by the Education Commissioner—One to develop recommendations for repurposing integration revenue, which is repealed in 2013; the bill also establishes a provision that states Minnesota does not condone segregation. The second task force will develop recommendations for a statewide teacher tiered licensure system. In statute, Parents United is a member of this task force.
     
  • Early childhood provisions—ECFE, School Readiness and Head Start experienced no direct cuts and $4 million was appropriated for early childhood scholarships; however, no provisions related to continuing the Quality Rating and Improvement System were included.

Caution: Editorializing ahead
I was taken aback by the pride in the Senate Majority leader’s voice when she exclaimed that “We’re going to run on this budget.”

If you’re feeling disappointed, discouraged, disheartened and/or disgusted, you’re not alone. As the 2011 Special Session limped to an end we saw a Capitol closed to the public, bills pieced together with only Republican members representing the legislature (no thought to adding the education committee’s minority leads to the process), a one-hour public display of the final E12 bill (released at 2:00 a.m.), and the victory? Closing a state budget deficit by ripping the money away from our kids—not even a new or innovative way to find needed revenue!

For each of the two years covered by the bill, $50 was added to a $5,124 per-student formula – but schools are paid only $3,104 annually with a promise of $2,070 the next year. We have yet to see how that obligation will be met. The additional $50 each year is there for the express purpose (as expressed by our representatives) to “defray the cost of the borrowing that schools will have to do.” It seems reasonable that we hold each legislator who voted “yes” for this bill responsible for authoring a bill in 2012 TO PAY THE SHIFT BACK.  

“More borrowing, more debt. This money is not going to the classroom. It’s going to some bond house on Wall Street.” 
—Representative Frank Hornstein

“If a company did what our state is going to do – take on more debt as your credit rating drops, defer problems and not look to increase revenue – its stock would go down in the marketplace. We need to keep producing high-quality students, graduates and importing high-quality jobs. This is not the way to do it.” 
—Jay Kiedrowski, Humphrey Institute fellow

Other reactions:

Gov. Dayton after the signing ceremony
“I’m not entirely happy with what I’m signing into law.  It’s not what I wanted, but it’s the best option available … It gets Minnesota back to work.”

House Education chair Rep. Pat Garofalo in his “Inside Scoop
“While I’m not excited about the modest increase in payment delays to schools, I am pleased that we provided schools with additional resources to more than cover those delays.”

House Education Minority Lead Rep. Mindy Greiling on Twitter
“Jobs and economies are grown through properly funded, excellent schools, not those ridden by debt of over $4,000 per student.”

Several education officials have weighed in on the 2011 education bill.

And Sen. David Hann believes these payment delays won’t harm schools.

Three interesting reads:

  • “I’m proposing to make my school a prison.” Excerpt from School Cuts And ‘Reforms’ Feed The Prison Pipeline: “The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding.”
     
  • What would the education policies and practices of the United States be if they were based on the policies and practices of the countries that now lead the world in student performance? Excerpt from Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: “… after World War II, the United States appeared to reign supreme in both the industrial and education arenas and we evidently came to the conclusion that we had little to learn from anyone. As the years went by, one by one, country after country caught up to and then surpassed us in several industries and more or less across the board in precollege education. And still we slept.”
     
  • “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Excerpt from Diane Ravitch: In Need of a Renaissance: Real Reform Will Renew, Not Abandon, Our Neighborhood Schools: “NCLB is a punative law based on erroneous assumptions about how to improve schools. It assumes that reporting test scores to the public is an effective lever for school reform. It assumes that changes in governance lead to school improvement. It assumes that shaming schools that are unable to lift test scores every year—and the people who work in them—leads to higer scores. It assumes that low scores are caused by lazy teachers and lazy principales, who need to be threatened with the loss of their jobs. Perhaps most naively, it assumes that higher test scores on standardized tests of basic skills are synonymous with good education. Its assumptions are wrong.

What Can I Do?
When the time comes, hold legislators accountable TO PAY THE SHIFT BACK!

Ask your legislators!
Question of the Week:
If you have been following these updates, you know that each week we include a question of the week to ask your legislator. Today the question is for you to answer: “Were you well represented by your legislator this session?”

This Summer @ the Website
Follow local impacts as districts borrow against the future at our News Archive.

Mary Cecconi, Executive Director (mary@parentsunited.org)
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391
www.parentsunited.org

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