It’s Done! End-of-Session Update

Mark your calendar!
Parents United’s Legislative Wrap-up
Tuesday, May 22, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
TIES, Larpenteur Room, 1667 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul 55108

At the Capitol – Update for May 7-11

119 days and it’s done!! And 10 years after the discussion began it looks like we will have a Vikings stadium – democracy is not for the faint of heart!

Did it matter that parents were engaged in lawmaking for their public schools this session?

We were there when the Management and Budget Commissioner said the use of state reserves to accelerate a payback to schools was unsound fiscal policy. A payback sounded nice, but stripping reserves would increase problems for next year, where a $1.1 billion deficit looms. We agreed that an accelerated payback to schools, which had already incurred the costs of borrowing, did not provide new money for schools and was not worth destabilizing the state budget. It mattered that we were there.

We pointed out the consequences for our children in bills that graded schools and those that proposed vouchers as the best way to serve Minnesota’s challenged students.

We questioned that a proposed parent trigger law did little to actually empower parents. And we showed the real costs of supermajority amendments incurred in states that had them in place. It mattered that we were there.

Last fall, House Education Chair Garofalo made it clear that he wanted school levies to be held only in even-numbered years. We made sure parents were aware of the hearing when he scheduled it, and you responded. We learned that legislators heard about this bill from all over the state. So many of you signed up to testify that the hearing was postponed – to the next day. Again we helped parents sign up to testify and again the bill was pulled from the agenda, this time never to be heard from again. Were you responsible for making that happen? I say, Yes.

We also fought for a hearing on integration aid so that the task force charged by this legislature could testify about the very bipartisan recommendations which had passed on a 10-2 vote by a committee that most believed would not come together. They did, but they would not have been heard were it not for some courageous leaders and a ton of parents demanding a hearing. It mattered that we were there.

We believe that Parents United’s presence at the Capitol allows you to have eyes and ears on discussions that matters to all of us. Thank you for being there with us – it matters.

Another important event

The Minnesota Department of Education and its community partners invite us to Engaging Families for Student Success on Saturday, May 19, 2012.

What can I expect for my schools now that the 87th Legislative Session has ended?

Whether you have a child in a public, public charter or nonpublic school, in early childhood education, or if you are a public school teacher or principal, there are important provisions to be aware of.

If your child attends any public school:

  • Effective in 2012, students who graduate early are eligible for a scholarship that can be used at any accredited institute of higher education. Students who graduate early and join the military are eligible for a military award in this amount:

Graduate 1 semester early, $2500
Graduate 2 semesters early, $5,000
Graduate 3 semesters early, $7500.

Current law had these dollars repurposed for early childhood.

  • Reports need to be kept on the number of students enrolled in Post-Secondary Education Options (PSEO), concurrent credit, AP and IB classes in each district, as well as the recent trends and number of teachers attending training in these disciplines.
  • 10th, 11th and 12th graders may enroll in PSEO career and tech classes in the MnSCU system; families who live at or below the poverty line may be reimbursed for transportation costs.
  • All 7th-12th graders will learn CPR – not enough to be certified, but they will learn CPR.
  • During the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, if your child was in 8th grade in 2004-05 they may fulfill the graduation testing requirement by taking the Basic Skills Test (now replaced by GRAD).
  • Transportation is provided for homeless students from their district of residence to their school of enrollment.
  • Beginning with 2014-15 graduates, a chemistry or physics standard can be met with a career and technical education credit if that course meets underlying state physics, chemistry or biology standards or a combination of these standards.
  • As far as school buses are concerned: national school bus construction and equipment standards are updated to 2010 standards instead of the 2005 version, making them applicable to buses made after January 2013; all buses will need a crossing arm automatically activated with flashing lights; and installation of cameras on buses is authorized.
  • Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and English Language Learner (ELL) will now be referred to in statute as English Learner (EL).
  • It is expected that changing the management of school trust lands will net more revenue for schools.
  • Districts will be strongly encouraged to assist students to develop transition plans into postsecondary education or a career. They are also “strongly encouraged” to have adequate student-to-counselor ratios to do this work.
  • Districts are encouraged to support independent learning and instruction and may enter into achievement contracts with schools that are providing this type of teaching and learning.

Note: I have found that “strongly encourage” is legislative lingo for “no funding.”

If your child attends a public charter school:

  • Charter school board members must undergo board training and the school’s annual report must document the completed training.
  • The initial authorization of a charter school can be for five years, an increase from the current three.
  • Districts may voluntarily collaborate with charters within their districts and include charter student performance in the district’s results.
  • If a charter school has less than 200 students, with 90% of students qualified as special needs, the school can apply for an acceleration of state funds to improve their cash flow.
  • A charter school website must provide directory information for members of the board of directors and committees having board-delegated authority, and must identify contact information for the school’s authorizer. Contact information for the school’s authorizer must be included in other school materials made available to the public.

If your child attends a nonpublic school:

  • “School districts are required to provide nonpublic school pupils with textbooks, individualized instructional materials, and standardized tests, all of which must be secular in nature and cannot be used for religious instruction or worship. In addition, a district must provide the same health services to pupils of nonpublic schools as it provides to public school pupils. Nonpublic secondary pupils must also be offered guidance and counseling services by the public secondary schools.
  • “The state reimburses school districts for their costs up to the amount of the statewide average public school qualifying expenditure per pupil times the number of nonpublic school pupils served by each school district. For fiscal year 2012, the reimbursement rates were set at $81.40 for textbooks, $58.29 for health services, and $203.65 for guidance and counseling activities.
  • “A nonpublic school must use nonpublic pupil aid only for the purposes allowed in statute. This bill keeps the nonpublic pupil aid amount unchanged but expands the allowable uses of nonpublic textbook aid to include the purchase of any nonsectarian software or hardware.” (from House Summary)
  • 7-16 year olds in non-public, non-accredited schools must take nationally-normed reference tests and report the results.

If you have a young child:

  • Early childhood scholarships are $2 million this year and $3 million each year after
  • Early childhood eye screening notifications to parents must state: “Early childhood developmental screening helps a school district identify children who may benefit from district and community resources available to help in their development. Early childhood developmental screening includes a vision screening that helps detect potential eye problems but is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.”

For Teachers and Principals of public schools:

  • Teacher candidates required to pass the basic skills exam before being granted an initial teaching license or if teacher preparation program is completed outside Minnesota to pass the basic skills exam before being granted a Minnesota teaching license; amended in the Omnibus bill to give an exception in certain situations.
  • Teachers who received a one-year license and taught in 2011-2012 may be granted permission to teach through 2013.
  • Teachers charged with felonies, if the felonious conduct is grounds for a discharge, can be suspended without pay.
  • 35% of a principal’s evaluation must be based on student performance

A Look Ahead – just a taste!

  • The Governor’s bullying task force is scheduled to finish its work later this summer.
  • The Teacher Evaluation Working Group is also continuing its work on determining the most effective methods to evaluate teaching.
  • The November elections will decide who will be making the decisions for our children’s schools in the coming years.
  • January 2013 begins a funding year and current projections have Minnesota beginning with a budget deficit of over $1 billion.
  • Decisions on policies for and use of integration aid still need to be determined.

There’s a lot of work to be done – we hope you stay with us so you can add your voice to all of ours and be heard where it matters.

Ask Your Legislators! Question/Comment of the Week

Are you proud of what you did for education this session?

Forward this on to encourage others to Learn • Network • Act!

New @ the Website

More on the media disconnect: Why Isn’t Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News? In what should be the biggest story of the week, the city of Philadelphia’s school system announced Tuesday that it expects to close 40 public schools next year and 64 by 2017. The school district expects to lose 40% of current enrollment to charter schools, the streets or wherever, and put thousands of experienced, well qualified teachers, often grounded in the communities where they teach, on the street. Ominously, the shredding of Philadelphia’s public schools isn’t even news outside Philly. …Philly and its children, parents, communities and teachers are only the latest victims of business-class school reform. And they won’t be the last, truthout, May 10, 2012.

  • On Pearson and Pineapplegate: Kids & future teachers challenge critical tests – Parts of education reform movement have been very good indeed for the publicly traded Pearson, which boasted a fourth-quarter 2011 profit margin of 26 percent. In addition to a growing list of acquisitions in some 70 countries, the corporation has a contract with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to store the results of the student data generated as a part of the Obama administration’s test-centric Race to the Top initiatives. And it recently purchased Connections Education, the for-profit cyber-school operator that has been handed a license to print money in the form of a raft of legislation here and elsewhere mandating high schoolers take one or more digital courses to graduate. (Yes, Connections is the American Legislative Exchange Council member you’ve read about in this space in recent weeks.) MinnPost, May 8, 2012.
  • Minnesota, 24 other states to test new assessments of teachers-to-be – This spring, more than 10,000 teachers-in-training across 25 states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Minnesota, are participating in a field-test of the Teacher Performance Assessment. Candidates will be followed through a classroom lesson over the course of a few days, complete with detailed pre-lesson plans from teacher candidates, in-class video, and post-lesson reflection, Sarah Butrymowicz, The Hechinger Report (MinnPost), May 9, 2012.
Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391
www.parentsunited.org
Email Mary at mary@parentsunited.org

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