Back to School! Update for September 2014

With the State Fair in full swing, we are reminded that school buses are right around the corner – or are already making their rounds! Some of us can’t wait and others are sad to see long summer days come to an end. Some of us will be putting little ones on buses for the first time while others will be thinking about seniors and how quickly the time has flown by. The clock has a way of ticking down the time and once again back-to-school is here.

If this is your first Parents United Update, “Welcome”! We are an organization of parents, for parents, and have been around for 12 years. 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 for a legislative process that is often oblique to the public.

What will be different this year in school?

  • All Day Kindergarten for all
  • Free breakfast for every kindergartener
  • Free lunch for every child qualifying for the free OR reduced lunch program
  • A bit more money
  • Less reliance on local levies
  • Evaluations of principals and teachers
  • A redesigned assessment system
  • Anti-bullying legislation requiring a great deal of attention to this issue
  • Game changing focus on English language learning

Specifically for high school:

  • Greater focus on experiential learning, high school internships and apprenticeships.
  • More information disseminated about Post-Secondary Education Options (PSEO) for students in 10th grade and beyond.
  • Measures to provide four-year student personal learning plans for each student; students can qualify for a Language Proficiency Seal on their Minnesota high school diploma.

Each and every one of these changes have been brought about through legislation. Often I’m asked what the relationship between our legislative work and students really is. These last two years have made it crystal clear why our involvement in the political arena is critical: the discernible benefit to our students has come from a laser-focus on their needs. Thanks to all of you for making these gains possible.

The Minnesota Constitution states it best:

Article 13, Section 1
…it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools.

The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.

Please share your perspective!

Parents United often provides information about opportunities that need to hear a parent perspective. We are often asked to recommend parents to serve on state level task forces or share their views with educators, elected officials and other opinion leaders.

Today, new friends Tolerance in Motion have an incredibly interesting learning opportunity for our children and before finalizing specifics, they want to know what YOU think about it! They would like our readers to complete a very short survey that will afford them invaluable information. Please take a moment to answer their questions….it will impact their decisions!

As a way to motivate quick response, they have a donor who will make
a gift to Parents United for each survey completed by September 19!

A fast approaching series of conversations, Let’s Talk about Transition from the Autism Society of Minnesota will be held around the state: “Information you share will be used to inform and influence policymakers as to why special education transition service reform is needed and to provide guidance for effective change.” Who should participate?

  • Parents of middle school-age and older students
  • Educators
  • School Administrators
  • Higher Education Professionals
  • Business Leaders/Owners
  • Service Providers
  • Students with Disabilities

Terrific news

By now, we’ve all seen the headlines that for the 9th year in a row, Minnesota students have achieved the highest ACT scores in the nation. While an impressive accomplishment, the numbers beneath the headlines are just as impressive.

During these past nine years increasing numbers of Minnesota students have taken the ACT. Nationally, 57% of students take this college admissions exam, but 76% of Minnesota’s graduating class completed it and our students CONTINUE to outperform the nation. It’s not unrealistic to assume that as more students take the test, the state average would decline, but that has not happened.

The next significant statistic is the increasing number of students considered college ready. While it is always nice to be considered first in anything, we need to continue focus on our students’ ability to transition to careers and college. It will be fascinating to see what happens when 100% of our students take the test next year!

On a personal note, I see Minnesota’s requirement that every student take an ACT – at the state’s cost – as a truly gutsy move. Potentially forfeiting the coveted first place position in the ACT wars to make sure that every student has a fair shot at the career of their choice is terrific news indeed!

Special Event for Parents United Investors

One of the special events we host for Parents United investors is our Fireside Chat, scheduled for October 23. Interesting conversation about the November election’s impact on public schools will be paired with lovely wine and food. Current investors will soon receive an invitation and we hope you can join us.

For those who don’t know about our investor program, Parents United has made a concerted effort to be an independent voice in the education debate, helping parents be heard. That independence is best served by our relying on individual donors for the bulk of our support. Those who invest $250 or more a year (or $20 a month and up) provide Minnesota an independent organization focused on education legislation and its impact on children. Our investors believe in taking the politics out of policy and are confident that we are a valuable commodity for Minnesota.

What can you do in the coming months?

Minnesota will be electing a governor in November. As the only state in the Union with neither a state board of education nor an elected education commissioner, Minnesotans need to be clear where their gubernatorial candidate stands on public school issues. A Minnesota Governor’s selection of a Commissioner of Education deeply impacts local schools.

Every member of the House of Representatives is up for election this November. Running for office is a daunting and lonely task. I have nothing but respect for anyone who throws their hat in the ring and if you want your elected official to continue their work, help them: Door-knock for them in your neighborhood, host a coffee to meet your friends and/or parents at your school, plan an event where they can share their perspective. If you are grateful for what they have done, make it a priority to return them to office.

If you are not sure who represents you check here. Looking for how your legislators voted? Here are the tallies for the E12 Policy bill, and the supplemental appropriations bill.

For those of us who love detail – 2014 legislative session specifics

E12 Policy bill HF2397 was signed into law on 5/16/14; education funding provisions in HF3172 were signed by Governor Dayton on May 20.

There are no better summaries then those produced by Association of Metropolitan School Districts [pdf] and Schools for Equity in Education [pdf]. Once again I defer to those who do things much better than I. You can also find individual district revenue runs on SEE’s website!


Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
Parents United for Public Schools

mary@parentsunited.org
1667 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391; www.parentsunited.org