Calling all political junkies – Update for April 11, 2014

/ 11 April 2014 / eunice

We know you read our updates. We know you keep current on what’s happening and its impact on schools. But have you considered how much has changed for our students over the last decade? And the even greater changes on the horizon?

Giant shifts in testing, curriculum, teacher preparation, licensure and evaluation, early learning, literacy – all have taken place in the last decade. Parents United believes it is time to stop, take a breath and talk about what these trends in education legislation – both at the state and national levels – really mean for our children.

We invite you to join __us in a dynamic and unique conversation at our Parent Leadership Summit on the morning of Monday, April 28.

**This Week at the Capitol

If you’re still with us at this point in the process – congratulations! Following the legislative procedures this year has been a bit confusing for all but the most seasoned political junkies. At this point in the session a tally card [pdf] is needed to keep track of where we are!

For a quick overview, check out Parents United’s side-by-side comparison summaries of the Education Omnibus policy bill [pdf] and the Education funding provisions [pdf] of the Omnibus Supplemental APPROPRIATIONS bill. A word of caution: a few of these provisions may have changed from the original side-by-side; we will provide the updated versions when conference committees convene.

Perhaps not directly germane to education, but a factor in our children being supported for their learning, is that conversation and action this year has focused on income inequality. The well-waged “5% campaign” and the increase in minimum wage will impact our most vulnerable families. These actions, as well as increases in health care access and transportation, are helping families in Minnesota – and by extension allow our students to have greater stability in their lives and learning.

The legislature will be in recess for the religious holidays through April 21. On their return, they will need to produce a bonding bill and process through conference committee those bills needing to be reconciled.

**May I explain? “Lack of parent notification” in the Safe and Supportive Schools Act

In the bill, reporting a child’s bullying behavior to his/her parents is left to the discretion of the school administrator. Many concerns over this provision have been voiced and opponents have used this provision as a clear indicator that the state of Minnesota is trying to take over the rearing of our children. Some of the hyperbole used is likening the lack of parent notification to what “Hitler did,” or a rendition of Orwell’s 1984 – “only Orwell was 30 years too early.”

Let’s take a breath. It was the administrators, those who deal with this issue day in and day out, who asked for this flexibility. Their past experience led them to fear for a child’s safety in certain circumstances if reporting was mandated for EVERY situation. It was the administrators who wanted the flexibility to assess an individual child’s situation and use their best judgment as to how to proceed. This seems to put a different face on the provision, but many have been concerned about making this case too loudly because of its delicate nature.

How to run a war

If you are in the world of education, it is hard not to see the war that is waging in the name of caring about our children’s learning. The sides are tightly defined as “education reformers” and the “defenders of the status quo.” It is a war and our children are the victims.

I was pleased to read Search Institute President and CEO Kent Pekel’s piece, Rules of Engagement for Minnesota’s Education Wars. He rightly calls out the war and proposes two critical rules that all should keep uppermost on ther minds: “Emphasize trends” and “O_ffer evidence when we claim something works.”_ These are two factors sorely missing in the current environment and two that as the public we should demand.

AND it’s not enough to stop a war, we have to build the peace and that is what Parents United wants to focus on. To build peace, we need to build a common vision.

What to expect in the coming weeks

The Legislature is in recess and will reconvene Tuesday, April 22 at noon. Parents United will be there.

House members appointed to conference the Supplemental Appropriation bills are Representatives Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal), Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth), Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) and Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). It is tradition that in order to be appointed as a conferee you need to have voted FOR the bill. Because no Republicans voted for the bill, there are none on the conference committee.

We will focus on conference committees for the Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations and Omnibus Education Policy. Keep your eye on the Capitol Calendar because things change quickly.

**Worth a second look

Most days on our website, Parents United provides links to our Daily News Picks! These are education articles that catch our eye. A few of those articles are worth a second look either because they are so compelling or because they provide context for an issue currently being debated at the Capitol. If you haven’t done so already, you have to read this piece!

What is Parents United’s agenda? It’s 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 often oblique to the public.

**Mary Cecconi, Executive Director

Parents United for Public Schools**

1667 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108