At the Capitol
The legislative session began with breathtaking speed. Bills were completed in record time. Several interesting provisions in the E12 Policy bill HF2397, including game-changing English Language Learning legislation, were signed into law on 5/16/14; education funding provisions in HF3172 were signed by Governor Dayton on May 20.
For those of you who love detail, 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!
While the session began with such speed, it had a painstakingly slow ending: waiting for new spending targets and for a bonding bill that would garner a 3/5ths vote. Early on, legislative leaders decided to place any funding provision into one large supplemental appropriations bill. The minority consistently criticized this decision during floor debate. I admit it was difficult to track, but the state budget is balanced during the first year of a biennium and the second year is reserved for bonding, so a case could be made for this method. The fact that the state had a healthy surplus and pent-up demand led to greater supplemental appropriations then in recent years and some saw the process as unwieldy.
As you look back on the 2013-14 biennium, whether you agree with the lawmaking, it is difficult not to be impressed with the sheer breadth of legislation that moved through the chambers. For education, the shift was paid back in record time, schools received new funding on the formula two years in a row, the K-12 bill became an actual E-12 bill – with dollars for early learning scholarships, ECFE and all-Day K, free breakfast for every kindergartener, and free lunches for every child qualifying for free OR reduced lunch. The MinneMinds campaign kept a constant beat throughout the session, making their case again and again; that strategy brought more funding and the removal of scholarship caps beginning in 2016. On the other end of the grade spectrum, the DREAM Act passed, allowing all students better access to post-secondary education.
Because of the work done in this biennium, students have a better assessment system, an accountability system developed in their local communities – the World’s Best Workforce – and Regional Centers of Excellence to facilitate and replicate good ideas. To improve instruction, we have a default teacher evaluation system grounded in research and a revised MTLE (Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examination). Also, with the signing of the 2014 E12 Policy bill, we have a better focus on our bilingual children. Not a bad way to spend two years!
The legislature did adjourn sine die (without day) early, on Friday, May 16. The 2015-16 session is slated to convene on January 6, 2015.
Has enough been done? Of course not! Are there changes that need to be made to these new laws? Yes! Will they change anything? If implemented with fidelity, a resounding Yes. Over the years, we’ve learned that implementation of new law is as important as the making of that law and worthy of attention on our part.
So how does the session “rate?” Check out this video from the Rochester area news, Rating the Session. It appears “rating the session” is really a matter of where you stand!
Thank your legislators. Really, truly thank them.
We often ask people to contact their legislators and many do, especially if angry enough! But being a representative of the people is an exceedingly difficult job and whether or not you agree with your legislator, they deserve a “thank you.” Our children fared well over the last two years and it’s time to express our gratitude.
Remember, 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 officials 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.
Predictions versus reality
On February 8, Parents United held their annual Legislative Kick-off – my favorite conversation of the year – and at the end of session it is fun to look back and see the predictions! Many items on the list were accomplished “to some extent.”
At the Legislative Kick-off, we predicted tax cuts, the passage of a bonding bill, a minimum wage increase, an anti-bullying bill and the potential for a supplemental budget bill. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act is a huge shift and at our event Sen. Clausen mentioned he was working with the author to make it better. That is exactly what happened and the bill passed supported by most education groups.
From my February 8. 2014 power point // As of May 20, 2014:
- Repeal MTLE // Compromised language
- Close doughnut hole of funding // Done to some extent
- Expand equalization // Done to some extent
- Dollars to implement teacher evaluation // Done to some extent
- Technology funding streams // Done to some extent
- Improved transition from high school to post-secondary // In process
- Alternative teacher licensure programs // No
- Teacher licensure flexibility // No
- Repeal school start date // Still requires waiver
- Local control vs. state unfunded mandates // Few added
- Facilities funding // Done to some extent
- District Flexibility in use of funding streams // Done to some extent
Via Allison Sherry in the Star Tribune: “From his powerful perch as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, GOP Rep. John Kline is trying to slow down implementation of new rules requiring school breakfasts and lunches to have more fruits, veggies and whole grains and less simple starch and sodium….The multiyear roll out of the new nutritional standards mandates that schools limit calories, restrict salt and give every student some vegetables or fruit — even if they don’t ask for it. Next school year, there will be more rules on what schools can sell outside the federally reimbursable meal programs, too, including the snacks sold in vending machines and school stores.”
MPR also weighed in on the new school lunch laws – Lawmakers seek delay on healthy lunch rules for schools.
What to expect in the coming months
Election season brings with it truth, untruth and just plain spin. Find your credible sources. Hold their feet to the fire to explain who they are, who they represent and what they stand for before you accept their viewpoint!
We will post updates periodically over the next months as issues worthy of your attention arise. The 2015-16 Legislative Session will begin January 6, 2015 and it is our hope to once again be there in full force and bring you all the ins and outs that come from the making of education policy!
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, and a few are worth a second look.
- We are excited that Zander Sellie was recognized in a recent Pioneer Press article. Zander is an example to us all! At Minnesota Capitol, 19-year-old makes a name for himself
- Kudos to these schools for their work to prevent poor behavior! State Recognizes 30 Schools for Excellence in Behavioral Prevention Efforts
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