Tick, tock around the clock… – Update for May 9, 2014

…one week to go! This Week at the Capitol

If you’ve ever been in a beekeeper’s yard, you have a sense of what it sounds like standing in the Capitol rotunda. For some reason the murmurings in that vaulted space blend into a melodious cacophony of sound that reminds me of a beehive.

At this time in the session, the most difficult part is the endless waiting. Conference committee reports – the last leg for a law before it goes to the Governor – are debated for hours on chamber floors. Senate and House conferees attempt to fit in quick negotiations about the bills they are to reconcile before being pulled back into the chamber for a floor vote. The attention this week has been on the conference committee for the second tax bill of the session and agreement on a bonding bill.

Lobbyists wander endlessly trying to find any information that will help them fill in gaps. Conference committees are held “at the call of the chair” and good souls wait for days at a time for a conference committee that may never materialize.

Such has been the path of the Supplemental Appropriations Conference Committee. First it was the waiting for a global deal, which we heard was agreed to last week at $293 million. However, the Governor sent a letter to leadership on Monday indicating he is reluctant to go that high on proposed expenditures; it seems he was not a full party to the agreement and wishes to spend no more than $263 million. This has further complicated a speedy completion of the appropriations bill.

We could see a finished product today, tomorrow or next week – there really is no way to know. But when it happens, we will be there to tell you what happened!

The conference committee report for HF 2397, the Education Omnibus Policy bill, passed off the House floor on a vote of 80-49 and is slated to be up for floor debate in the Senate Friday. We will see.

Highlights of the 2014 Education Policy Omnibus bill

  • Native and English Language development.
  • Requires a study to improve academic performance of underachieving students through a multi-tiered system of early intervention and instructional support.
  • Provides for student language proficiency seals.
  • Minnesota Department of Education technical provisions.
  • Interstate compact on educational opportunities for military children.
  • Additional requirements for P-20 partnership existing report, asking for recommendations on realigning the governance and administrative structures of early education, K-12 and post- secondary systems in MN.
  • Directs Minnesota State High School League to adopt rules for IEP students who transfer to another public school providing immediate eligibility and review similar issues for students with 504s.
  • Many career and tech task force recommendations to help provide applied learning opportunities for students.
  • Minnesota Teacher licensure MTLE option.
  • Standard Adult high school diploma requirements defined.
  • Requirement for Post-Secondary Educational Opportunities (PSEO) enrollment for military members.
  • Dissemination of PSEO information to families.
  • Year-long student teaching pilot established.
  • Provisions for charter school in townships to provide preferences to students and siblings within a five-mile radius.
  • Rules governing use of information regarding disciplinary actions taken against prospective teachers.
  • Commissioner to review and revise academic standards’ 10-year cycle defined.
  • Special permission allowing Chaska to begin school prior to Labor Day in 2016-17.
  • Planning for successful student transition to post-secondary and employment.
  • Permissive language for districts to form an Innovative Tech Cooperative.

I pulled out some interesting language from the bill to share with you – it follows “A second look” (below). 

Mental Health grants

In the Health and Human Service bill, grants totaling $45 million have been provided to allow earlier access to mental health services. Over the next seven years, these grants will impact 35,000 students in 800 schools. This doubles the current spending for children’s mental health access in 2015.

What to expect in the coming week

This next week is the final week of session. Legislators worked through last weekend and my guess is they will be at it for the next two weekends as well. It will all be over by May 19. We are looking for the Senate to take up the Omnibus Education Policy bill for a floor vote.

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.

Some interesting language from the Education Policy Omnibus bill

1) The bill calls for providing a Bilingual Seal on High School diploma.

Article 1: The commissioner of education and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) chancellor, after consulting with the world language faculty at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU, must review the specific competencies a K-12 student masters in attaining a state bilingual seal, multilingual seal, Minnesota World Language Proficiency Certificate, or Minnesota World Language Proficiency High Achievement Certificate under Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.22, subdivisions 1a and 1b, and determine credit and course equivalencies for each seal or certificate. The commissioner and the chancellor, or their designees, must report findings, determinations, and any recommendations to the education policy and finance committees of the legislature by February 15, 2015.

2) For the first time in a decade, we are seeing the reappearance of applied and experiential learning.

Article 2: Sec. 4. Minnesota Statutes 2013 Supplement, section 120B.11, subdivision 1, is amended to read:
Subdivision 1. Definitions. For the purposes of this section and section 120B.10, the following terms have the meanings given them.
(a) “Instruction” means methods of providing learning experiences that enable
a student to meet state and district academic standards and graduation requirements including applied and experiential learning.
(b) “Curriculum” means district or school adopted programs and written plans for providing students with learning experiences that lead to expected knowledge and skills and career and college readiness.
(c) “World’s best workforce” means striving to: meet school readiness goals; have all third grade students achieve grade-level literacy; close the academic achievement gap among all racial and ethnic groups of students and between students living in poverty and students not living in poverty; have all students attain career and college readiness before graduating from high school; and have all students graduate from high school.
(d) “Experiential learning” means learning for students that includes career exploration through a specific class or course or through work-based experiences such as job shadowing, mentoring, entrepreneurship, service learning, volunteering, internships, other cooperative work experience, youth apprenticeship, or employment.

Sec. 29. [124D.085] EXPERIENTIAL AND APPLIED LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS.
(a) To strengthen the alignment between career and college ready curriculum and state and local academic standards and increase students’ opportunities for participating in applied and experiential learning in a nontraditional setting, school districts are encouraged to provide programs such as magnet schools, language immersion programs, project-based learning, accelerated learning, college prep schools, career and technical education, Montessori schools, military schools, work-based schools, and place-based learning.
Districts may provide such programs independently or in cooperation with other districts, at a school single site, for particular grades, or throughout the district. In addition to meeting the other accountability measures under chapter 120B, districts may declare that a student meets or exceeds specific academic standards required for graduation under the rigorous course of study waiver in section 120B.021, subdivision 1a, where appropriate.
(b) The board of a district that chooses to participate must publicly adopt and review a plan for providing a program under this section. The plan must: define the program and its structure; describe the enrollment process; identify measures and processes for regularly assessing, evaluating, and publicly reporting on program efficacy and use summary data to show student progress and outcomes; and establish a data-informed public process for modifying and revising the plan as needed. A district must publish its plan contents and evaluation outcomes on the district Web site.
(c) For purposes of further integrating experiential and applied learning into career and college ready curricula, the commissioner may request program information from providing districts under this section.
EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective for the 2014-2015 school year and later.

3) There is greater attention to providing information to further involve parents in the education of their children.

Sec. 8. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 120B.31, is amended by adding a subdivision to read:
Subd. 5. Parent information. To ensure the effective involvement of parents and to support a partnership between the school and parents, each district shall annually provide parents a timely written summary, in an electronic or other format, of their student’s current and longitudinal performance and progress on the state’s academic content standards as measured by state assessments. Providing parents with a summary prepared by the Department of Education fulfills the requirements of this subdivision.

4) Continued work to improve teaching.

Sec. 14. Minnesota Statutes 2013 Supplement, section 122A.40, subdivision 8, is amended to read:
Subd. 8. Development, evaluation, and peer coaching for continuing contract teachers. (a) To improve student learning and success, a school board and an exclusive representative of the teachers in the district, consistent with paragraph (b), may develop a teacher evaluation and peer review process for probationary and continuing contract teachers through joint agreement. If a school board and the exclusive representative of the teachers do not agree to an annual teacher evaluation and peer review process, then the school board and the exclusive representative of the teachers must implement the state teacher evaluation plan for evaluation and review under paragraph (c). The process must include having trained observers serve as peer coaches or having teachers participate in professional learning communities, consistent with paragraph (b).

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

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