Too cold for school! Update for Jan. 3, 2014

January 2014 Update

Happy New Year! The stockings are empty, the cookies have been eaten and now all that’s left is packing the holiday away until next year. If you’re like me, that won’t happen for a while! And just in case you haven’t heard, school on Monday has been cancelled statewide in Minnesota.

A great many things happened this last spring and fall that greatly impact our schools and we are looking forward to working with you to make that impact a reality for every single student in this state.

For the first time in over a decade, the November forecast showed a surplus – NOT A DEFICIT – for the state budget. This means the state can make all payments to schools and provide all-day Kindergarten for every child. On top of that, 100% of renewal levies attempted in November 2013 passed. This turn around in school funding is allowing several schools to consider their situations with more optimism than in the past.

Turning our attention to results: the MMR (Multiple Measurement Ratings), NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) and PISA test scores were released allowing an overview of how our students are performing in Minnesota. The MMR is Minnesota’s ratings of schools, NAEP is the nation’s report card and PISA is an international assessment given once every three years. The trend appears promising.

And of course – the 2013 legislation

Work has been ongoing throughout the summer and fall to implement new laws that will bring needed changes to our system. With so many really interesting education policy provisions in the, 2013 E-12 Omnibus bill, two of particular interest are the World’s Best Workforce statute (WBWK) and Achievement and Integration for Minnesota (AIM). The WBWK is a shift in accountability that significantly engages the public in educating Minnesota’s children. AIM is a creative program to pursue racial and economic integration and increase student academic achievement with an evaluative component that will provide great data for future policymakers.

On the national front, Massachusetts has long been seen as having an exemplary public school system that continues today. In tracking education policy initiatives and results over the last 20 years, I have noticed that one strategy Massachusetts has employed to continue its excellent reputation is constancy in its education legislation.

For example, when Massachusetts committed to early childhood education and tracked the efficacy of the work, the intention was to add legislation within three years that built on this work – and they did just that. I can only hope that we too understand the need to provide well-thought out legislation, evaluate its success and build on that, not throw everything out and begin all over again, which sums up much of what has been happening over the last decade.

Now turning our attention to 2014

The Minnesota legislature runs on a biennial calendar, a two-year session. The end product of the first year is a balanced state budget and the second year produces a bonding bill: the state issues bonds (borrows) to deal with the building and maintaining of state infrastructure. For those of us watching education, this second year often focuses on education policy.

The 2014 legislative session will be short, beginning February 25.and winding down by the end of May. A 13-week session gives everyone more time on the campaign trail. November 2014 brings an election where each state senator, representative and constitutional officer will stand for reelection.

If you are interested in what we think will be happening this coming session, save the morning of Saturday February 8 to join us at our Annual Parents United Legislative Kick-off. This is a fun event where folks from across districts share what they know or have heard about issues that will come forward during the session. This is probably my favorite discussion the entire year – be part of it!

Tri-District Boot Camp

Three Twin Cities metropolitan school districts are partnering with Parents United to offer a free three-part series for parents who wish to effect change for schools and students. Robbinsdale Area Schools, Osseo Area Schools and Hopkins Public Schools will host the School and Student Advocacy Boot Camp, which I will be leading.

This is a really cool idea from three districts in one region. Join us and see if this is something you’d like to bring to your area! You can register on our website for one session or all three. This just in: a posting from the Star Tribune about parent advocacy and the workshop.

LAC Networking

An initiative that we will be putting energy into this year is networking Legislative Action Committees between and among districts. We believe we all learn more by sharing our knowledge, so if you have an LAC in your district, or are interested in starting one, become part of our networking discussions for support and LEARNING!

These discussions will broaden our knowledge of issues from around the state. Our aim is to hold conversations bi-monthly throughout the spring of 2014 and see what we need to do from that point on. We are an organization of parents, by parents that works very hard to have a statewide perspective, so to make it easier for our LAC networking we will hold many of these discussions through conference calls.

Sign up to make sure you don’t miss anything!

Each week during the legislative session we send an update to parents who want to be “in the know” about potential laws that will impact their schools BEFORE they become law. Many of these parents and community members share this information with their district leadership and others in their regions and together they make their opinions known. This is democracy!

If you know someone who would like to be included in our list of update readers, please invite them to sign on before February 25, so they won’t miss anything!

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Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391; mary@parentsunited.org