Update for January 15, 2016: Beginning anew!

A Look Ahead to 2016

Although the legislative session begins on March 8, education committees are already meeting so they can move quickly when session begins. Dates for those meetings are readily accessible. Construction has closed the Capitol building, but hearings will be scheduled in the Minnesota Senate Building (MSB) as well as the State Office Building (SOB).

Legislative Kick-Offs in metro AND central Minnesota

Parents United will host its annual Legislative Kick-off on March 5, 2016 for the metro area at the TIES building and for central Minnesota on March 12 in St Cloud.

This is our favorite meeting of the year since we have a chance to be together and share what we expect to see as education priorities in the upcoming legislative session. More information.

Topics already in the mix

The first issue that defines so many others is the much talked about billion dollar state budget surplus. The overall tug of war is between giving tax breaks and investing in the state.

It is often said, those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. So as not to repeat it, let’s wander back in time to see what happened the last time Minnesota had budget surpluses. In the late 1990s Minnesota had experienced a few years of state budget surpluses and not surprisingly, in an election year, we saw reductions in property taxes, taxes on businesses, tax rebates (remember Jesse checks?)

New rules for Eligibility and Use of Integration Aid

A hearing on the rules created by the MN Dept of Education (MDE) required under Achievement and Integration Aid law took place this week at the MDE. As a matter of course, laws must have a state agency, in this case the MDE, create the rules for conforming to them. These rules then go before an administrative law judge to deem whether they are reasonable, necessary, in compliance with the specific statue and Constitutional. In this case, more than 150 members of the public packed the room, with dozens providing testimony, mostly expressing concerns.

Background

For a number of years, extra funding has been available to some schools in order to help racially diverse districts desegregate. Questions arose as to how those monies were being spent and the efficacy of that spending. In 2013, the state legislature overhauled the laws governing Integration Aid in an effort to improve their use.

The Proposed Rules for Achievement and Integration Aid

Under the proposed rules, districts and schools may qualify for Achievement and Integration Aid if 20% of their students fall into the “protected class” – Black, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian students.

Districts or individual schools would receive $350 per protected student, if they create an approved plan that meets specific requirements. They may receive an additional appropriation if their proposal aligns with district Worlds Best Work Force plans.

Plans are on a 3 year cycle, approved by the Minnesota Department of Education and are required to include measurable goals, including student achievement data (growth or proficiency) including for its students of poverty. Plans will be reviewed and evaluated annually.

What We Heard

Overarching concerns:

  • Constitutionality – Does current law, and do these rules, do enough to integrate public schools? The argument is that the law and the rule are too weak and will not do what the state has a Constitutional obligation to achieve–full racial integration.
  • The Role of Parental Choice – How will the law and rule requiring an integration of charter schools impact the role parents now have to choose a culturally specific charter school?

This interplay between these two concerns – constitutionally mandated integration under Brown vs. Board of Education and parental choice which may yield self-segregation, presents a tremendous tension.

The majority of testifiers from charter schools opposed their inclusion in these rules.

Other concerns surfaced as well:

  • Districts currently using integration dollars may no longer qualify under new rules,
  • The need for recruiting and training teachers of color,
  • Compulsory cultural teacher training vs. optional,
  • The development of school plans without teacher, parent or student input,
  • The rule does not explicitly spell out standards of growth or achievement either in student performance or in measurements of integration.

Written comments will be accepted until January 27 at 4:30 p.m.

Submit comments via Fax (651-539-0300) or email:  rulecomments@oah@state.mn.us.

Please include the following information as your subject line: School Integration OAH Docket #65-1300-32227.

After the comment period, there is a 5 day rebuttal period for the MDE and interested stakeholders to rebut comments made during the public hearing process. The rebuttal period ends February 3 at 4:30 p.m.

Mark your calendars for March 1

Minnesota nominates candidates for election within each party through a caucus process. This year’s precinct caucuses will be held on March 1. You can attend your precinct caucus if you are 18 years old and eligible to register to vote in the November general election. You choose caucus you wish to attend by being in general agreement with a party’s principles. No previous party affiliation is required. Those in attendance will also vote on resolutions to be considered for inclusion in the party’s platform. You can weigh in on your preference for president and select delegates to attend the county convention. Delegates who will attend the state convention and make decisions on party platform will be elected from those who attend the county level.

This is an opportunity to meet with your neighbors and raise issues you believe need to be dealt with in a broader venue. You begin the process by submitting a resolution. Anyone can submit a resolution. DFL resolution forms and GOP resolution forms are readily available.

There is no required format for writing a resolution, but if you would like to see exemplar, simply google “sample caucus resolutions.”

This is the night where Minnesotans can have a big impact on the parties’ priorities!

Worth a Second Look

Parents United provides links to news clips we find particularly relevant and interesting. Selection here does not imply agreement with the premise of each article. This is also available on our website.

Two opportunities: one for students, and one for the public.

Scholarships Available for 2016 graduates

Please widely share this opportunity. Minnesota is offering academic scholarships to low to middle income 2016 graduates considering entering one to two-year programs in high-demand fields.

ESSA Rule Making – public comment period

As you recently heard, the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESSA) has been reauthorized and a new federal education law is being implemented: the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA). As it true with every new law that requires rules, or means by which the law can be put into practice, the department who will implement the law (in this case the U.S. Department of Education) must provide opportunities for the public to offer advice and recommendations on those rules. “Rule making” is the legal process by which  the law will be implemented. This is our time to provide input on ESSA. Comments will be read or heard by a judge who is then responsible for following up on all concerns raised by the public.

Senator Al Franken’s office has offered instructions on how to submit your comments in writing by January 21, 2016 and the dates and times of regional meetings that interested members of the public may attend to offer comments in person. Please feel free to contact Al Franken’s office (651) 221-1016, or Parents United (651) 999-7391 for assistance.

What is Parents United’s agenda? 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 fora legislative process often oblique to the public.