On Saturday, June 4, please join us for our End of Session Wrap-Up where Parents United hosted our first meetings ever—The Roseville Public Library community room. The meeting runs from 10:30-noon, and you can be sure we will have coffee, cake and a very enriching discussion. This will be our final Parents United event. Please register today so we know how many people to expect.
At the Capitol
We wish there was more to tell. The conference committee has taken a look at side-by-sides of the E-12 portion of the House and Senate budget bills. To review, revisit our bill comparison. House and Senate Research walked line by line through the bill’s similarities and differences between the House and the Senate. Since this is a huge budget bill, this was done for all of the divisions, not just E-12 Education (e.g. Health and Human Services, Environment, Public Safety and so on). The conference committee has yet to vote to accept sames and similars, which could be the next step.
However, this will likely wait until leadership can come to agreement on transportation and taxes, which is proving arduous. If there is to be a deal on budget and bonding, the leaders (Governor Dayton, Speaker of the House Daudt and Majority Leader Bakk) agree that there first has to be a deal on transportation. If an agreement is reached, expect the rest of the work to be “fast and furious.” Rumor has it they’ll be working on this over the weekend (instead of fishing!)
Again, conference committees are open to the public. But be forewarned, the bill is massive and the committees meet at all hours, day, night, weekends. It is nearly impossible to know the exact moment any one provision might be negotiated. We’ll watch as best we can!
A parent recently asked, is there a silver lining to all this last minute deal making that seems so frustrating and game-like to the public? Are the conferees simply doing the hard work of lawmaking? Interestingly, a bipartisan bill to address this concern was proposed earlier this session. It would require an additional committee deadline for large budget bills, forcing more time for lawmakers and the public to be informed what is in the bills before they are voted into law.
Remember – it’s an election year and that pressure may well weigh into decisions and priorities. We as the public need to be there to make sure they do not lose sight of the whole picture.
An anecdote: this is when being there gets fun! Senator Cohen (DFL, St. Paul), co-chair of this budget conference committee, seemed surprised to hear during the walk-through that both bodies included a requirement for high school students to take a civics test prior to graduation that is based upon the 100 Civics Questions for the Naturalization Test. He asked Legislative Analyst Lisa Larson if she could provide him a copy of the exam. When asked why, he quietly stated he was considering seeing how legislators faired on the test. It begs the question, are lawmakers meant to set curricula and assessments, or do we leave that to teachers and MDE?
Here are some great resources to keep you in the know during these final days of session (and when you miss us in the future):
Brad Lundell, Executive Director, Schools for Equity in Education (S.E.E.): almost daily blog
Scott Croonquist, Executive Director, AMSD: legislative updates
MN School Boards Association: policy information
Meetings continue at MDE engaging stakeholders in the transition from the past federal education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Parent Engagement meeting this week involved a passionate and diverse audience. Please look to us in the coming months for information about parent advocacy organizations and engagement initiatives where you can get involved and find support in the future. If you have ideas from within your own communities, please email us!
Soon, MDE will convene a workgroup on Parent Engagement to help inform the state plan to comply with ESSA. If you are interested in serving on it, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, organization (if any), email and phone number and list “parent engagement” as your specific interest.
Worth a Second Look
Minnesota lawmakers in discord over bonding and spending
Kyle Potter, Associated Press, suggests gaps between proposals in the Minnesota House and Senate reflect a large bipartisan divide. By May 23, in order to pass bonding measures or spend a dime of the surplus, legislators will have to compromise.
House and Senate budgets for education and the bigger picture
Minnesota Budget Bites clearly and accurately details the differences between Senate and House proposals for the Supplemental Budget. They also put this into the context of other budgeting that needs to happen before the end of the 2015-2016 session on May 23. And related, once again a reminder about the reality of school funding in this Star Tribune editorial written by metro leaders, but applicable to districts throughout the state.