Update for March 11, 2016: We’re Off!

“Information is the currency of Democracy”

If this is your first Update, welcome! If you have been with us for many years, thank you.

One of the most important functions of these Updates is to share current legislative activities regarding potential policy making with parents across Minnesota. While we have a diverse and far reaching database, we are always looking to broaden the number of people “in the know.” Please share our Update with friends whom you believe will benefit from the information!

Legislative Kick-off

Parents United enjoyed seeing so many engaged folks at our Legislative Kickoff last Saturday. If you missed it, please join us Saturday morning, March 12 for our Kickoff in St. Cloud.

We shared that this session will be fast and furious and laser focused on the November elections. It’s a bonding year, so any talk about spending is only on the table because of a modest budget surplus. This brief video explains how bonding works. The budget surplus (more tax revenue than projected) will be less than originally thought at about $900 million.

Being an election year, expect legislators to tie much of their work specifically to their districts. House Speaker Daudt is committed to roads and tax credits; Senator Bakk and the Governor’s priority will be on one-time expenditures. In education, the Governor’s priority is early learning. Read more about the Governor’s priorities for this session.

Much of the $900 million budget surplus will be obligated to unbudgeted inflation costs and it is a small portion of the $42 billion state budget.

Among education stakeholders, most agree on these priorities: money on per pupil formula, dealing with special education costs, debt service and referendum equalization, equalizing funding for teacher development/evaluation, expanding school-based pre-K, recruiting and retaining teachers (including teachers of color), and addressing student mental health issues.

At the Capitol

The second year of the 2015-16 Legislative session began with a bang. Leadership has already tussled over where they will convene floor sessions, how to use any budget surplus and what to include in a bill to help out-of-work miners! No great surprise in an election year where your main job as an elected official is to get re-elected, retain, or gain majority status and have your presidential nominee elected! It should be fun.

To account for the short session, hearings will be held day and night beginning next week.

Teacher Licensing System

In recent years, there has been vocal concern about how teachers in Minnesota are licensed. The legislature asked the independent Office of Legislative Auditor to evaluate our current system, and that report was presented in House Education Finance and Senate Education this week. They reported, because of Minnesota’s unique system puts two separate state entities in charge of licensing teachers (The Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Department of Education), there’s a lack of transparency and accountability.

There are also very different requirements for teachers being licensed in Minnesota and for licensed teachers coming from outside the state. Among other recommendations, the OLA suggests (and there’s broad support for) assigning the role of licensing to one entity or the other, and appropriating funds to support it. They looked at other professions in Minnesota and how other states handle oversight of licensing.

While we have great hope that steps will be made this session to begin to address this issue, it won’t be solved overnight. They will have to wrangle with the solution, including in which entity the authority and oversight will reside. Expect several bills on this issue in the coming weeks. Read more.

WBWF and now ESSA (what do all those letters mean?)

The Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) has replaced No Child Left Behind in federal law. While several requirements remain the same, there is space for Minnesota to craft different school accountability measures, including aligning federal law with Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) statutes. WBWF is a Minnesota law passed in 2013 to ensure accountability for education quality and student performance.

The ability to align these two laws will allow for more community involvement in the governance of our schools. Several pieces of legislation will need to be changed to implement this alignment. Good time to be involved!

Rally for Racial Justice

“Nothing about us, that is for us, can be done without us.”  —Voices for Racial Justice Rally

In his State of the State address, Governor Dayton voiced a shared priority for racial equity, saying “We cannot resolve these disparities in one legislative session, but we must begin now. Next week, my supplemental budget will propose a significant initiative to provide better economic opportunities to Minnesotans of color all across our state.”

Voices for Racial Justice held an inspiring We the People! racial justice rally near the Capitol on Thursday. They asserted that the only way to overcome Minnesota’s huge racial gaps in education and earning power is for Minnesota’s leaders and public to put racial equity at the center of all policy making. Parents United has long held Voices for Racial Justice as a partner, since equity is one of the three critical lenses through which we look at policy. Check out VRJ’s Equity Agenda.

Amir Khadar, a 16 year old junior from Fridley High School, one of the many youth fighting for racial justice, shared his inspiring and powerful poem. We are publishing it in its entirety on our website, believing that it needs to be heard. We have pulled a few excerpts to highlight his view…

 

We the people as youth of color fighting for racial equity

There is the adults table

And the kids table

We sit quietly waiting eons to sit at the adults table

And break bread with elder hands

If you can’t drive through my school why are you rewriting the blueprints for my life

Making decisions from a distance is easy when

we have been born again in a system that told us we don’t matter

Nothing about us

For us

Can be done without us

We are the result of segregation

Followed by improper integration

Built upon keeping us down

If you leave us to rot in a hand me down education system

On our hand me down books

We will grow up to assume acceptable is one step from failing

Never bothered to change our future

We are the Doctors trained in social education, the Teachers, and the learners, we are the priestesses, the gangsters, the over romantics, the black, the brown, and the native.

We are the former enslaved, the currently enslaved, we are loud, and obnoxious, and opting for change

One day, the adults will realize

they need to come sit at the kiddy table.

Taste the free lunch, and skim milk

Then fight for some change

By, Amir Khadar

printed here with the permission of Amir Khadar

 

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. Check back weekly!

The Governor’s priorities and message this week

Great video explains what bonding is and how it works

Office of the Legislative Auditor says MN teacher licensure system is “broken”

 

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. 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.