Update for March 20, 2015: Omnibus bills have landed

/ 20 March 2015 / Shawna

This week at the Capitol

The omnibus part of the session has begun! We now have a Senate Education Policy Omnibus Bill and a House Education Innovation Policy Omnibus Bill. These are not to be confused with the Governor’s Education Policy Bill, presented earlier by The Commissioner of Education. At this point, the Governor’s bill has been deleted and each chamber has carefully selected bits and pieces of it to be included in their omnibus bill, as well as adding their own ingredients to the rich, dense soup. The omnibus bills were then presented in committee, provision by provision. Testifiers responded, analysts clarified, and amendments were considered.

Now, as finance committees draft their omnibus bills, education conference committees will be established. Traditionally five members from the House and five from the Senate will be selected as conferees. The majority party gets to seat the majority of conferees. Then the tough negotiations begin—still more slicing, dicing, and spicing of the ingredients.

When the conference committee report returns to each chamber for a final floor vote, no further amendments can be made. The bill can be passed or rejected from one or both bodies. In the end, only one bill will pass and with the Governor’s signature and become Minnesota’s education policy law.


Though omnibus bills reduce K-12 testing, their plans differ greatly. The House plan more closely resembles the recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education’s Task for Test Reduction. The Senate plan more closely resembles the Governor’s recommendations. See more: side by side comparison

The Governor’s Budget Expands with the Surplus

Because of stronger than expected economic growth, Minnesota’s budget surplus forecasted for 2016 is $1.9 billion, higher than the $1 billion forecast in November. With that, the Governor unveiled his updated budget priorities this week, and children and families remain at the top. New monies would essentially expand provisions in his original budget:

  • Expand free, full-day voluntary pre-K to all four year olds in Minnesota (47,000 kids)
  • Spend $41m in special education spending, which would free up K-12 budgets for spending on all classrooms.
  • Increase to $12m monies allocated to the state’s six Regional Centers of Excellence, which work to support teachers and schools in closing achievement gaps.
  • Spend $25m to attract and retain a diverse teaching force for hard-to-fill positions.
  • Spend $252m to freeze tuition at the U of MN and MNSCU campuses
  • Expand several tax credits for low and middle-income earners, making more families eligible and therefore saving more families’ money.

The original budget also included:

  • A 1% increase on the per pupil formula each year for two years ($174.4m, and about $117 per student per year in 2016 and 2017)
  • Free breakfast for all preK-3rd graders ($28m)
  • Expansion of English Language Learning services from 6 to 7 years ($7.9 m)
  • Elimination of the Head Start waiting list ($19.4m)
  • Expansion of early learning scholarships

Read more from the Star Tribune

The Omnibus Bills

The omnibus bill is a compilation of several smaller bills all dealing with education. The Chair of the committee is charged with developing the initial bill and through the amendment process, committees advance one education bill that will move to the floor of their chamber for consideration. Is it usual for a House Omnibus bill to look different from the Senate version.

We have laid out provisions from both of these bills that we feel you would find interesting.


In the House–Education Innovation Policy Omnibus Bill adopted and passed:HF 1591 DE

Article One: Ed Prep, Licensure, Accountability:

HF 1209: Directs the Board of Teaching to include suicide prevention training as an area of further preparation for teacher licensure renewal

HF 500: Increases the list of convictions for which the Board of Teaching may automatically revoke or refuse to issue or renew a teaching licensure

HF 246: Allows districts to use staff development revenue to develop and implement mentoring programs for teachers. Allows districts to pay stipends to mentors—a good example of this is the PAR program already in place in St. Paul Schools.

HF 789: Creates teacher preparation programs focused upon project-based learning in collaboration with other educational stakeholders

HF 2:

  • Supports teacher licensure agreements with adjoining states
  • Streamlines procedures for licensing out-of-state teachers
  • Changes the statute that allows non-licensed community experts to teach in schools by allowing school districts rather than the Board of Teaching to hire the experts
  • With approval of local school board, exempts technical education and vocational instructors from licensure requirements
  • Allows local districts to negotiate an unrequested leave of absence plan for probationary teachers instead of at-will employment during probationary period
  • Prohibits school administrators from placing students in classrooms for consecutive years with a teacher who has the lowest evaluation rating
  • Requires district school boards to negotiate an unrequested leave of absence that is based upon evaluation outcomes and effectiveness categories or other locally determined criteria such as seniority

Article 2: Statewide Student Assessments

HF 672: Allows computer science credit to fulfill math credit, and agriculture science or career technical education credit to fulfill elective science, chemistry or physics credit

HF 1392:

  • Requires high school students (starting with students who were in 8th grade during 2014-2015) to take MCAs instead of allowing ACT or SAT for graduation
  • Directs the education commissioner, with help from MnSCU, to identify minimum score guidelines on the MCAs that demonstrate readiness for certificate, 2 year or 4 year college programs to help students plan their futures
  • Increases computer-administered adaptive reading and math tests aligned with state standards (MCAs) to grades 3-8 instead of through grade 7
  • Requires a nationally recognized college entrance exam be offered to students at no cost in grade 11 or 12—ACT becomes optional
  • Eliminates the PLAN, EXPLORE and COMPASS exams in high school (ACT has terminated these exams)
  • Does not seek federal approval to replace federally qualified assessments (MCAs) with career and college preparatory tests in high school

Article 3: Educating Students and Early Learning

HF 702: Establishes bilingual and multilingual seals to recognize graduates with higher levels of language proficiency including American Sign Language. Directs MnSCU institutions to award credit

HF 1219: Directs the education commissioner to include data on homeless and highly mobile students among factors that strongly correlate with student performance

HF 217: Allows 9th and 10th graders to enroll in concurrent enrollment courses provided on their campuses and taught by high school teachers

HF 1591:

  • Sets priorities for early learning scholarships. Does not include development of universal pre-K
  • Requires services to increase graduation rates for American Indian students, emphasizing achievement, retention, attendance and support services

Article 4: Education Programs

HF 197: Authorizes local school boards rather than the commissioner of education to establish a flexible school year, such as a 4-day week

HF 727: Lifts restriction on advertising PSEO educational and financial benefits to high school students to make it more accessible to a wider range of students

HF 332: Defines dyslexia as a specific learning disability. An amendment was considered to define dyslexia in the Local Literacy Plan

HF 394: Integrates service-learning into Minnesota’s education system and establishes an evidence-based service-learning grant program and officer to administer it at MDE

HF 982: Directs MnSCU to transfer credits for PSEO, AP, IB and CLEP courses across colleges and universities and submit reports

Article 5: Special Education

HF 1591: Adopts provisions on Special Education that support the Minnesota Resource Center for Serving the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, including allowing these charters to provide fee-based pre-K that gives priority placement to those early learners

HF 964: Attempts to reduce paperwork for special education teachers by creating uniform statewide online reporting system (amended in committee to allow districts to continue using their own locally develop system: H1591A9.pdf)

HF 1237: Ensures paraprofessionals have sufficient training to meet disability-specific and behavioral needs of students

Article 6: Charter Schools

This combines HF 1384 and HF 1657 with HF 1591 to manage Charter School. HF 1657 gives authorizers the authority to terminate the school contract based upon student test outcomes

Significant Amendments

A15-0276.pdf Rep. Karen Clark: this is the swimming amendment. Minneapolis has some of the highest minority drowning rates in the U.S. Every single drowning victim in Minneapolis in the last few years has been an African American child. MSBA and American Red Cross both support water safety education and swimming lessons. Sent to finance.

H1591A3.pdf Rep. Barb Yarusso. This was my highlight of the day. –Shawna Hedlund, policy fellow. Tenacious citizen testifier, Rick Heller, gave profound testimony earlier this session about the difficulty he had reading and understanding his son’s I.E.P’s because he and his son were both reading and print disabled. This amendment directs MDE to establish targets for readability of their special education forms. Bipartisan legislators passed it, explaining, “Our message is that we need to alert [MDE] to this problem!” Rick Heller’s response? “I will celebrate when the amendment itself is legible to all reading and print disabled people, and not until then.” Amendment adopted.

A15-0265.pdf Rep. Carlos Mariani: Educators for Excellence introduced an amendment to the alternative teacher pay system that allows a hiring bonus or other added compensation for effective or highly effective teachers (as defined by their local TDE model) who work in hard-to-fill positions or hard-to-staff schools. Amendment adopted.

H1591A8-1.pdfRep. Carlos Mariani: the Minority caucus expresses their strong and sincere concern about “the corrosive effect of lay-off provisions to the collaborative element that makes the TDE system work.” This also requires districts to create a recess policy so that parents can weigh in locally, and creates incentives for teachers of color to become licensed or stay in teaching. Amendment fails.

FYI While these laws are being debated, Minneapolis is developing a program that assists paraprofessionals in getting their teaching licenses through a yearlong residency program with a stipend. This will ultimately increase the number of teacher candidates of color. St. Paul is also considering this.

H1591A5-3 These are author’s amendments. The most significant is the inclusion of HF 1217, which expands concurrent enrollment options that happen at high school campuses under a high school teacher with special training. Amendments adopted.


In the Senate–Education Policy Omnibus Bill passed: SF 1495 DE

Article 1-General Education:

Strikes obsolete language, makes technical corrections and modifies date changes in regard to operating capital levy, referendum allowance, general education aid, student achievement rate and taconite payment

Article 2-Education Excellence:

Section 2: Allows for School Board approval of a four-day week school schedule

Section 5: State Bilingual and Multilingual Seals. Amends the level needed to obtain a foreign language seal and aligns with the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language proficiency guidelines. Directs MnSCU to establish criteria to translate the seals into college credit.

Section 6: Credit Equivalencies: Clarifies when an agricultural science or career and tech credit meets the graduation requirement in science. Also, allows a computer science credit to fulfill a math credit requirement and a Project Lead the Way credit to fulfill a science or math credit.

Section 8: Local Literacy Plans: Requires a district’s local literacy plan to be consistent with the requirements for comprehensive, scientifically based reading instruction.

Section 10: Statewide Testing: (Governors Plan) Eliminates the MCA’s in math for grades 3 and 4. Requires the MCA’s in grades 5, through 8 and 11. Eliminates the reading MCA’s in grades 6 and 7. Requires the MCA’s in grades 3 through 5, 8 and 10.

The elimination of assessments is contingent on the MDE obtaining an amendment to its federal flexibility waiver.

Eliminates the grade 8 Explore, grade 10 Plan and the Compass tests. Directs Districts and schools to use career exploration elements to help students and their families plan for post secondary options.

Section 17-27: License and Rules, Continuing Education Requirements, teacher and support personnel qualifications, grounds for revocation, applicants trained in other states, and development, evaluation and peer coaching for continuing contract.

Section 29: Allows 9th and 10th graders to participate in a world language concurrent enrollment course.

Section 32-44-Charter Schools

Section 44-60-American Indian Policy

Section 62: Defines “Dyslexia” to mean a specific learning disability with characteristic difficulties and identified consequences.

Article 3-Special Programs:

Section 1-7-Discipline Policy

Section 10-13-Clarifies and makes technical changes to the Interagency Early Interventions Committee statute

Section 14: Paraprofessionals must have sufficient disability and behavioral –specific knowledge and skills before or immediately upon employment with training required.

Section 15-18: “Special Ed paperwork overload bill”…Student information systems/transferring records beginning in 2018-2019. Requires the district system to be capable of transferring records between school districts. Also elaborates online reporting of required data and third party payment.

Article 4-Facilities and Technology:

Section 1-E-rates. Removes the reporting requirement for districts receiving telecommunications/Internet access equity aid

Article 5-Early Childhood Education: (MinneMinds)

Section 1-5-Family Eligibility regarding state funded scholarships to those receiving a Race to the Top scholarship, prioritizes scholarships applicants who are in foster care, homeless, or has a parent under 21 who is pursuing a high school diploma or postsecondary education, defines why a program would be disqualified and requires programs to maintain attendance and pay records of participating children.

Article 6-State Agencies:

Section 1-10-Allows reports to be reported within the Worlds Best Workforce instead of reporting to the Commissioner, like third grade reading report, alternative teacher professional pay, and staff development. Moves dates and deadlines.

Amendments that were adopted:

A15: Senator Dahms: This amendments allows a community expert who teachers in a part-time career and tech education program exemption from a license requirement if approved by the local school board. This provision sunsets June 30th, 2020.

A18: Senator Chamberlain: The amendment states, “a diagnosis of dyslexia must not be the sole basis for qualification for special education services under this chapter.”

A6: Senator Bonoff: This amendment allows “a charter school may give enrollment preference to children who are eligible to receive a free or reduced-price lunch”

A22: Senator Pratt: Although the provision requires a statewide reporting system, this amendment allows school districts to use their own locally developed system

A34: Senator Clausen: This amendment requires the MDE to convene a workgroup to review current status of career and technical educator license and provide recommendation for changes.

A look ahead

Although policy bills will continue to be heard, next week is all about watching for education funding bills to surface from both bodies.

Worth a second look

American Radio Works produced a special program on the outcomes of early learning and includes an interview of Minnesota’s Art Rolnik.

What Can I do?

The legislature will be on a one week recess after next week. This gives legislators time to head to their home districts and talk. This is a terrific time to run into your locally elected official and comment on these education proposals.

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.