Update for May 27, 2016: Unpacking the Bill

At the Capitol

UnknownThe Governor is considering bills that made it to his desk and will make his decision on the Supplemental Budget bill this weekend. There is no reason to believe that this bill will go unsigned, but stranger things have happened! You can track when and if HF2749 is signed on the Governor’s Legislative Tracking page.

By now everyone has heard about the breakdown in the final hours of the 2016 legislative session. The public’s reaction to the lack of transportation funding and a bonding bill has been brutal. Now leaders are asking the Governor to call a special session to fix what they didn’t get done. Since every Senate and House seat is up for grabs in the November election they NEED to get at least a bonding bill done. The bonding bill provides legislators an opportunity to bring projects to their districts.

Politically, this is gold for the Governor, since only he can call a special session and will do so only when his requirements for that session agenda are met. It is hard to believe that two years of differences over transportation funding will suddenly undergo a dramatic change, but a bonding bill with transportation projects built in is possible.

While this compromise may get the state through this year—and legislators out door knocking–there is a problem with funding the ongoing transportation needs of the state with one-time money. One could say the same thing about education.

While many provisions in the education section of this bill may be laudable, there is no overarching appropriation that helps all students. I can understand that in a non-funding year, but this idea of providing very few funds for lots of individual initiatives seems to be a new trend. It is less costly to fund a laundry list of small initiatives than to put money on the formula. And the amounts appropriated are pitifully mismatched to the needs.

One perfect example of this is the $12 M provision for support staff. It is the second largest education appropriation this year. Let’s unpack this provision, remembering that Minnesota ranks dead last nationally in counselor/pupil ratio, an undisputed fact.

This provision provides a one-time appropriation of $12 M divided out over a 6 year period to school districts that provide matching grants. The first four years, the district must match the grant dollar for dollar. In years 5 and 6, the district must provide $3 locally for each $1 of state grant dollars. Got it? Now, we have over 330 school districts, close to 1 million pupil units and $12 M to work with over a 6 year period. Be very, very careful how you listen to the success stories being reported to you!!

The largest appropriation

The Governor’s voluntary school based pre-K program had the largest appropriation at $25M and includes ongoing funding. Divided into four regions — Minneapolis/St Paul, metro, non-metro and charters–schools that wish to begin or expand a pre-K program will be ranked for eligibility.

Eligibility for funding has a great deal to do with the number of students served who live in poverty and the number of 3 or 4 star Parent Aware rated pre-school programs in the area.

An interesting piece that is going under-reported is the ability to use mixed delivery systems with this funding. A school can contract with a pre-K program in their area to provide these services. There is much more to say about this provision—it is worth reading.

A provision that NEEDS to draw attention

Sometime after midnight Sunday morning, hours before sine die, those of us in the hearing room received the agreed-to education funding provision printout. $500,000 was appropriated to an EP grant. I had no idea what that was, perhaps we missed the hearing on such a bill, because we had never heard one that fit that title.

I thought it was an error, easy to do when staff is working 24/7 for weeks, but no. It is a half million dollar appropriation that according to the final bill reads: Student success grant. For a grant to Independent School District No. 272, Eden Prairie, for career and college readiness coordination, counseling, academic support for middle and high school students, and summer activities and before and after school tutoring programs.

Imagine my surprise! These funds seem to be slated to do what each of our districts is required to do without an additional appropriation. Perhaps it matters that the House Education Finance Chair is from Eden Prairie.

Follow the money

You have heard us suggest before, “Follow the money.” It serves us well to know who is paying for messages we hear from foundations, non-profits, corporations, or anyone trying to package and sell something. We also suggest taking a critical look at the money when it comes to legislation. At first glance, many foundations, pilots and short-term projects were funded through this year. But if you look closely, you can see that when the list gets long the money gets split and, with only a fraction of what was requested, may not actually provide for viable efforts.

Other provisions that may interest you

We can get more into the weeds with these and other provisions at our Legislative Wrap-Up: Join us on Saturday, June 4.

Testing Provisions

Specific requirements related to district, state and federal testing requirements:

  1. Districts must publish on website a comprehensive calendar of standardized tests that will be given that school year. It also must provide the rationale for giving the tests and indicate whether the test is a local option or required by state or federal law.
  2. The Commissioner of Education must make available a form for parents to complete if they opt out of having their child take standardized tests. The form will explain why any such tests given, which tests are aligned with state standards, and what consequences, if any, there are for a student or school by not participating. It will also ask parents for the reason for their refusal.
  3. Districts must establish a committee of teachers, administrators and at least one parent to advise their school board on selection of any tests in addition to those required under state and federal law (if they haven’t already negotiated this into teacher contracts).
  4. Students may be reimbursed for either the SAT or ACT. If the test their district offers is not the one they wish to take, they may take that preferred test elsewhere and still be reimbursed. Keep in mind, no additional funding comes with this provision.
  5. The Commissioner of Education must determine an MCA benchmark score in subject areas tested that determines college/career readiness. Any student in the MNSCU system who receives that benchmark score on the MCA in a subject area is exempt from MNSCU requirements to take remedial coursework in a subject area.
  6. When creating contracts with MDE for testing and data services, vendors will ensure data privacy and security for student information.

Reading provisions

Specifics to identify and provide for unique learners expanded this year:

  1. Districts are required to annually report to the commissioner a summary of the district’s efforts to screen and identify students with dyslexia or convergence insufficiency disorder.
  2. An appropriation of $200,000 was given to the Centennial district to pilot a program to identify and treat convergence insufficiency disorder with vision therapy.
  3. Districts are required to identify students reading below grade level by grade 3 and offer them “alternate instruction.”
  4. Districts are required to report procedures to identify gifted and talented students and include that in their World’s Best Work Force report.
  5. Districts are required to adopt procedures for accelerating learning for gifted and talented students.

Students can currently access assistance through special education or an IEP if there is a discrepancy between their how they test and how they perform, but school psychologists do not currently diagnose learning disabilities. Guidelines have been offered before around Gifted and Talented but this is more specific. These will be interesting challenges. We may see increased demand for technical assistance and professional development around screening, reading and accelerated learning.

Minnesota Student survey provision:

School districts and charter schools, in consultation with parents, must develop and adopt policies on conducting student surveys and using and distributing personal information on students collected from the surveys. School districts and charter schools must:

  1. Directly notify parents of these policies at the beginning of each school year and after making any substantive policy changes.
  2. Inform parents at the beginning of the school year if the district or school has identified specific or approximate dates for administering surveys and give parents reasonable notice of planned surveys scheduled after the start of the school year.
  3. Give parents direct, timely notice, by United States mail, e-mail, or other direct form of communication, when their students are scheduled to participate in a student survey.
  4. Give parents the opportunity to review the survey and opt their students out of participating in the survey.
  5. School districts and charter schools must not impose an academic or other penalty upon a student who opts out of participating in a survey.

A cross-reference directory

This is an interesting provision! This is a one stop shop for parents who want to read the actual law concerning their rights. It provides a listing that refers you to the statutes on parents’ right(s):

  • Relating to compulsory instruction
  • For annual summary longitudinal performance and progress data
  • Related to school district anti-bullying policies
  • To notice in student discipline policies
  • To certain notice requirements related to early childhood development screening and results
  • To provide consent before individual screening data may be disclosed to a school
  • To be informed of a reported case of chemical abuse by a minor student
  • To be notified regarding the use of pesticides
  • To notice and a meeting regarding the removal of a student for more than ten days
  • To be included in exclusion or expulsion hearing procedures, including access to records, ability to testify and present evidence, and inclusion in the student’s readmission plan
  • To notice of a student’s right to be reinstated after the termination of dismissal
  • To notice of an informational school board meeting relating to discontinuing inter district cooperation
  • To notice of a school’s backgrounds check policies for hiring teachers
  • To notice of a school board’s policy to charge fees for textbooks lost or destroyed by students
  • To surrender a student’s privilege to receive transportation services from a school district
  • To receive notice of: decision on an application by a student to attend school in a nonresident district; transportation policies of the nonresident district; and the right to be reimbursed for costs of transportation to the nonresident district’s border
  • Related to a student attending a nonresident district or attending an out-of-state district
  • To opt a child out of disclosing a child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch to the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services
  • To notice of optional learning year programs
  • Related to student enrollment in programs for English learners, including notice, withdrawal, and parental involvement
  • To receive pupil transportation information from the charter school or school district providing transportation services to a charter school student
  • To be included in determining the appropriate and necessary services for students with disabilities
  • To notice and involvement regarding online reporting of data related to children with disabilities
  • Regarding notice, participation, and due process related to special education alternative dispute resolution procedures
  • To notice of a school district seeking reimbursement from medical assistance or Minnesota Care for services rendered to a student with a disability
  • Related to services provided to students eligible for Part C services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the right to receive written materials regarding the implementation of Part C services
  • To use mediation to resolve disputes under section 125A.42
  • To notice of a student’s discharge from the Minnesota State Academies
  • To education records under the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children
  • To appeal a school board decision adversely affecting an academic program of an enrolled student

What really happened for education this year?!

Join us on Saturday, June 4 from 10:30-12 at the Roseville Public Library community room for our annual Legislative Wrap-Up. We will discuss outcomes of the session and the implications for classrooms, teachers and students. We will also touch on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including the timeline and differences from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). As this is our final Wrap-Up, we will recognize the work of Parents United over fourteen years. Please register now.

Worth a Second Look

What is resilience and how do kids get it? Why does it benefit learners? An Atlantic article asks, “How kids really succeed?”

Amid all the questions and negativity, there are still great things happening in public schools. Here is a quick KARE 11 story that will warm your heart.