The House convened in session on Saturday to take up its omnibus education bill, HF 844. After several hours of debate, legislators added two substantive amendments and passed the bill 69-61. View what’s in the bill and how it compares to the Senate bill.
Rep. Dean Urdahl (GOP-Grove City) was successful in getting more flexibility around passage of MTLE exams with an amendment that would require the Board of Teaching to issue a standard teaching license to a teacher, at the request of the district, who is determined by the school district to be an effective teacher based on their required evaluations.
The language of the amendment states that this would happen after the teacher in question was granted their third temporary one-year teaching license. Adoption of this amendment was the one bright spot on Saturday’s debate on what is a sparse education funding bill.
The other substantial amendment focuses on the use of bathroom and locker room facilities by transgender students. Rep. Tim Miller (GOP-Prinsburg) offered the amendment, which is titled the “Student Physical Privacy Act.” This amendment sparked some emotional debate on the floor and was adopted by a voice vote.
Early Start Fails
Rep. Glen Gruenhagen (GOP-Glencoe) offered an amendment that would have added another allowable provision for starting the school year before Labor Day. Current law allows districts to start before Labor Day if there’s more than $400,000 of construction or remodeling going on in the district or if the district has a calendar agreement with a district in an adjoining state. This amendment would have added another exemption in Labor Day falls on September 6 or 7. The amendment failed on a voice vote.
Following the amendment conversations, the bill was heavily criticized by DFLers, including a notable speech by Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL Dilworth) who recently chaired the Education Finance committee while the DFL was in the majority. He pointed out that the House GOP budget plan will spend $29 on tax breaks, much of which goes toward large corporate and estate tax relief, for every $1 in funding for students.
He argued that in a time of a $2 billion surplus the state can do much better than giving schools less than a 1 percent increase in funding. He urged GOP members to vote no and send the bill back to committee in order to add more funding to the bill.
On final passage, one GOP member, Mark Uglem (GOP-Champlin) joined with the DFL in voting no.
The House now waits for the Senate to pass its omnibus education budget bill (SF 811). It needs to clear the Senate Tax committee on Monday and then pass off the floor on Wednesday. A conference committee between the two bodies will be formed soon thereafter and thus begins the ‘end game.’ The 2015 regular session ends three weeks from today.