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Policy Concerns as End of Session Draws Near

By April 23, 2016 No Comments

The House and Senate are each bringing forth new education policy proposals, several of which create new mandates and reporting requirements. MREA encourages you to contact your legislators and urge them to work on striking these provisions from a final Education Policy bill that could emerge this session. Here are the primary issues of concern from the policy bills:

House Education Policy

Civics Test: The House bill creates a modified Citizenship civics test whereby a group of social studies teachers will select 50 out of 100 questions that students must answer sometime before graduation. A student’s high school transcript must note whether or not the student answered at least 30 of those questions correctly. This is an undue burden on all involved and schools can use the citizenship test in their civics courses if they see value in it.

Student Behavior: The House bill also gives teachers authority to suspend for up to 5 days students from their classes. We understand the desire to react to recent negative publicity about student behavior, however, this proposal lacks needed accountability for staff and district administration in the process of student dismissal.

Early Learning Scholarships: The House bill aims to cap Pathway II early learning scholarships funds at their current level. New funding into early learning scholarships would only be through Pathway I. Pathway II has proved to be successful and more efficient for support quality school district and child care center early learning programs.

Senate Education Policy

World’s Best Workforce: The Senate Education Policy bill (SF 2744) would add a sixth goal to World’s Best Workforce whereby districts would have a goal of achieving teacher diversity in their ranks. This is a noble idea, but holding districts accountable for specific higher practices when teacher availability is in short supply is problematic. Instead, the state should focus on the teacher recruitment and retention provisions and focus on licensure and basic skills test reform to open up the supply of teachers in Minnesota.

Community Education: The Senate bill redefines the definition of teacher for adult basic education and ECFE, which would have the effect of extending continuing contract and bumping rights to those staff. The proposal also doesn’t address the issue that many of these community education staff are part-time and don’t meet the 120 day per school year requirement for existing teachers to move out of probationary status. The net effect for community ed staff could be permanent probationary status and three annual summative evaluations if this language isn’t fixed.

3rd Grade Reading Proficiency: The Senate bill has provision requiring schools to develop reading proficiency plans for third graders moving forward who haven’t attained reading proficiency on the MCAs. The new mandate creates more process and paperwork for staff and administrators and is akin to a new type of “IEP” that comes with parent meetings and paperwork. Schools are already working hard on reading proficiency as goal #2 of the World’s Best Workforce strategic planning and this requirement will take away valuable instruction time.

New School Site Teams: The Senate bill places a mandate that all districts have school site teams with a specific make-up and charged with specific duties. This is a large metro, one-size fits all layer of local bureaucracy we simply don’t need. The site team requirement will be difficult to create in small schools and their work could run counter to the World’s Best Workforce strategic planning of the district.

Physical Education: The Senate bill mandates that in addition to the state adopting national physical education standards, that districts only use licensed physical ed teachers. This may cause problems for smaller districts and elementary schools using unique arrangements to ensure physical education for students.

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What’s Next: House, Senate Begin Negotiations