The Education Conference Committee met three times last week reviewing the details of the House and Senate plans. They didn’t take action on any items, as they’re waiting for a leadership deal on their spending target. They focused committee time on a handful of the more significant issues in play. MREA provides a snapshot of where each stands below. View latest side-by-side of the issues.
The committee took testimony from several organizations, including MREA who led of a panel of presenters calling for inclusion of the Senate’s long term maintenance proposal. There is wide support for this proposal, but long-term levy impacts in some districts were raised as a concern by one member of the House side of the conference committee.
Several groups called on the conference committee to adopt the Senate’s plan to lift the cap on QComp funding. Several districts have approved plans at MDE and are waiting for new funding to get them moving. The Senate’s plan would make QComp an open and standing appropriation, meaning in future years the state would fund approved plans as they come forward. If this passes, rural districts and teacher groups should seriously consider putting together a plan now that the TD&E mandate is in full effect.
MREA supports expansion of QComp as a way to close the rural/metro inequity in TDE funding. Only 13% of Greater Minnesota school districts have QComp plans.
A battle could be in store between local districts and their staff if a Senate provision is adopted. The Senate has a proposal that, if adopted, would require districts to confer with staff about how many hours each year are spent on testing.
The State argues it will only require one test, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), and that most testing is locally driven. Districts argue that their local assessments are the most informative for teaching, learning and evaluations, and they don’t want their hands tied with a state cap in the amount of hours they can devote to testing.
Commissioner Cassellius is pushing to pare back the amount of MCA testing to a minimum needed to hold schools accountable for student achievement toward the state’s standards and benchmarks.
Several parents and child care providers testified in favor of expanding preschool scholarships. This was at the request of the House conferees. They wanted to show support for scholarships rather than a school-based universal preschool program.