Every part of the Minnesota Department of Education’s proposed Achievement and Integration Rules (A & I) was disapproved by Administrative Law Judge Ann C. O’Reilly in her report issued last week. MDE now needs to decide whether to make changes and resubmit the rule or withdraw it in its entirety. View the full report.
The January Hearing for the proposed rule drew two days of testimony. Among the most controversial portions of the proposed rule were that it included charter schools and that it did not explicitly address racial balance.
“Silence in the statute means that the law does not apply to charter schools,”Judge O’Reilly wrote (p. 63).
She ruled that MDE needed to address racial balance more directly. “Simply referencing other statutes that address equal opportunity and racial balance is insufficient to meet the requirements of the enabling statute” she wrote (p. 67).
In regard to the inclusion of American Indian students in the count of protected class students, Judge O’Reilly ruled that MDE did not justify the “need and reasonableness of including ‘American Indian/Alaskan Native’ students in the proposed rules.” She wrote:
“There was no critical comment opposing the inclusion of “American Indian/Alaskan Native” into the proposed rules. However, the Department did not explain the need or reasonableness for including “American Indian/Alaskan Native” into the determination of “eligible district” under the proposed rules. This is a significant change from the 1999 Rules. The 1999 Rules exclude “American Indian students” from the determination of whether a school district must file an integration plan. The proposed rules include “American Indian/Alaskan Native” students into the determination of whether a district is an “eligible district” for purposes of requiring an A&I plan. Consequently, the Department should be prepared to explain and justify the need for and reasonableness of including “American Indian/Alaskan Native” students in the proposed rules.” (p. 81)
MREA testified at the January Hearing in favor of the proposed rule to include AMI students in the protected class count for a school district, the inclusion of the AMI parent committees in consultation with the districts in planning, and the additional funds that would come to districts with significant AMI student populations.
Judge O’Reilly disapproved the plan evaluation section of the proposed rule, “because it is unduly vague and fails to provide reasonable notice of the criteria or standards the Department will use to evaluate the A&I plans….As written, the proposed rule is unduly vague and grants unfettered discretion to the Department in evaluating district plans.” (p 91-92)