The Senate E12 Committee dug the Senate’s omnibus education bill, SF1495, last week. Along with several other items, the bill from Chairman Wiger would ease the requirement for teachers who have not passed the required basic skills test. They would be able to obtain up to four, rather than the current two, one-year temporary teaching licenses, and the bill requires a streamlined process for out-of-state teaching candidates.

Another provision would allow school boards to authorize Flexible Learning Year programs without the approval of the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner and would also allow school boards to start the school year on Sept. 1, but for the 2015-16 school year only.

There is also a requirement of students to create a career readiness plan. According to the bill, “Districts and schools, on an annual basis, must use the career exploration elements to help students, beginning no later than grade 9, and their families explore and plan for postsecondary education or careers based on the students’ interests, aptitudes, and aspirations.” Amendments were heard Thursday and Friday. One that passed creates more flexibility for school boards to hire community experts to teach career and technical education courses.

Differences in the House

One key different between the House and Senate bills is that the Senate version does not include the House bill’s changes to unrequested leave of absence (ULA) process, or last in-first out (LIFO).

On Tuesday and Thursday the House heard Education Innovation Policy Chair Erickson’s HF1591, the House’s omnibus education bill. HF2, sponsored by Education Finance Chair Jennifer Loon, which includes the LIFO language, makes up a bulk of the House’s education omnibus bill. As a part of the negotiated plan, teachers must be placed on ULA based on their licensure field, evaluation outcomes and effectiveness categories/rating, and other locally determined criteria such as teacher seniority.

Other provisions in the House bill include the following which was approved in committee Thursday include:

Teachers and Licensing:

  • The BOT is to adopt “rules requiring a person to pass a college level skills exam in reading, writing and mathematics” or the equivalent in the ACT Plus Writing as a requirement for initial teacher licensure. Out-of-state license-qualified teachers may submit essentially equivalent ACT or SAT passing scores in lieu of the MTLE.
  • Teachers from out of state who are seeking initial licensure are permitted to demonstrate qualifications through previous experience.
  • School districts are allowed to hire non-licensed community experts after trying to obtain a licensed teacher and must notify parents/guardians and the BOT when using such variance.
  • Retired school principals who are short-call substitutes principal or assistant principals are subject to continuing education requirements.

Testing and Transition from Secondary to Post-Secondary:

  • Explore, Plan and Compass exams are eliminated.
  • School districts are required to offer students nationally normed college entrance exams in grade 11 or 12 at no cost. Chair Erickson clearly stated that the ACT is to be “optional and offered to all Juniors.”
  • The restriction is eliminated on post-secondary institutions to advertise the educational, programmatic, and financial benefits of its PSEO courses only to students in school districts with 700 students and more in grades 10, 11, and 12.

Other Provisions and Changes:

  • Educational cooperatives and education districts that do not have QComp are eligible for $302 per full-time FTE teachers for FY ’15 only.
  • The state-developed online special education forms and reporting system is voluntary for school districts. Districts can join the state system or use a vendor of their choice so long as the vendor’s system employs a universal filing system that is compatible with state’s online system.  MREA supported this provision.  Learn more.
  • Annual report repealed on learning and development revenue, including K-6 class sizes.

What’s Next?

The House bill heads to the education finance committee to be incorporated into the omnibus funding and policy bill.  The Senate bill heads to the floor.

The deadline for the funding bills is April 24, which is after Easter/Passover break. Policy items will surely still be discussed in both bodies and amendments may still be tacked on; funding amounts will be the main center of attention from here on out.