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Special Education and Dyslexia Bills Heard in House

By March 16, 2018 No Comments

In a second round of hearings on the Special Education Work Group and Dyslexia, the House Education Finance Wednesday heard HF 2846 to create a special education task force and HF 3013 to increase the reading clock hours for re-licensure to two hours and require the training to include the recognition of dyslexia characteristics in students.

Special Ed Work Group

Rep. Sondra Erickson presented HF 2846 for Rep. Drew Christensen who was unable to be at the hearing. The bill will create a special education working group designed to make suggestions to the Legislature on how to reduce costs for the delivery of services. The group will consist of 18 education experts from a multitude of organizations, including MREA.

They will give their findings to the chairs and ranking minority members of committees with jurisdiction over education. All the stakeholders that testified were in support of the bill.

Rep. Julie Sandstede offered an amendment to adjust the suggested reductions in the bill. She was concerned that the way the language was written, it would require the Legislature to make mandatory cuts to special education. Her amendment changed the language so that reductions would only be made if warranted. The motion was adopted without a dissenting vote.

Rep. Roz Peterson questioned why there was a cap on the special education funding formula. The answer is that when the increase was implemented in 2013, the Legislature and the Governor couldn’t agree to a dollar amount and the appropriation required the cap to be put into place.

Group’s Membership

Rep. Anna Wills asked about the members of the working group and if there would be the opportunity for members of the public to be appointed by the Commissioner. MDE testified they didn’t have specifics at this time but would find out and get back to the Legislature.

Rep. Mary Murphy questioned why no legislators were put on the working group. Rep. Erickson replied that she wanted experts on the panel to bring recommendations to the Legislature. There was a good-natured exchange on the merits of legislators on working groups. The Committee decided to keep the language in the bill as it was.

Rep. Rena Moran inquired about student representative. She suggested that it might be better if more than one student was on the board and also that a parent be included. Rep. Erickson commented that was a good point and would consider it.

Rep. Erickson, in her final comments, said she looked forward to the report from the working group. She also said that they would continue to work on the language. The bill was laid over.

Dyslexia Training

Following the work group discussion, Rep. Linda Runbeck introduced a bill that would require dyslexia training for teachers when relicensing to help them identify the condition earlier. She stated that reading is the gateway to learning and more needs to be done to recognize students with the learning disability.

Rachel Berger from Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota testified in favor of the bill, HF 3013. She provided a wealth of survey data that said 17-20% of the population struggle with dyslexia. She shared that parents are forced to look outside the school to help their children. She also raised the point that teachers want more training in trying to identify dyslexia and are even paying for their own training to learn about identification on their own.

Former Sen. Gen Olson testified on the importance of literacy and doing everything we can to identify dyslexia. She said that in her tenure they tried to improve reading and that the scores in Minnesota are still “abysmal.” Teachers want to be effective and need access and preparation to teach children to read. Her final thought was a quote she used throughout her career – “If you can read, nothing can be withheld from you.”

Rep. Julie Sandstede commented that while she loved the concept of the bill, she had concerns that training would only be for Tier 3 and 4 teachers. She share this could create winners and losers if it doesn’t include Tier 1 and 2 teachers. No action was taken to change the bill at this time.

Rep. Runbeck thanked the committee members for their time on this important issue. The bill was laid over as amended.

House Innovation Education Policy Committee Chair Rep. Sondra Erickson will introduce her Omnibus Education Policy Bill on Monday in Committee and vote on amendments and the bill on Thursday, the first committee deadline. Both of these bills are good candidates for inclusion in that Omnibus Bill.