All public school children must have equal access to a high quality education regardless of where they live in Minnesota.

Legislative Update  
A c ommunication for education advocates in SEE districts.
March 30, 2018  
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What is happening at the Capitol
Good news!  During a SEE Capitol visit, we met with Fridley's Representative Connie Bernardy (DFL - New Brighton), who serves on the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC).  In our meeting with her, we discussed the need for increased equalization aid to make school levies more affordable in low-property wealth districts. In the next LAC meeting, she suggested that equalization be added to the topics that the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) would evaluate for effectiveness in the coming year. We want to thank all SEE members who responded to the action alert from SEE by contacting their legislators.  The equalization program received enough votes and will be evaluated by the OLA.  An evaluation report with recommendations should be available prior to the 2019 budget session.  OLA reports are taken seriously by most legislators.  We anticipate that the OLA equalization report will be a valuable tool to support legislative action to increase equalization next session. 

As always, see Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.   
Education Policy Omnibus Bills
The Senate education policy committee processed its bill on Thursday. More information on the policy bills is available  here on the SEE website.  I will add a side-by-side summary that compares the House, Senate and Governor's policy provisions next week. We commend the governor and the committee chairs in the House and Senate for producing restrained bills, limiting policy provisions that usually end up becoming unfunded mandates to some degree. 

Both the Senate and the House education policy bills include some similar provisions.  I will discuss a few below.  
  • A new 5-star rating would be developed for each school and school district based on MCA test proficiency and achievement gaps.  This provision garnered the most negative testimony.  The intent is to have a very simple quality measure, so parents can make informed decisions on which school would be best for their child.  However, this measure is mostly based on the MCA tests (which many parents don't consider a useful indicator of the quality of education their child receives).  What about the ratio of teachers of colors, the rigorous course offerings, music and art programming, the number of school social workers and other support staff to help struggling students, a student's academic growth over the school year, career and technical opportunities . . . ?  Most of this data is available on the MDE website but it is very difficult to navigate through.  MDE is required by the new ESSA law, to post student and school performance data in the state's plan on its website.  MDE is currently designing that interface that will also include factors like those mentioned above.  MDE is working closely with parents to make this resource clear and parent friendly.  If MDE is required to do the 5-star rating, it would have to be done in addition to the ESSA performance ratings. Having two rating systems based on different performance measurements will be redundant, expensive and confusing to the public. 
  • A special education working group would be established to look at how special education services are delivered and make recommendations for cost containment.  In the Senate bill, the working group would be made up of legislators in consultation with experts in the field and other stakeholders.  In the House, the members would be the experts and stakeholders with direction from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).  Having legislators in charge of the working group would certainly create more buy in for the final recommendations.   After all, the legislature writes the laws.  However, politically, it would be difficult to move any legislation if it meets strong opposition from the special education advocacy groups.  
  • Schools cannot demean a student while attempting to collect unpaid school lunch debt.  Schools cannot deny a student lunch and must provide meals in a respectful manner.  Additionally, the House bill prohibits schools from limiting a student's participation in school activities graduation ceremonies, field trips, school dances, etc. due to unpaid school lunch debt.  A spokesperson for the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials (MASBO) said in a survey of 52 school districts, unpaid lunch debt exceeded $509,000.  MASBO understands that many families are struggling to pay for school lunches, but believes other families are abusing the system. Supporters of the bill's provisions feel strongly that students should not be punished for the actions of the adults.   
  • The House requires and the Senate encourages sexual exploitation prevention and substance misuse prevention in the health curriculum in grades 5, 6, 8, 10 and 12.  SEE strongly supports local control.
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. 


Deb Griffiths
Schools for Equity in Education
Director of Communications and Community Outreach