Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) and Representative Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) are the Chairs of the Senate and House education policy committees. Both were at the last SEE general membership meeting and outlined their policy priorities for the session including the following.
- Special education - a working group will likely be formed to evaluate how special educations students are identified and how services are delivered. The goal is for the working group to recommend innovative ways to provide the mandated services while containing the escalating costs. This Brad's Blog entry provides much more information.
- ESSA - the state's plan to meet the recently passed federal Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) was approved in January. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) worked hard to embed ESSA into the existing World's Best Work Force (WBWF) requirements for student achievement. However, legislators believe more can be done to integrate these two massive initiatives to remove redundancy and provide supports to successfully meet the important goals that every student does indeed succeed.
- Child abuse reporting - after a report last year revealed the governing board that grants new and renewing licenses to teachers did not report allegations of teacher sexual misconduct to the authorities, mandatory reporting by the teacher licensure board will surely become law this session.
- Child abuse prevention - already a couple bills are scheduled in committee next week that encourages schools to provide age-appropriate training to students to help them identify and protect themselves from child abuse and sexual exploitation.
- School discipline - disruptive students who are removed from the classroom through in-school or out-of-school suspensions are much more likely to not graduate. New strategies such as positive behavior interventions and strategies (PBIS) and restorative justice practices have shown success preventing disruptions and keeping students engaged. Legislators would like to explore ways to help districts successfully adopt such strategies.
- School trust lands - When the state was founded, each township was required to set aside land to support public education. Most of the land was sold off with the proceeds going into an endowment that generates annual funding for education. The remaining lands, mostly in northern Minnesota, have been managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and, historically, seemed to be managed more as public lands rather than revenue-generating lands for schools. Over the past six years, the legislature has passed laws to create a new director for the lands outside of the DNR. More work needs to be done to grant the director the authority to manage the lands to maximize revenue for public schools.
Note: Pure policy at the Capitol is defined as not generating any cost to the state budget. However, policy can generate considerable cost to school districts to implement and can quickly become unfunded mandates.
Check out Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.