Governor Dayton Signs K-12 Education Bill. What’s In It?

May 31, 2017 • Krista Kaput

Last night, Governor Dayton signed the policy and funding bills that laid out Minnesota’s next two-year, $46 billion dollar budget, which includes over $18 billion for K-12 education.

However, even though Governor Dayton signed the bills, he used his line-item veto power to eliminate funding for the Legislature, which will likely force another special session. In a letter to the Speaker and Majority leaders, Governor Dayton asserted that he would only allow a special session if they agreed to “re-open and re-negotiate” five provisions, one of which is the overhaul of the teacher licensure system.

Even though a second special session is likely imminent, we have provided in-depth policy summaries for a few of the provisions that we have previously covered, as well as other provisions that have been widely covered during this legislative session.

First Things First, What Isn’t in the K-12 Education Bill?

One noticeable provision not included in the Education Bill is the tax credit scholarships. Opponents of the scholarships claimed that they were “proxy school vouchers” that move state funds toward private education, while proponents asserted that it would give parents more freedom in finding a school that fits the needs of their child.

Innovation Research Zone Pilot Program (Lines 67.6-70.30)

The Innovation Research Zone Pilot Program enables the establishment of innovation zones (IZs) that “allow school districts and charter schools to research and implement innovative education programming models designed to better prepare students for the world of the 21st century.” Read more about the new program in our earlier blog post, and in this summary.

The IZ legislation was championed by Education Evolving, the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, and the Minnesota School Boards Association, and had the support of Schools for Equity in Education and Ed Allies.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Accountability Plan (Lines 71.1-71.12)

The commissioner must submit the state’s ESSA accountability plan to the legislature’s education policy and finance committees at least 30 days before submitting the plan to the US Department of Education. Additionally, the state plan must be “consistent and aligned, to the extent possible” with the World’s Best Workforce. This language is much more relaxed than earlier versions of the bill that prescribed what should be included in the school quality and student success indicator.

Funding for PreK Programs and the Creation of “School Readiness Plus” Program (Lines 51.28-154.15 & 154.27-155.7)

It’s no secret that Governor Dayton is a champion for voluntary prekindergarten. In his letter to the Speaker, he wrote that he is “pleased” that the bill has additional funding for prekindergarten, but that the bill “failed to meet the known demand for the prekindergarten program established last session” and that since the funding is one-time only it will be a “detriment to establishing ongoing programs to serve our youngest learners.”

The “additional funding” Governor Dayton referenced in his letter was the $50 million that the legislature allocated for mixed delivery, voluntary prekindergarten programs and for the new “School Readiness Plus” program. The purpose of the “School Readiness Plus” program is to “prepare children for success as they enter kindergarten,” by allowing a district, charter school, or a combination of the two to establish a program for students ages four to kindergarten entrance.

For the “School Readiness Plus” program, district and charter schools are able to contract with a charter school, Head Start or child care center, family child care program, or a community-based organization to provide “developmentally appropriate services.”

The $50 million allocation is in addition to the $67 million dedicated to school readiness, $140 million for early learning scholarships, and $50 million for Head Start for the two-year biennium.

Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program (Lines 60.26-62.16)

The commissioner of the Office of Higher Education, in consultation with the Board of Teaching, must establish and manage a program that will annually award grants to eligible alternative teacher preparation programs. In order for a program to be eligible for the grant, they must be a “school district, charter school, or nonprofit” that has been in operation for three continuous years in Minnesota or any other state, and must be working to fill the state’s teacher shortage areas. The commissioner must give preference to programs that are based in Minnesota.

A couple of the uses that the grant monies can be put towards are recruiting, selecting, and training teachers of color and for establishing professional development programs for teacher who obtained their teacher licenses via alternative teacher preparation programs. The legislature allocated $750,000 for the program for the 2018 fiscal year.

Tiered Teacher Licensure System—At Least for Now (Article 3)

Perhaps the most controversial piece of legislation in the Education Omnibus Bill is the new, four-tiered teacher licensure system. While several organizations publicly supported the new system, the Minnesota Department of Education and Education Minnesota did not.

Under the new tiered teacher licensure system the Board of Teaching is abolished and replaced by the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), which is responsible for issuing teacher licenses to qualified candidates.

The meat of the law lies with the four-tiered teacher licensure system, which follows the recommendations from the 2016 OLA report and the Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensing, who both asserted that a tiered system would provide “transparency, consistency, and flexibility.” Starting with Tier 1, candidates have prescribed pathways and requirements for how they can work up to the paramount license, Tier 4.

Changes to this newly passed system, however, are likely given that Governor Dayton stripped the Legislature of its funding and mandated that they re-open negotiations on the teacher licensure system, and four other provisions, in order for a special session to occur.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report the development of the teacher licensure system, as well as other relevant education policy topics.

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