COLUMNIST: State House, Senate pass education bills



By the time this article goes to print, the Minnesota State Legislature will still be in session.  Both the House and the Senate have passed their education bills respectively.

Key elements of the House Education Finance bill include a two percent per year increase on the funding formula for public schools. The funding formula is a specific dollar amount, $5,224 per student, that the state pays each school district to educate their students. The House bill also includes funding for all-day, every-day kindergarten. Currently, the state only supports funding for half-day kindergarten students. Support for all-day kindergarten programs would be beneficial for all students and parents in our school district.

The Senate bill provides funding for all-day kindergarten as well, and a one percent per student increase on the funding formula for the 2013-14 school year only. These two bills are an important part of the legislature’s work in establishing a budget for the state over the next two years.

The next step in this all-important legislative process is for the House and the Senate to establish an Education Conference Committee that includes members from both the House and the Senate. The duty of this committee is to review both education bills and create one legislative education bill that meets the approval of both the House and the Senate. After the conference committee has completed its work, the bill is sent to the floor of the House and Senate for approval. After both houses approve the bill, it will be sent to the governor for his signature. This entire process should be completed over the next three weeks.

Another provision in both the House and Senate education bills is the changing of our statewide assessment system (MCA/GRAD tests). The provisions provide for a shift in testing that will emphasize measurement of student progress in being college and career ready after they graduate from high school.

As a former principal of Delano High School, I agree with these provisions. In our school district we emphasize preparation of students for any educational and career opportunities after high school. The current testing system measures whether a student meets basic skills to graduate from high school. At Delano Public Schools, it is a forgone conclusion that our students will have skills necessary to graduate from high school.

Recently, Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius advocated strongly for elimination of the current statewide testing system. The new system according to our commissioner would, “better align with the admission requirements at Minnesota’s colleges and universities.”

All in all, this is always a very interesting process regarding all aspects of public education in our state. As with any public government entity, I encourage all of our district community citizens to remain informed, reach out to our legislators that represent us, and ask questions. An informed and educated society is the cornerstone of a successful civilization.