Division approves omnibus K-12 education bill


Education policy reforms necessary for success of a second Race to the Top application were approved in the omnibus K-12 education bill approved by the House K-12 Education Finance Division.

HF2431, sponsored by Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), the division chairwoman, now goes to the House Finance Committee, where it is scheduled to be heard Monday.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), chairman of the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee, successfully offered key amendments containing many reforms, including one requiring all schools to conduct annual teacher evaluations.

Other policy provisions include tighter licensing rules for teachers and administrators; certain data sharing that could help the Board of Teaching, the Board of School Administrators and the Education Department to track educators’ performance; a new, end-of-course algebra assessment that creates a new model for accountability; and two different approaches to alternative teacher licensure pathways.

The two “conflicting” approaches could end up taking the teeth out of a high-quality alternative licensure program, said Mariani, who did not support an amendment successfully offered by Rep. Will Morgan (DFL-Burnsville) that would allow alternative licensure much more narrowly.

An early graduation program sponsored last year by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), HF1177, was included. It would award eligible 12th grade students scholarships up to $7,500, which could be used at any accredited higher education institution.

Financial relief proposals in the bill were praised by education advocates.

The bill would codify $1.7 billion of state aid and property tax payment shifts authorized by the governor last year, ensuring they will be repaid; allow school boards to extend an expiring operating referendum by a written resolution instead of a ballot question; and facilitate third-party billing of health care plans so school districts could more easily recoup special education costs from insurance companies or Medicaid.

Advocates also liked the “new Minnesota miracle” funding reform plan. It would eliminate property taxes from education funding, increase the per pupil state aid allocation from $5,124 to $7,500 and remove formula components that end up funding some districts at a greater rate than others. It would take effect in 2014, but the changes and their costs could be phased in over time as new revenue is generated.

A companion, SF2819, sponsored by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.