Opt out of No Child Left Behind

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The House Finance Committee included in its larger omnibus bill a plan that would have the state say no to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

HF2475, sponsored by Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), was approved March 26 by the House K-12 Finance Division and the House Education Finance and Economic Competitiveness Finance Division, before being included March 27 in HF1812, a bill that includes all other supplemental budget bills.

The bill would, among other things, give districts a one-time award of $51 per pupil, which would come from the Quality Compensation for Teachers program, commonly known as Q Comp, as well as the state’s General Fund. Districts that have applied for the program will be unaffected, but districts will no longer be able to apply for the 2008-2009 school year.

“We really feel strongly that the Q Comp moneys should be untouched,” said Education Commissioner Alice Seagren, adding that it sends a mixed message.

Another one-time proposal would allow school districts to transfer $51 per pupil unit from their capital budgets to their undesignated general fund balance.

A controversial amendment brought forth by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and approved would end the state’s participation in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Garofalo said in the worst-case scenario where the federal government dropped funding, the state would still come out ahead because of the many unfunded mandates in the act.

Rep. Randy Demmer (R-Hayfield) said being the first state to opt out of the program might seem like a fun thing to do, but the issue was serious.

“Quite frankly, if I was the governor, this wouldn’t see much time on my desk,” Demmer said.

The bill would also authorize the education commissioner to enter into reciprocity agreements with adjoining states and extend a task force that was looking at special education requirements.

Other changes to the bill include: adoption of an amendment by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) that would make all data used to create summary data for the state’s report card non-public. An amendment that would keep the school start date after Labor Day was also approved.

A companion bill, SF2149, sponsored by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer), has been held over by the Senate E-12 Education Budget Division for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

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