School mandate reductions advance


Some provisions in a mandate reduction bill took the House Education Finance Committee down a path of debate on issues of teachers’ rights as union members and their relationship with school district management.

Committee Chairwoman Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) sponsors HF511, which contains a variety of provisions that would give school boards more flexibility on some spending and hiring decisions and would also lift a Jan. 15 contract deadline that Education Minnesota favors.

Approved by the committee the bill next goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. It has no Senate companion.

“We are really at a fundamental philosophical crossroads here. And I wouldn’t have expected that this conversation would start here but it’s certainly going to continue bubbling throughout the rest of the session,” said Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township), who spoke against some provisions he said would take power away from employees to make decisions that affect their future. He cautioned against a “one size fits all labor-management relationship.”

Those were a proposed repeal of the Jan. 15 teacher contract deadline and the $25 per pupil penalty imposed on districts where a contract isn’t signed by then; and a requirement that the school board identify vendors of 403 (b) retirement savings plan in which its employees would invest.

Among other mandates that would be lifted: the maintenance of effort requirement and set-aside of the Safe Schools Levy passed by the House as HF88, sponsored by Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono); a requirement that school boards of districts with a population less than 10,000 hire a licensed community education director; and for 2012 and 2013 only, the requirement that 2 percent of a district’s general revenue be used for staff development.

Other provisions would allow school boards to hold meetings via interactive technology with audio and visual links; require the education commissioner to receive legislative authority before making substantive special education rule changes and before adopting social studies standards revisions planned. The revisions would also be delayed a year until 2014-15 instead of 2013-14 as scheduled now.