Improving our Schools and Helping our Students Succeed

As the 2012 Legislative Session comes to a close, the House is pushing through the final bills of the year: taxes, bonding, stadium and pensions. In addition are proposals that will improve our schools and help our students succeed.

My bill to reform the schedule of payment of dues for school administrators not only requests payment on a fiscal year basis but also withholds licenses for school administrators who do not pay their $75 annual Board of School Administrators fee. Moreover, it allows the board to disapprove of preparation programs, not just approve.

Another important bill that passed would encourage school districts to better prepare students for their college and career aspirations. Among the provisions in this bill, districts would need to implement programs that would allow greater access to information on colleges and potential career paths to students and their families. This new law will affect students graduating in 2014 or later.

Another major reform could affect the land owned by our school children. When Minnesota was granted statehood, one section of land in each township was required to be set aside for the benefit of the school-age children. These lands were to be managed in such a way that they would generate financial benefit to our public school students.

This week the Legislature passed a bill that would shift the management of these lands from their current stewards, the Department of Natural Resources, to a newly appointed Director of School Trust Lands position. Revenues from these lands have waned over the last two years with income from forestry on the lands dropping 22 percent, and money transferred to the fund had dropped 84 percent.

Under the bill, the DNR would continue to manage the boots-on-the-ground work with the lands; however, the planning and fund management aspects would be delegated to the new appointee. This would provide a more focused effort toward maximizing revenues from these lands for the benefit of our students. This bill is currently awaiting approval by the Governor.

Another education bill that recently became law will give schools more flexibility to choose how they spend staff development dollars. This new law is a huge win for local control as schools will no longer have to make their budgetary decisions based on a government issued formula. It important that we recognize that every school in the state is different, and when we try to put them all in the same box, we limit their ability to individually succeed. This law will go into effect in July of this year.

Another great local control bill passed by the Legislature was vetoed by Governor Dayton this week. The bill would have clarified the requirements for enforcement of rules issued by the Department of Education. I am disappointed by the Governor’s veto of this bill because government agencies have gotten carried away on rule-making and this bill would have gone a long way toward preventing misunderstanding at the local level, especially in regard to rules for special needs programs.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on the legislative session.