Senate E-12 Committee Approves Policy Bill

ST. PAUL, MINN – On Thursday the Senate E-12 Policy and Budget Committee nearly unanimously approved its Policy Bill and sent it to the Senate Floor. Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) says the bill has broad bipartisan support, and is a culmination of policy changes that will go a long way toward stemming teacher shortage problems and emphasizing more learning and less testing. Allowing for greater local control and flexibility in the school year, as well as enhanced training for special education teachers also mark highlights from this session’s policy bill.

“Working toward creating the World’s Best Workforce is always a primary goal of our committee. The Policy Bill irons out a lot of the bureaucratic issues teachers and districts have dealt with over the past few years,” said Sen. Wiger. “I’m especially proud of our work on teacher licensure and streamlining the process for out-of-state educators to come teach in Minnesota.”

The 110-page bill includes legislation individually chief authored by nearly all members of the DFL and Republican Senate committee members. Below is a summary of some of the key provisions in the bill.

Student Testing: With direction from Governor Dayton and The Minnesota Department of Education, the Senate includes a number of testing reductions with the goal of placing more emphasis on teaching, rather than teaching to a specific test. While the Senate proposes reducing state mandated tests by 1/3, secondary tests such as the ACT remain available. The reductions include:

• Eliminating math MCAs (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) for grades 3 and 4, but requires it in grades 5-8 and 11. Students will still receive intense instruction on math standards and teachers will continue to assess progress at the classroom level.
• Eliminating the reading MCA in grades 6 and 7 but requires it in grades 3-5, 8 and 10. This will allow schools to focus on early interventions and early literacy to ensure students are reading at proficiency levels.
• Repeals Educating Planning and Assessment System programs (Explore and PLAN tests)
• Eighth and 10th grade students will continue to take career interest surveys
• These testing reform changes are supported by several groups including Parents United and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA).

Teacher Licensure: The Senate has included several measures that will help ease the teacher shortage crisis affecting schools across the state, particularly in rural districts. These will extend the time frame for a temporary teacher license to four years, the extension in place is set to expire on June 30. The bill also includes several measures to simplify the process for out-of-state educators to gain a teaching license in Minnesota.

Special Education: There are a number of provisions included in the policy bill aimed at making sure all Minnesota students receive a quality education. Measures included in the bill will ensure para professionals will be better trained, will create a more seamless process for the transfer of special education student files, as well as the implementation of policies meant to reduce student suspensions.

Accountability: As part of preparing the World’s Best Workforce, Minnesota high schools are working to ensure students are college and career ready. To that end, the policy bill includes a requirement that schools have a posted policy on how teachers pass students on to the next grade level. Charter schools will also be required to give performance measurements for at-risk students.

Student Achievement: The Senate’s Policy Bill gives students the tools they need to succeed. These tools include allowing ninth and 10th grade students to enroll in concurrent enrollment programs, makes changes to the program, allowing high school students to receive credit for outstanding foreign language achievement, and adds more flexibility for students to fulfill their chemistry or physics requirements by allowing agriculture, or career and technical education credits to qualify. It also allows students to gain math credits by taking computer science courses.

Local Control: School districts need flexibility in order to make the best decisions for students in their communities. The policy bill includes measures to allow schools to start before Labor Day, as well as approves a flexible learning year program change.

Highlights from Governor’s Policy bill:
• Makes it easier for ELL high school students (English as a second language) to receive an English higher education credit.
• Requires programs participating in early learning scholarship programs to maintain records.
• Establishes composite career and college readiness marks in grades 5, 8 and high school which will predict performance on college entrance exam.
• Allows for American Indian students to be enrolled in all academic and targeted services.

Sen. Wiger says the Policy Bill represents a great deal of agreement among both parties and helps both metro and rural schools significantly by extending temporary teacher license to four years and by simplifying the process for out-of-state educators to start their teaching careers in Minnesota.

“This bill is thanks to significant collaboration by every member of the committee. I complement the members for their hard work and diligence on making this a solid bill that is in the best interest of Minnesota students,” said Wiger. “During committee this week we heard support from many groups, thanking us for streamlining teacher licensure, and for providing flexibility to school districts in a variety of areas. We are helping enhance academic achievement for kids beginning in pre-k through high school.”

Wiger adds he expects the Policy Bill will be taken up on the Senate Floor sometime following Easter break.

If you have questions or concerns on the Senate E-12 Omnibus Policy Bill, please contact Sen. Wiger at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn.

Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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