Friday night on Almanac, former Rep. Karla Bigham said that this DFL legislature would be known as the education legislature. If she meant that the DFL legislature marched to the orders of Education Minnesota, she’s certainly right. If she meant that this DFL legislature improved educational outcomes, Rep. Bigham couldn’t be further from the truth.
Throwing more money into a broken system isn’t an accomplishment. And, yes, it’s a broken system. In 2011, the GOP legislature included a provision requiring teachers to pass a basic skills test to teach high school math and science in their education omnibus bill. A year later, teachers were given waivers because they couldn’t pass the test. That meant teachers kept teaching even though they couldn’t meet the most important requirement for a teacher to meet.
These inept teachers won’t flunk the basic skills test thanks to the DFL legislature. It isn’t because they suddenly became better teachers. That’s because the DFL legislature repealed the law this year. They didn’t fix the problem. Instead, they voted to hide the problem. Sort of.
When students graduate that aren’t grade proficient, people will notice. Mostly, moms and minorities will notice. Then they’ll get upset.
Education Minnesota insists on anti-accountability policies. Here’s what their new president said:
Denise Specht, the new president, opposes Teach for America. Said Specht, “When you have somebody on your team that you’re worried about whether they’re prepared or whether they have the tools that are necessary to do well, that’s a concern for everyone.”
For the record, Specht opposes making it easier for schools to fire unqualified teachers. That’s why they lobbied hard to repeal the basic skills test.
Predictably, the DFL legislature gave Education Minnesota exactly what they wanted.
That isn’t the only thing the “Education Legislature” did this session. They gave us this gem of a policy:
Under the new laws, all Minnesota public school boards can collect up to $300 per student without a referendum.
Previously, most of the money districts wanted to collect in property taxes beyond its general tax levy had to be approved by voters.
In addition, the state is allowing districts outside the metro area with more than 2,000 students to collect an additional $212 without voter approval. St. Cloud would actually collect $585 per student in 2014, or about $6.8 million a year.
To continue to collect the full amount beyond 2014, when St. Cloud’s existing levy expires, the district would have to ask voters to renew the $73 per-student difference. That $73 is worth about $750,000 a year to St. Cloud school district.
It changes the landscape in several ways for St. Cloud. First, it’s easier to ask for renewal of $750,000 than $6.8 million. And second, if the vote fails, it is easier to sustain reductions of $750,000 than $6.8 million.
In other words, the legislature essentially gave school boards the authority to run levies on autopilot. Thanks to the DFL legislature, there’s virtually no accountability for school board budgets.
To summarize, this year’s DFL legislature voted to eliminate teacher accountability to the students and school district accountability to taxpayers.
If that’s the DFL’s definition of an “Education Legislature”, then Minnesotans should give the DFL this title: The best legislature that special interests can buy.