May 31, 2017

An Unprecedented End of Session: What We Know (and What We Don’t)

Although the dust is still settling on the 2017 state legislative session, I wanted to provide a brief update on what we know, as well as what we don’t. It’s been a whirlwind of a session, with late nights, midnight deals, many vetoes, and hundreds of emails and phone calls to state leaders from advocates like you. At the end of the day, all of this work paid off in meaningful policy progress for Minnesota’s students, families, educators, and schools, including a long-awaited overhaul to our state’s broken teacher licensure system. Read on for more details, and sign your name here to show your support for badly needed changes to teacher licensure. No matter what comes next, it’s clear that there’s still work to do, and we’ll need educators and advocates working by our side.

WHAT WE KNOW

Yesterday, Gov. Dayton signed HF2, the omnibus education funding bill on which he and legislative leaders reached a negotiated agreement last week. You can read the full bill here, and below are several highlights about which we are especially excited.

Now that it’s signed into law, HF2 will:

  • Overhaul the state’s broken teacher licensure system, clarifying, streamlining, and, in some cases, raising standards to ensure that great educators have a fair path into Minnesota classrooms;
  • Create a state grant to support innovative alternative teacher preparation programs that open new pathways into the profession;
  • Fund a 2 percent per year increase in the per-pupil funding formula over the next two years;
  • Improve the 2016 All Kids Count Act, ensuring timely and proper implementation of the nation-leading law to disaggregate and cross-tabulate student achievement data by ethnic community and more;
  • Invest $20 million for targeted early learning scholarships, as well as $50 million for a new “School Readiness Plus” program, which will be available to both district and charter schools; and
  • Repeal the state’s default “last in, first out” layoff policy, empowering districts and unions to negotiate local policies to retain their best teachers.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

In his letter to legislative leaders, Gov. Dayton asked to “re-open and re-negotiate” the previously agreed-upon teacher licensure changes, along with several other non-education related issues. To force legislators back to the negotiating table, he line-item vetoed appropriations for the Legislature.

We don’t know exactly what will happen next. Per Blois Olson, a seasoned local politico, a few options seem most likely:

  1. Legislators and Gov. Dayton could come back to the table for a short special session, finding further room for compromise on teacher licensure and the other issues the governor raised in his letter to leadership.
  2. The Legislature takes the issue to court and challenges the governor’s attempt to defund their branch of government (a similar situation is currently playing out in New Mexico).
  3. Republicans don’t fight the governor’s funding veto and declare that they won’t meet for a legislative session in 2018. That would mean no supplemental budget and no bonding bill, neither of which is essential to the state’s ongoing operations.

ONE MORE THING WE KNOW

Although the fate of the licensure overhaul in HF2 is somewhat unclear, what we do know is that, whether or not the Legislature decides to negotiate further with Gov. Dayton, we will continue to advocate for a fair licensure system that creates clear, reasonable pathways to the licenses teachers deserve and the classrooms that need them.

Alongside advocates like you and educators across the state, we will continue to push for the preservation and proper implementation of the licensure changes in HF2 that will help get great teachers in front of Minnesota students.

We’ll need your support for the journey ahead—whether that’s in negotiations or implementation. Ready to join us for this work? Add your name to this petition, calling on the governor to support the current teacher licensure language in HF2.