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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sondra Erickson (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Sondra Erickson

Friday, March 17, 2017

 Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Yesterday, we passed a bill that repeals the “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) default in state statute for schools having to cut teachers. This means that each individual school board will be required to negotiate with teachers union representatives to determine the procedure from dealing with teacher cuts when they are required. If the end result is that school board and bargaining unit choose to have LIFO be the default for these cuts, that is fine; if that means that a host of other things are taken into account, like student learning outcomes, that is also acceptable. The bottom line is that school boards and teachers can now have that discussion.

This bill goes a long way in empowering educators and keeping effective teachers in the classroom. Quality teachers in the classroom have the greatest positive impact on student outcomes next to parental involvement. This legislation gives local school boards the ability to negotiate with the teachers union to determine what criteria they will follow in the event of personnel cuts; the choice should be up to each individual community and their teachers.

On Monday, we passed the Minnesota Premium Security Plan (HF5), which institutes a state-based reinsurance program. This structure would stabilize the cost of premiums by helping mitigate the impact of insuring individuals with the most substantial health concerns and those considered “high-risk” to insurance companies on the individual market. This will lower premiums by approximately 17-18%, and will make insurance companies more likely to provide coverage to individuals who need it most on the individual market. This bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 78-53.

Some of you may be aware of the controversy surrounding Perpich Center for Arts Education and the poor student outcomes and extremely high administrative spending at both of their schools. The Perpich Center received significant state funding, and there have been rumblings for several years regarding how funds were managed and low student test scores. The Office of the Legislative Auditor looked into Perpich’s spending and found a significant lack of oversight on the part of Perpich’s governing board, and significant losses in student enrollment. A bill I introduced, and is supported by Education Finance Chair Jennifer Loon, would close the Perpich Center and create a dedicated Department of Education specialist position to promote the arts in our schools.

In addition to its two schools, Perpich was created to be a resource for arts education in Minnesota and was intended to help spread arts education around our State. The Legislative Auditor found that these efforts were negligible and had minimal impact on our educational system. We do not need to pour additional state dollars into Perpich when this problem has gone unaddressed for years. The bill, HF1826, received a hearing in the Government Operations and Elections Policy, and has been referred to Education Finance. I believe this measure is the best way to invest valuable taxpayer dollars in actually improving arts education for our students.

I have mentioned previously a bill that I have chief authored a bill that would address the teacher shortage in our state. This bill, HF1663, allows districts, charters and nonprofits to create "Grow Your Own" teacher preparation programs to attract college graduates, mid-career professionals, and new citizens to our country. My goal is to provide a pathway that recruits, prepares and retains great teachers who have fulfilled all the same requirements in a regular teacher prep program while learning in a school setting and being taught by great teachers in the district or charter. This is one of my innovative ways to try to solve the teacher shortage. HF1663 has received hearing in my committee, Education Policy, as well as Government Operations and Elections Policy. It has been referred to Education Finance.

Thank you, and a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!