Friday, March 4, 2011

Legislative Update 2/28-3/4

The much anticipated revised state budget forecast came out on Monday
morning, and Minnesota Management and Budget is projecting more than a billion dollar improvement from a $6.2 billion budget deficit to a
$5.028 billion deficit for the fiscal year 2012-2013 biennium.

Lawmakers and Gov. Dayton are still faced with a very large budget
problem, and disagree on how to resolve it. Republican legislative
leaders want to balance the budget through spending cuts, and Dayton is
proposing raising approximately $4 billion in revenue through an income
tax on the wealthy.

Also on Monday, five of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustee members were confirmed by the Senate Higher Education committee. The confirmation is to be taken up next by the full Senate. The trustees include: Duane Benson, Phil Krinkie, Alfredo Oliveira, Thomas Renier and Michael Vekich.

A six-member conference committee adopted a report yesterday on alternative pathways to becoming a licensed teacher after they reached consensus with Gov. Mark Dayton earlier. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week and send it to the governor for signature.

Under the measure, alternative licensure candidates who meet all criteria would be granted a two-year limited license, which the Board of Teaching may renew for an additional year. Candidates must have a 3.0 or higher grade-point average or a waiver from the Board; pass basic reading, writing and math skills exams; and obtain qualifying scores on board-approved content and pedagogy exams.

Opponents of the bill have said allowing teachers without traditional educational training, including 10 weeks of student teaching supervised by a licensed teacher, will compromise the quality of teaching.

In Washington, the U.S. House passed a continuing resolution yesterday by a vote of 335-91, that avoids a government shutdown for two weeks. With House Republicans approving a bill earlier that would cut $61 billion from programs and agency budgets over the remaining months of the 2011 fiscal year, the House needed to pass a continuing resolution with March 4 drawing near, that buys them more time given the strong opposition to the bill by the Democratic Senate and the President. Over the next two weeks, leaders in both the House and Senate, as well as the White House, will attempt to negotiate a bill that keeps government running through September 30.
Senate Higher Education committee members heard from students and faculty with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota on Wednesday about the role higher education plays in their lives and in Minnesota, and the impact of cuts to the two systems. Geoff Dittberner, Vice President of the Minnesota State College Student Association, said that without a strong Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, it would be impossible to meet the state's workforce needs, and he urged committee members to keep in mind the system's principles of access, opportunity and success; high quality learning; enhancing the global economic competitiveness; and innovating to meet educational needs.

Caitlin Stene, Vice Chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association, or MSUSA, told committee members that state university system students ask how they can push the system to be the most innovative in the nation, and the state cannot afford to restrict access to higher education. Chair of MSUSA, Andrew Spaeth, told members that the organization's 75,000 students would urge them to keep in the forefront of their minds that these students are the workforce of tomorrow.
The issue of credit transfer was once again a topic of the House Higher Education committee on Thursday with the presentation of HF 717. The bill author, Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said he introduced the bill to continue advancing the discussion of transfer and push well-intended institutions to move the issue forward. The bill requires the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to adopt a policy requiring colleges and universities to grant credit for a course that is taken for credit at any college or university in the system.

Following Abeler's presentation of the bill, Mike Lopez, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, spoke to the "Improving Transfer of Credit" report the system prepared in response to legislation from last session that required the system to develop and implement a plan to improve credit transfer within the system.

Lopez walked members through the Smart Transfer Plan which includes; establishing course outlines available on all college and university Web sites; e-Transcripts, which is an electronic transcript process for transfers within the system; a policy that clarifies that DARS and u.select databases are the official repository of course equivalencies between system colleges and universities; enhancements to the student appeals process, and information available to students; and continuous training for college and university staff who advise students in the area of transfer.

Chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association, Andrew Spaeth, told committee members that in coordination with the Office of the Chancellor, the student organizations completed a survey on transfer and continue to work together to make progress. Spaeth said the Board of Trustees has been involved and open to hearing students' concerns and recommendations regarding transfer. Travis Johnson, president of the Minnesota State College Student Association, said he appreciates that the issue of transfer has received attention from the Legislature and the Board of Trustees and he views transfer as an area for continuous improvement.

The bill was held over for possible consideration in the committee's omnibus bill.

Also, the House and Senate took up the alternative teacher licensure conference committee report on the floor. The Senate passed the report by a vote of 46-19, followed by the House vote of 81-50. Sponsor of the bill in the house, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said, "If there's one message from this bill it is this: This bill raises standards. The standards for alternatively licensed teachers will be higher than the standards that apply to traditionally licensed teachers." Lawmakers in opposition to the bill said the bill is too open and doesn't stipulate enough quality assurance. Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said she worries some alternative licensure programs will not hold high enough standards.
Gov. Dayton is expected to sign the bill early next week.
On Monday, the Senate Higher Ed Committee is hearing a bill that would require the MnSCU office to reduce all spending by 10% from current levels. This bill was authored by Sen. Miller from Winona.

No comments:

Post a Comment