Your Humble Blogger is going to repeat what has become a truism over and over again in this space: The single most important agenda item at the state Capitol right now is the 2014 election.
Exhibit A: The fate of a modest proposal advanced by the education advocacy group MinnCAN to require that during their 10-week clinical training student teachers be placed with teachers who have been evaluated as effective.
Presuming, of course, that the implementation of teacher evaluations is not delayed, as per a vote last week by the Senate Education Committee. A bill that would put off implementation of the evaluations until the 2015-2016 school year was heard Thursday, despite not having been on the committee agenda.
By contrast, the student teacher proposal appears unlikely to get a hearing at all. It was twice raised in DFL caucuses in the House of Representatives only to be killed.
Champlin DFLer John Hoffman requested a hearing, but Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, chair of the same committee that heard the evaluation delay, declined to put it on the schedule.
Andover Republican Sen. Branden Petersen brought the measure up for consideration during discussion of the education omnibus bill, where it was voted down along party lines.
Among the arguments raised against it: That it was a backdoor punitive measure, presumably to punish teachers; and that taking on a student teacher can help a struggling teacher to perform better.
Student teachers, it is worth noting, pay a hefty fee for the opportunity to shadow a seasoned professional in the classroom. And the 10 weeks during which they’re getting that clinical experience they are not being paid elsewhere.
Also uncertain this year is the fate of a widely anticipated push to secure additional funds for early-childhood-education scholarships that are designed to help low-income families find and afford places in highly rated pre-K programs.
Last year lawmakers appropriated $40 million for the scholarship program over the biennium and imposed a cap of $5,000 per child per year. While early-ed advocates cheered the first meaningful funding for the program, they noted that the money would make only a small dent in the need and the caps would leave many families woefully short of meeting actual costs.
Gov. Mark Dayton was said to be interested in revisiting the scholarship funding if the state was running a budget surplus. The measure did not make it into the House omnibus package; it may still be taken up by the Senate.