K-12 Education Omnibus & Educator Licensing Bills: VETOED

Spending on K-12 education was due to increase automatically by about $800 million next biennium; the GOP bill increased spending by an additional $300 million (to $1.1 billion) bringing the K-12 budget for the next biennium to a whopping $18.58 billion. But it wasn’t enough. Dayton vetoed the bill.

In a strongly worded veto letter, Governor Dayton confirmed one of his main education priorities remains a universal pre-kindergarten program (UPK) for all four-year-olds. This is essentially nursery care added to the K-12 mission and budget. The proposed bill eliminated Dayton’s pilot program but greatly increased programs for at-risk preschoolers—and flexibility for schools on how to spend those funds.

Last year, Dayton’s same obsessive push for UPK forced the Legislature into a special session. There is concern this will happen again if Dayton doesn’t get his way.

But helping our children achieve their full potential can be done without herding all four-year-olds into a government program. Instead, American Experiment agrees with the bill’s focus on early learning scholarships and other early learning programs like school readiness and privately funded Opportunity Scholarships (see tax bill). Access to high-quality early childhood programs will help close Minnesota’s troublesome opportunity gap.

Effective teachers also factor into a student’s success. But when school districts are forced to lay off teachers because of budget cuts or drops in student enrollment, seniority trumps effectiveness. Which means schools may not keep the most effective teachers in the classroom. The education bill eliminated the seniority-based system (known as “Last In, First Out”) and required school districts and the teachers union to negotiate locally how teachers would be laid off.  (Note: This only applies to school districts outside of first class cities; Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester.)

The House and Senate also passed a bill to overhaul Minnesota’s overly confusing and complex teacher licensing system. Despite passing both chambers with bipartisan support, the governor vetoed this proposal, as well.

Rep. Sondra Erickson and Sen. Eric Pratt—authors of the bill—responded to the governor’s veto:

“I am completely blindsided by Governor Dayton’s partisan veto of this absolutely essential teacher licensure reform bill,” said Rep. Sondra Erickson, Chair of the House Education Policy Committee and a former teacher with more than 30 years teaching experience. “This bill would have fixed a badly-broken teacher licensure system that simply could not continue if we mean to address the teacher-shortage crisis in our state. It was fully funded, had overwhelming support from education professionals around Minnesota, and presented common-sense reforms that clarified, and streamlined the process for qualified individuals wanting to become teachers. It is extremely disappointing that the Governor buckled to union bosses over helping our students and teachers.”

Sen. Eric Pratt added, “We worked hard to put politics aside when developing this bill, because licensing teachers shouldn’t be political. I am frustrated the governor chose to veto a non-partisan teacher licensing bill for partisan reasons, and give in to special interests, instead of standing with Minnesota school districts and students. The students are the ones who suffer when we close classrooms rather than allowing qualified experts teach their craft.”

To fix the licensing system’s accountability and transparency issues, the bill established a new entity to handle all teacher licensure responsibilities. It also proposed a four-tiered system to streamline the licensing process for qualified teachers trained in other states. The provisions in the Educator Licensing bill are long overdue steps toward solving the complicated teacher shortage hitting Minnesota.