Minn. K-12 Bill Ups Pupil Payments, Cuts Programs

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota House passed an education funding bill early Wednesday that increases per-pupil payments to public schools while also making major changes to how schools operate, including ending the current teacher tenure system and banning teacher strikes.

The Republican-sponsored bill passed 68-59 at about 2:45 a.m., after nearly six hours of sometimes contentious debate in which Democrats assured Republicans that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would veto the measure because it contains policy changes he doesn’t support.

The bill scraps teacher tenure for the state’s K-12 schools in favor of an evaluation-based approach that makes student test scores a major factor. It contains multiple curbs on teacher bargaining rights, including the strike ban. It also creates a system for grading schools that would award additional state funds to those that perform well.

The bill wades into another area of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats by granting vouchers to help low-income families at failing public schools pay for private educations. It also eliminates aid aimed at promoting racial integration in Twin Cities schools that have large minority populations, and freezes special education funds.

“There’s a lot of great reform in this bill, a lot of stuff we can be proud of,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, the bill’s sponsor. He said it “puts kids first — no excuses, no exceptions.”

House Democrats were uniform in their criticism, saying the bill’s cuts and policy changes would fall hardest on poorer districts. “There’s a lot of bad and ugly in it,” Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said of the bill.

In a letter to Garofalo, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said she and Dayton don’t support the legislation. She said they hope to find common ground with Republicans but that the bill passed early Wednesday is “inherently harmful to at-risk students.”

Cassellius said she and Dayton take issue with the special education freeze, the elimination of racial integration funding and the voucher provision. She wrote that they were troubled by the strike prohibition and the elimination of tenure, and said efforts to promote better teacher performance should be undertaken in a separate bill.

The K-12 education vote in the House capped a long day, night and early morning of debate in both the House and Senate on GOP-assembled budget bills. In addition to the K-12 bill, the House on Tuesday passed bills funding higher education and environment and natural resources programs; the Senate passed budget bills for higher education, environment and natural resources, and judiciary and public safety.

Dayton has said he won’t sign any budget bills until he and Republican legislative leaders come to an overall agreement on the level of state taxes and spending to erase a projected $5 billion state budget shortfall. While the Republican plans would avoid a state tax increase, Dayton wants to use an income tax hike on the state’s top earners to help cover the shortfall.

The House and Senate higher education packages, while not identical, both slice into aid to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The Senate bill passed by a vote of 37-27 while the House version passed 69-60.

University of Minnesota officials predicted the Senate bill would cost them about $243 million in state aid, a bigger cut than the House or Dayton sought. Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, warned that the reduction would be “economically devastating” to the university and reverberate throughout the state’s economy.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, acknowledged that potential cuts to individual campuses “sound like large amounts of money” but said they were relatively small in relation to the entire campus budgets. Fischbach said the reductions “will not cut so deep that they put the universities out of business,” dismissing comments by Democrats that the proposal could force some smaller state schools to close.

The House bill would cut about $320 million from both systems combined. Both the House and Senate higher education bills contain a provision that would ban state funding and some federal funding from being used for human cloning.

Later Wednesday, the Senate planned to take up budget bills for health and human services and state government agencies while the House was scheduled to debate an agriculture budget bill.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Karl Klint

    So education policy is again “fixed” by ignoring the real issue within education: The fact that teaching to the test programs (such as No Child Left Behind) does force teachers to teach information, but not critical thinking skills – and now Republican leaders believe that removing tenure-rights will ensure better teaching? Again, political agendas and the need for “right-this-moment-results” ignores the fact that learning does not happen at one speed… and that teach-to-the-test administration weakens education and creates average teachers out of great educators :/

    • Mike

      I think it is fantastic, You mean teachers will now be evaluated based on how well they actually teach? Amazing! Welcome to the rest of the world.

      • Anna Bonderson

        Right – let’s compare ourselves to countries that do not educate all of their children (US is only one of two countries in the world that guarantees educations for all children up to age 21 no matter his/her abiliites or disabilities) of have homogenous societies (Finland? How many non-native Finish students do you think are there?).
        I am a high school math teacher and if this legislation is truely what it seems to be I only want classes filled with children from two-parent stable families who care enough about education to encourage and help their children. Oh, and please make sure the parents are also college-educated fully employed? Wouldn’t want unemployment strains to distract my students. HOw about only native English-speakers, too?
        Instead, my classroom is a rainbow of talents and abilities. I love my job – love my students – and work hard. I research best-practice techniques and put in a minimum of 60 hours per week to make sure I’m delivering the best to my students. But, I cannot control what goes on at home. I check homework on a regular basis and find that less than 50% of the students even attempted any of the homework. When asked why, the students responds “I don’t do homework.” With only 48 minutes in a class filled with MCA review (have to review those basic prealgebra, algebra, and geometry topics from the last 3 years of school), review of the previous day’s concepts, and discussion of the new concepts, most of the practice and cementing of the knowledge occurs OUTSIDE of the classroom walls. Just like it does in college. WILL YOU MAKE SURE THE STUDENTS WORK AT HOME ON HIS/HER practice problems????
        As for the MCA tests – the students don’t care because there are no rewards or consequences to their performances. DO YOU KNOW that it doesn’t matter to the high school student or whether or not he/she passes the 11th – grade mathematics achievement test? IF they fail – they just have to retake it 3 times – and fail it 3 times to receive a high school diploma? HOW DO YOU INSTILL THE DESIRE TO LEARN when the students see no point? In my classroom I bring in real-world applications and examples. I’ve had engineers come in and work with my students. I’m available before and after school EVERY DAY for help and I still only see the same 5 or 6 students who care enough to participate in their learning (out of 140 students).
        MAYBE we should give tax incentives to families and the community to support and celebrate student achievement – much like the front page accolades of our star football and hockey teams?

      • SB

        Dido Mike! Time to end social promotion at a levels in the classroom.

        • M B

          If you can’t even spell “Ditto”, you are a great example of what our system fails at. Please don’t get all touchy and say I shouldn’t criticize someone’s communication skills. If you can’t effectively communicate, how do you expect anyone to take you seriously?

          I actually encourage the removal of tenure. HOWEVER, basing their performance on test scores only encourages them to make the tests really easy so everyone passes. That provides no challenge for the students, and they come out of school with a lesser education than they otherwise would. Basing their pay on this is just the legislature’s way of saying “We are too lazy to come up with a better way to evaluate them.” The only way this would work is if the government provided standardized tests, and not just easy ones. I’ll be the Republicans didn’t anticipate THAT little expenditure, did they?

          Also, trying to take away their rights as a union isn’t going to help matters. Take away their rights to strike? Seriously? How about you just go the rest of the way and put a Tazer collar on them and zap them every time you think they misbehave? (I’m actually waiting for someone to say that we really should, just to prove how far our society has fallen)

          I KNEW that once Wisconsin got away with it, the rest of the Republicans would be frothing at the bit to replicate it here.

      • Michael

        Unfortunately the teachers will just make the tests easy if lower grades hurt them. Real bad idea.

        • steve

          Mike, SB, and Michael. Obviously, none of you have any idea whatsoever about how a classroom is run. Spend a week in a school, visiting all classrooms and then, maybe then, you can give your two bits on how educators should be evaluated. How do you pass a test in phy ed, art, music? Do you only reward the teachers who have the fittest students, the best musicians, the finest artists? Give me a break!!

        • Josh

          Idiot, the teachers don’t make those tests.

          Also, you’re basically punishing teachers based on where they work. A mediocre teacher in Eden Prairie is going to look better, on paper, than to a stellar teacher in Minneapolis, who will be at risk for losing their job. The point: why would anybody ever work hard in minneapolis, when they can look on ebay while they work in eden prairie- and be a hero.

    • This is okay!

      As someone who works for the public schools I support evaluations how they should have always been done! Based on how well we do our jobs! As with any position be it public or private there are great workers and not so great workers. Schools should have the ability to weed out not so great workers as do other businesses. Afterall, isn’t our business educating children? What could be more important and why wouldn’t you want the hardest workers working for your child?

      • steve

        THIS IS OKAY…Evaluations are fine, but basing a teachers job security on performance of student outcomes is a shallow view of the education system. All teachers don’t teach math or reading. Schools’ clientele across a district varies widely, let alone an entire state. Since you work in the schools, how do you suggest students are evaluated in elective courses such as art, band, choir, orchestra, phy ed, tech ed???? I notice you didn’t write that you “teach” in the schools.

        • This is Okay!~

          All right, I teach special ed-better? This would also be a difficult area to assess. I think there has to be a way to come up with evaluations that are not totally based on test scores. I agree with you in that way. I just think I have seen a few people “skating” after they got tenure and administration should be allowed to weed those individuals out. Most of us are hard working and love the kids we serve and would be open to trying most interventions and other approaches in order to see our kids succeed. I think again it’s all about cooperation on both sides and not seeing each other as the enemy. I definately know more great teachers than poor ones and I don’t think any of the good ones have anything to be afraid of!

  • mike

    How much time have these legislatures spent learning from the people that do the work? The teachers. I think they know best what works for the students. At least the good hard working ones do. How can someone not in the teaching profession write the rules for how it functions? What Karl wrote is exactly what my son has told me is the problem.






    • Josh

      They are being evaluated. But now, with this bill, if you have a roomful of students with learning disabilities you’ll be fired. The test doesn’t care if the students are living in poverty, have any parental support, if they even have a home (yes, there are homeless students in public school), if they have special needs…they just look at that and go “well. these numbers on this test are way different from the scores in affluent districts….must be a bad teacher…better get rid of them.

  • Another Bob

    So, we take money from the schools that need money and help and give it to the ones that don’t need it? How does this help.

    To fix the system parents need to be a larger part of the equation. A teacher that gets no support from the parents will not do as well.

    This is all heading to a voucher system so parents can send their children to a christian madrassa.

  • No GOP

    Another step in the establishment of feudalism in America – today the teachers, tomorrow the country. No real solutions. No understanding of the problems. Taking from those who need it and giving it to those who don’t. And above all, blaming teachers for the ills of society.

    How truly sad.

  • What is happening to MN education??

    Parents need to take responsibility for their child’s education! Teachers can only do so much at school, what happens at home is out of their control. Maybe parents need to stop all the extra activities in the evening and have a sit down family dinner and then do homework together.

    So, because parents are low income and go to a failing school (fix the school!) now they will be given a “free pass” to a private school? Does not seem right to me.

    I agree on the tenure part, however this is not right to place all the blame on the teachers. Districts are cutting budgets, cutting teachers and raising class sizes.

    The future of our state’s education is very questionable. I do not like the direction we are headed in MN. This is not the answer!

    Maybe parents should be evaluated on their parenting skills or lack thereof. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and help your kids in the evening with homework. Turn off the TV, have a family dinner at home not fast food on your way to another sporting event, and get your kids to bed early so they are well rested for school the next day. Be a parent!

  • Shejeawil

    Once again the republicans are showing their ignorance and/or their greed. It’s hard to know which is the leading motivator with these people.

    • Randy

      Ignorance/Greed? Are you kidding me? The Republicans are trying to balance a budget. If you think School Teachers are the only ones affected you have had your head in the sand way too long. Take a look around you, the whole economy is crumbling and all you care about are your “rights” as a school teacher you are another misinformed Democrat.

      • What's the real agenda?

        Really, Randy? Do you have any idea how much money is wasted through the implementation of these useless tests? What does teacher tenure have to do with balancing the budget? Clearly, the Republicans have a different agenda and they are hiding behind the deficit in order to implement it.

    • Scott

      You are just an upset teacher that can no longer skate by collecting tax payer dollars just because you have been there longer than anyone else. Cry me a river and welcome to the reast of the world – where people are evaluated on their performances at work. You teach math? They better test above standardized marks at the end of the year or that teacher didn’t do their job.

      • ?

        Who determines those standardized marks? There is a huge problem.

      • Irv

        So Scott, every test you took at school was directly related to your teacher, or did your parents have anything to do with it. What would your parents say if you came home with a F. We have many parents who don’t care about the grade of their child and hence the child doesn’t care either. How do you get that student to do well if they and their parents don’t care. Get rid of the teacher? Thats like firing the dentist becasue the parents let their child eat candy all day and never makes them brush their teeth.
        Further more, all this creates is a teach to a test society. Do we value business ed, tech ed, phy ed, music or art. If you say they have no value I hope you don’t rely on a mechanic, nurse, accountant, electrician or listen to music or watch football. That would make you a real hypocrit which I’m sure you’re not.

      • Socrates


        Your ignorance is staggering. Standardized tests promote robotic, non imaginative “learning”. Teachers have no control over the raw material that walk in to their classroom and far too many of them are damaged goods to start with. In order to make chicken pie, you need to start with some chicken – too many kids are still at the egg stage, and some are cracked. Like you Scott.

  • Roger

    Would you go to college and incur a large student loan to get a teaching job without any stability? That’s what the tenure cut is about. We’re already losing our lead in math and science to China.
    All forward progress starts with the first grade. The teachers I know are asked to teach too many tests and forced to put in 10-12 hour days. We are losing our new supply of professional teachers and need to correct this or slither down the abyss to a much lower world standard.

    • Randy

      Roger, what do you mean by “Stability”? Guarantee? No one should be guaranteed a job when there job is supported and paid for by the taxpayers of Minnesota.

      • M B

        Ahhh, yes. That argument. Then do you suggest that we make it so that the cheapest teachers with the least qualifications are the ones that are going to be hired? Do you think that is going to do us any good? Do you think that the children are going to get a decent education when the teachers are underpaid drones who feel under appreciated, like most of American workers already do?

        We pay more for them and give them better benefits because we expect more from them.

        Would you like an underpaid civil engineer hired by the state designing the bridges you drive across? Thought not.

        Since you apparently don’t actually KNOW any teachers and how much time they put in during a regular day, I’d surmise you don’t actually know the subject you’re criticizing, other than the fact that you don’t agree with it.

        • sabrina

          I like you, MB!!

        • Randy

          M B

          I never suggested that teachers make less money. I am simply suggesting that a job performance review by your peers and administration on a regular basis should not be ignored because of Tenure.

          • Nica

            Teachers are already evaluated by their administrators – including the teachers with tenure. Most tenured teachers are evaluated every 2 -3 years. If a teacher is not doing their job every administrator has steps they can take to fire the teacher. In most cases that would involve the teacher and the administrator making an improvement plan followed by further evaluation. If the teacher does not improve they can be dismissed. Some districts may have other steps involved but this is basically how most contracts are set up.

  • a public & private school teacher

    All Minnesotans pay taxes, so the voucher system gives the money back to the parents to use as the see fit. Maybe that’s the answer to all the problems with education in Minnesota!!


    As a teacher myself I am often asked the question as it relates to NCLB and now this bill which would provide more money to schools who have higher test scores…”does punishing schools really help them improve? I always answer that question with a question of my own. Does punishing students help them improve? The answer is rhetorical because anyone knows, sending a kid to the principals office does not curb the reasoning for their behavior or simply failing a student who turned in bad work doesnt fix the problem that he or she is having understanding the material.

    It involves communication, find out what is not working, help that student as best you can…the last thing you do is punish the student by eliminating resources that they need to do well. However, when it comes to schools as a whole, often times politicians many of which have not stepped foot in a classroom since they were students and NEVER in a teaching role make broad brush stroke decisions which punish schools for low test scores and oddly enough provide more resources and capital to schools that are already doing well most of which can be found in well financed suburbs where districts are doing ok and making ends meet.

    One more comment on the vouchers. My school has a large number of EBD (Emotional Behavior Disorder) and handicapped students some of which have outbursts, trouble communicating, and others which require computers to help them communicate. These kids are intelligent and are mainstreamed into “normal” classrooms….will Hill Murray, St. Thomas and others accept THESE students if they are presented with vouchers?!?!?!?!!? they dont fit their mold and I am not sure those private schools have the specialists or resources to deal with students such as these so if not….where do they go? That’s a question that is being avoided, but not surprisingly….because this is not about people or students, this is about money plain and simple.

  • Ben

    As a current college student, and recent high school student, I had the privileged of going through NCLB for a few years. Its a joke, and I can remember many of my teachers talking about how bad and pointless it was. Anyway when teachers are evaluated by test scores, everybody loses. The teachers will only teach material the students need to pass the tests, no critical thinking skills or real meaningful knowledge is taught. The simple fact is not every child will be where the government thinks they should be, while obviously they should not be ignored in the class room, teachers should not be punished because a few of their students are struggling to grasp everything that is taught of them.

    4 years ago we had one of those standardize tests; the entire two weeks leading up to it was spent on material on the test. No in class learning,no new material learned or skills applied, just working towards the test.
    If that sounds like the best education in the world, you need to be reevaluated.

  • ask4j

    This is really sad–reflections of Madison Wis. There is a movement out there folks and it is NOT to our, the majority’s, advantage. We need to FIGHT for our education.

  • Maja

    I’ve been a teacher for 18 years; here are just a few problems with what is being proposed: Many teachers do not teach what the subjects tested. I am a special education teacher for 18-21 year old students, who are not required to take the tests. Physical Education teachers do not teach what is tested, nor do those who teach social studies, art, music, foreign languages, etc. In addition to that, we are doing our best with those students who have not had enough sleep; are coming to school tired; have little or no family support; are dealing with parents who are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs; etc. We must first address the basic needs of our students before we can educate them. This is NOT an educational issue, it is a social issue. True – our education system is not ideal and it needs some adjustment, but blaming the teachers is not the answer. To put it in perspective, do we blame doctors for patients who die from obesity, alcoholism or lung cancer? Do we blame parole officers when their clients reoffend and are put back in jail? Do we blame priests when members of their congregation sin? It just does not make sense. By the way, for those of you who are concerned with the time I am spending on this message, I am typing this during my lunch time (I would say lunch hour, but that would be a lie – today I get just 10 minutes, and tomorrow I will not have a lunch break, even though my contract “guarantees” it)>

  • MikeyD

    One thing that keeps going unmentioned is the problem of rewarding high scoring schools. It sounds good in theory but I have taught in a very low achieving school and now teach in one of the highest achieving schools. The main difference in these schools is the parent involvement and the parent’s education. Do not misinterpret this to be a rip on the low achieving schools, many of those parents are highly educated also, the percentage in a lot of cases is less however in my experience. There are hundreds of excellent teachers in low achieving schools that teach in the situations they do because they do want to make an impact. If the test scores don’t reflect that is not usually due to the teachers failure, rather it is a combination of lack of interest by the student and often a lack of interest by the parents(It is EXTREMELY difficult to get disinterested parents involved). If this bill is passed untouched you will have many of the best teachers(especially the young ones) leave these lower testing schools for the districts that have the high scores, they will want the bonuses that the “Great” teachers are getting! The gap will only get greater and greater between achievement and I am scared to see how that will look in the long run. Think of yourself and your family in one of these low achieving districts that have the good teachers they have leave and see how you feel then. Some people simply cant move to the best situation.

    • whairhouse

      I am so torn on all of this. I have a child with Aspergers (Autism Spectrum), and we left traditional brick and mortar for online schooling years ago. His teachers are AMAZING because they worry less about budgets and more about reaching the student. But this has had it’s downfall as well. My child whom is already lacking in social skills is now isolated from the very place he would learn them most; among his peers. So do I take my current Honor Roll child and throw him into failing grades again so he can thrive socially? It’s a catch 22. I do believe that when we took the power of discipline away from the teachers (and parents) we removed a lot of the ability to demand respect needed in order to maintain a learning environment. We have given children the upper hand and this is what needs to be changed. While I agree the teacher that once tied a child to his chair with a jumprope in my younger days was guilty of crossing the line, todays teachers shouldn’t be afraid to demand a respectful learning environment from their students. In our desire to become politically correct in the classrooms we have taken away (some of) the very things that made these teachers great.

  • Maya

    Teachers are already being evaluated by each district. The good part of this bill is an increase in per pupil spending. However, special education funding is federally mandated. Meaning that if they cut funds from special education, that money will need to come from the general fund. These are the things they don’t tell you in the bill.
    Also, in terms of teacher evaluation, of course this is happening. Teacher evaluation in Minnesota is already quite rigorous for non tenured teachers.
    Asking to base teacher performance on test scores is only going to lower the quality of education given to students. Our school system is lagging behind due to high stakes testing already. Teachers are already fired based on these scores.
    This is only going to alienate a field of people who are already in a highly political and scrutinized field of work.
    It will be interesting to see what test scores, college entrance exams, and future employers think when they ask a student to devise a plan and the only response the student will have is, “Well what are the options? A, B,C, or D?”
    Our world can not be educated based on a bubble sheet.

  • Bob

    The problem is we live in a country that now believes that someone else should always pay other peoples way. We now use referendums to get what we want for schools etc… I wish someone would pay my way.. I am all for teachers, but there has to be some standard and level at which they should follow. Teaching is not an easy job and they have my support, but tenure doesn’t make them good teachers. If they are not doing there job give them the tools if they are not doing it then find another profession. I’m a registered nurse if I do not do my job, I’m out start holding people accountable for the actions or inactions. If school administrator are not doing there job, get out.
    Make school about kids not about administrators and teachers

    • elisa

      There-refers to a place
      Their- refers to a group of people
      They’re- a contraction for they are

  • Bob

    Teaching starts at home, teachers should not be expected to do what parents are suppose to do. IShut off the TV, sit down to meal together put your kids first do homework together. Basicall y be involved with your childs life. Then and only then should we expect more from our schools and teachers.

    • Mr G

      You’re right Bob – teaching does start at home. We can’t hold a teachers livlihood at ransom waiting for all parents to put their children first. Teachers have a family to raise as well.

  • Tired Teacher

    We do make it about kids, Bob. It’s just the politicians and citizens who don’t know anything about the process keep telling us how to do our job. I don’t tell the pilot how to fly the plane, do you?

    And by the way, tenure is a guarantee of due process, nothing more. It is not a license to a lifetime job.

  • Mr G

    From what I understand, this bill proposes that teachers are measured by performance on test scores, student evals, parent evals, and administration.

    In Business world – you may take customer surveys – but your performance isn’t tied directly to the results. Only business decisions are made with the information – not performance appraisals. Second, there isn’t a single person in the business world that relies on a good eval FROM A CHILD to get a raise.

    Business world performance is based on your boss perception and your peers. And if you would all like teaching to be like the “real world” then the evaluations NEED to be from other teachers (the peers) and the Administration (the boss.) NOT parents, NOT children, and NOT test scores.

  • Tired Teacher

    Thank you, Mr. G.

  • I taught!!

    Being a reitred teacher, I am not really happy with the proposed law, however, it may actually make the administration do what they are paid to do. EVALUATE THEIR STAFF!!! By the way, for those of you that do not know, a teacher does not get any tenure until they recieve their 3rd contract. Prior to that they may be not renewed at the pleasure of the administration. If the administration does thier job I think that they should know if a teacher is any good by that time. If the teacher starts to fall off later, administration must document what they are doing wrong, then fire them. Let’s put the pressure on the administration where it belongs.
    Tenure was put in to protect a teacher from being fired for not giving the student of a school board member the grade that he thought should be given.
    There was really a reason for tenure.

  • Maya

    Thank you, Mr. G!!!

  • All in this together

    Thank you Mr. G for summarizing so well. I wish the news media could do as well!

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