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by Taylor Nachtigal in the Rochester Post-Bulletin on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

While this year’s Minnesota Legislative session is expected to focus on taxes, transportation and bonding, education groups are still hoping to push their agendas through during the 10-week session.

Topping the list for Southeast Minnesota are early childhood education, hopes for more clarity for teacher licensure and internet access for rural communities.

Rochester Public Schools:

District leaders said they’d be supportive of all day pre-K, but that legislators would need to consider extra facilities funding if they were to pass any sort of legislation, The requirement would require extra space to house the children.

  • Reduction in state testing requirements.
  • Funding for special education programs.
  • Increasing the local option revenue amount at the same pace as inflation. This is money that the district can levy without voter approval.
  • More facilities funding for building and capital improvements. The district said it hasn’t seen a major boost in this for some time.
  • Funding for Q Comp, a program that provides the district with funds for professional development and teacher evaluation, among other things.
  • Additional funding to help pay for teacher tuition to keep up with a concurrent enrollment instructor requirement change by the Higher Learning Commission.

Southeast Service Cooperative:

Districts from across Southeast Minnesota made their pitches to legislators in February and decided on a few broad key initiatives that the region should focus on.

  • Early childhood education. In addition to funding for facilities if all-day pre-K were mandated, educators also talked scholarship money for programs and a shortage of licensed teachers.
  • Funding for Internet access in Southeast Minnesota’s rural communities.


The education advocacy group hopes to focus on student data to get a better, more accurate picture, of how students are “learning and growing.”

“To empower educators, policymakers and families to advocate for more tailored supports for student groups with diverse assets and needs.

  • Improve school discipline policies to close racial disparities.
  • Create and expand alternative certification options for teachers to fill shortages and diversify the education workforce.
  • Improve teacher licensure for experienced out-of-state educators.
  • Investment in “parent-directed” early learning opportunities, focused on low-income children.

Board of Teaching:

The BoT, a state organization responsible for “maintaining teacher licensure standards and requirements,” was recently audited, revealing flaws in the state’s teacher licensure requirements. The Office of the Legislative Auditor advised changes should be made to the way the board of teaching operates and put into legislation.

Other things the board is considering:

  • Adopt policies focused on teacher supply and demand to address the teacher shortage in many areas, like a creating a centralized job bank and getting teachers to rural areas.
  • The BoT hopes to get additional staffing and IT funding for its operations.
  • Clarify teacher licensure policies.
  • Recruit teachers of color to districts.


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