The Minnesota House of Representatives will kick off the education portion of their “Reform 2.0” initiative as Representatives Andrea Kieffer and Branden Petersen present education reform bills on the House floor this week. Both bills are meant to improve Minnesota teachers by ensuring that Minnesota school districts are hiring and keeping effective teachers.
Representative Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury) sponsors House File 1770, which requires teacher candidates to pass the basic skills exam before being granted an initial teaching license.
“We all agree that we need to raise the bar for teacher candidates in order to solve the achievement gap,” Kieffer said. “Current law requires the basic skills test, but still allows teachers in the classroom even if they fail. This bill addresses concerns that teacher candidates should not be allowed into the classroom prior to passing the basic skills exam.”
The bill also requires teachers who completed their teacher preparation program outside Minnesota to pass the basic skills exam before being granted a Minnesota teaching license.
“The bill has received bi-partisan authorship in the House and Senate,” Kieffer said. “I look forward to continued bi-partisan progress as the legislation moves through the Senate and eventually to Governor Dayton’s desk.”
In an effort to keep effective teachers, Representative Branden Petersen (R-Andover) authored House File 1870, which would eliminate a Minnesota state statute that forces school districts to consider only seniority, and ignore performance, when unfortunate teacher layoffs (ULA) are required. This bill will allow school districts to consider a teacher’s subject matter, licensure fields and their effectiveness, along with seniority when facing personnel decisions.
House File 1870 would amend Minnesota Statutes 2010, sections 122A.40, subdivisions 1.5>10, 11; and 122A.41, subdivision 14 which mandate that school districts account only for teacher seniority in the case of unrequested leave of absence, discharge, and demotion decisions. Minnesota is one of only 11 states in the country that retains this work rule for teachers.
I believe this bill is an essential step in improving the performance of our teachers and school systems for the benefit of our students," said Petersen. "A question that must be asked in this discussion is, ‘How can ignoring a teacher’s performance during layoffs (ULA) benefit our students in the classroom?’ Considering the fact that we know teachers are the most important in-school factor relating to student learning, it is essential that we protect our highest performing teachers."
First Reform 2.0 Bills Pass the House
The House passed the first four bills of 2012 this year to kick off the jobs portion of the Reform 2.0 agenda. The bills focus on reforming Minnesota’s lawsuit system to streamline the process and rein in the costs of participating in lengthy and expensive lawsuits.
Lawsuit reform is one of the top concerns of 45 regional Chambers of Commerce and Trade Associations that together represent more than 58,000 employers in Minnesota. In addition to burdening businesses, unchecked lawsuit abuse is costing consumers billions of dollars nationwide in higher prices for consumer goods, higher insurance premiums, lost wages and lost productivity.
Video from the House Floor and detailed explanations of each bill are posted on the Reform 2.0 blog.
“LIFO” Reform Gains Steam
The push to end LIFO – the name given to so-called Last In/First Out policies that protect teachers with tenure seniority from layoffs – is growing.
The Duluth News Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press ran editorials last week pushing these and other education reforms. The bill to end LIFO received its first committee hearing this week and will have its second soon. You can track the bill – and all Reform 2.0 initiatives – on the Bill Tracker page of Reform2.mn
What Members Are Saying
Reform 2.0 will bring much needed common sense and competitiveness to government regulations. When a government is effective, it has the ability to save the taxpayers money. In Minnesota, our government is 20 years behind in streamlining government and the taxpayers are paying the price for that every day. Our reforms will reduce the size and cost of government, create much needed transparency in local government spending decisions, as well as equalize the pay and benefits between the private and public sector. More.
Many of our local businesses – the backbone of our economy – are having trouble creating jobs and investing in innovation. Businesses are hampered by fear of frivolous lawsuits and windfall verdicts that can lead to layoffs, decreased production, or shutdowns. These bills will serve to alleviate this anxiety, and I am hopeful that, just as has happened in other parts of the country, including the state of Texas, this lawsuit abuse reform will translate into more jobs and less expensive goods and services. More.
The Week Ahead
Property Tax and Local Tax Division will take up Rep. Greg Davids' property tax relief plan.
State Government Finance takes up Rep. Keith Downey's bill on state employee gainsharing.
Taxes takes up Rep. Jenifer Loon's Tax Reform Action Commission.
Jobs takes up Rep. Keith Downey's bill on the Angel Investor Tax Credit.
Visit the House website for a complete schedule of House activities.
From Representative Mike Benson, printed in the Rochester Post-Bulletin:
This session, Republicans in the Legislature have an agenda called Reform 2.0. It’s based on many ideas that were brought forward by Minnesotans at statewide listening sessions.
We’ve already heard many concerns opposing this type of change, but the status quo clearly isn't working.
In the past 20 years, Minnesota has gone from a leader in student reading score tests to the middle of the pack, and our achievement gap remains a problem. In an effort to give them the best education possible, don’t we owe it to our kids to reform our K-12 system and try some new ideas?
The House this week passed [four] lawsuit reform bills that will improve Minnesota's economic environment by making the lawsuit system more fair, swift and inline with competing states.
“Our reforms are the first step to creating a more competitive business climate that encourages businesses to stay and grow in Minnesota,” said Representative Doug Wardlow. “The reforms aim to improve fairness in litigation, leading to speedier resolutions, all the while decreasing costs and increasing financial certainty for businesses.”
The reforms include:
Senate File 530 lowers the prejudgment interest rate on awards and judgments from the current (and elevated) 10% flat rate to a market-driven rate with a floor of four percent.
Senate File 149 enacts class action lawsuit reforms, including the authorizing an appeal of right for the certification of a class action before expensive discovery costs are incurred. It also increases the conciliation court jurisdictional limit from $7,500 to $15,000 and raises the cap for consumer credit claims from $4,000 to $7,500.
Senate File 373 shortens Minnesota's general statute of limitations from six years (currently the longest in the country) to four years.
Senate File 429 requires courts to consider the reasonableness of attorney fees in relation to the amount of damages awarded, and the amount of damages sought compared to the amount of damages awarded.
In yesterday's Bemidji Pioneer, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce laid out its top measures the Legislature can pass to grow jobs, including:
Advocate legal reform on a variety of fronts including reducing the statute of limitations, addressing class-action litigation statutes and rules, and modifying how attorney fees are awarded.
That is exactly what these [four] bills aim to do. They are just the first in a series of bills in the Reform 2.0 agenda aimed at getting Minnesota back to work with a long-term focus.