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School innovation catalyzed

Published (4/10/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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The House K-12 Education Finance Division considered a proposal April 7 that would facilitate school innovation.

Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield) sponsors HF981, which would establish an appointed New Schools Minnesota commission to identify new school models; make recommendations to the governor, education commissioner and Legislature; and seek private and federal funding. The commission would collaborate with the Department of Education to review charter school applications for the federal charter school grant program and make recommendations for approval of the applications.

It would eventually become a separate organization similar to ServeMinnesota, which began more than a decade ago as a state commission on community service but spun off in 2002 as a nonprofit organization. ServeMinnesota coordinates several statewide programs involving AmeriCorps volunteers and others and is a conduit for private and federal funding to match state grants to its programs.

New Schools Minnesota could be a catalyst for education in the same way, Bly said, “set aside from government but still answerable to the Legislature.”

Assistant Education Commissioner Morgan Brown said New Schools Minnesota would be a good means of “breaking down silos in our public education system and getting more direct discussion and exchange between the district sector and the charter sector in terms of replicating high quality school models and effective practices.”

Bly intends his bill as a partner to HF751, sponsored by Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka), which would allow teachers to create “site-governed” district schools where they could implement their innovative ideas. Benson compared the concept to moving from a “factory model” of education to the professionalism of “forming a practice, like a law firm or doctor’s office.”

Both bills have been laid over for possible omnibus inclusion. Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury) sponsors their Senate companions, SF1037, which awaits action by the Senate Education Committee, and SF486, which awaits action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.

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