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Pooling resources program proposed

Published (3/2/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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A proposed pilot program would allow districts to pool resources, with increased student achievement in mind.

Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Sen. Al DeKruif (R-Madison Lake) sponsor HF755/ SF946*, which would establish a five-year pilot project managed by the Education Department. Groups of schools would apply for the program, with three to six selected to participate. The department would then monitor the project for successful results and recommend whether it should be continued.

The House Education Finance Committee laid the bill over Feb. 23 for possible improvements. It was passed 36-25 by the full Senate last year.

Erickson explained that this bill would give teachers an opportunity to try innovative ideas in the classroom.

“It is an opportunity to allow school districts to absolutely raise achievement and improve learning,” she said.

Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) said the bill is redundant, citing current statute that already allows for cross-school collaboration. He claimed that some districts, especially in Greater Minnesota, are already innovating on a cooperative level.

“I think they’d say, you know, we pretty much can do this now. … I hope we don’t throw up any barriers,” Anzelc said.

Erickson maintained the need for this bill, saying that previous education legislation is too restrictive and has produced a chilling effect in schools.

“(Educators) have signaled to me that, because we are such controllers of what they do, we need to give them a professional directive that they can,” Erickson said.

Kevin McHenry, government relations director for the department, said smaller districts would have a difficult time meeting the application deadline. McHenry said that larger districts have more resources, which gives them an advantage in applying for the program. Erickson refuted this claim.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) praised the bill, saying it addresses issues that face schools throughout Minnesota in a measurable way.

“It’s clearly a strong message from us, encouraging relationships and expanding opportunities in our state,” Mariani said.

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