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Waiting for the governor’s final grade

Published (4/27/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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Rep. Pat Garofalo, standing, discusses his bill on the House floor April 23. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)Changes related to veteran’s military pay, postsecondary enrollment options and payment to teachers charged with a felony are awaiting gubernatorial approval.

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista), the bill would require school districts to pay employee salary differential to those who have been deployed in the National Guard or other reserves. Funds remaining at the end of the year could be used to pay for substitutes for the deployed employees. Current law often results in partial payment to service members.

HF2949*/ SF2482 also seeks to expand postsecondary enrollment options, as well. Currently, high school juniors and seniors may take classes at certain colleges while still completing high school. The bill would extend PSEO to 10th grade students. If a student receives a “C” or better in the class, he or she would be able to take additional credits at the school.

Under bill provisions, teachers with felonies would also be impacted. Those under that type of investigation could be suspended without pay, pending the conclusion of a hearing. If the educator is found to be not guilty, he or she would be reinstated and repaid.

Proponents say this is necessary because it would authorize schools to withhold salaries from those who may be dangerous to students. Garofalo said this would allow more choices for all districts where an employee has been charged with a felony, instead of limiting that to cities of the first class, which are cities with 100,000 residents or more.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) praised the report’s approach to student testing as a measure of achievement. For the current and upcoming school years only, students who have not passed the basic skills test by the end of last school year may instead meet the requirement by retaking the math GRAD test, while continuing to complete graduation requirements in their schools. Mariani said this would positively affect a small group of struggling students, many of whom are immigrants.

“I think it is illustrative of our need to be much more multi-dimensional, much more flexible, much more fair, quite frankly, to our students,” he said.

The bill would also facilitate transportation and enrollment of homeless students. Under the bill, if a homeless student’s parent moves to another district, the student would still be allowed to attend class in the original district.

Districts would be responsible for the transportation of homeless students, even if their residence within the district cannot be verified.

Another part of the bill provides for an individualized learning agreement for districts that would allow schools to work with students to develop their own curriculum based on their unique interests and strengths.

A measure within the bill would allow charter schools to enter into two-year collaboration agreements with school districts to promote student learning.

A controversial section of the bill reserves $250,000 for a parent-child home program designed to help children obtain literacy skills. This measure generated debate in various committees and on the floor this session because it would draw that money from a fund already intended to be used for early childhood learning.

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