MSPA Session Wrap-Up
The 2017 Legislative Session came to a fairly abrupt end and some would argue with the pending lawsuit over the constitutionality of ploys used by both the Legislature and the Governor, we may not be done quite yet. I would guess that the dust has settled on education issues and I don’t foresee any major changes in funding in policy in the event a ruling by the Supreme Court would require the Legislature returning to session. The omnibus education and policy bill was very straightforward this year. Over three-quarters of the $483 million beyond the base in funding provided by the Legislature goes on the general education basic formula, which is increased by 2% in each of the next two years. The largest other new funding initiative came in the form of a new program labeled School Readiness Plus. This program is an extension of, but does not replace, the voluntary pre-kindergarten program enacted last year. The $50 million in this program will be targeted to school districts throughout Minnesota based on concentrations of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The early learning scholarship program was also increased by $20 million and the eligibility for scholarships is expanded down to birth.
The largest policy initiative is the creation of a new board to handle teacher licensure and standards issues. The current Board of Teaching will be eliminated on December 31, 2017, with the new board—named the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board—being established on January 1, 2018. The new board will be composed of 11 members, with a majority (6) composed of licensed educators. Of the six positions, at least one must come from a related service area licensed by the board (school psychologists, school social workers, school nurses, and school counselors). The remaining members of the board are as follows: one superintendent, one building principal, one school human resources director, one intermediate or cooperative director, and one member of the general public. I would urge any school psychologist interested in applying to visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s webpage and go to the Boards and Commissions tab at the top of the page. That will lead you to the open appointments page where you can get information on how to apply for one of the teacher positions on the board.
There wasn’t much in terms of new policy relating to school psychologists. Third-party reimbursement was expanded to allow payment for evaluation services performed by school psychologists and school social workers in trying to determine student eligibility for special education.
There was some discussion of the dyslexia issue and the final omnibus education funding and policy bill contains funding for a dyslexia specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education. There is also language in that requires that alternate instruction delivered to students not reading at grade level by grade three must be “multisensory, systematic, sequential, cumulative, and explicit” before they can be referred for special education. Districts are also encouraged, but not required, to develop personal learning plans for students not reading at grade level and these plans should ideally extend beyond third grade.
Just under $2.5 million in each of the next two years will be dedicated to increasing mental health services in the intermediate districts.
There is also a provision that will deal with the disaggregation of student testing data. Six roll-out sites to develop disaggregation methods will be selected in hopes of clearing up some of the issues related to the law passed in 2016.
I have enjoyed working with the school psychology community again this session. I always get the feedback I need when I need it. Never hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have about what happened in 2017 and what you would like to see happen in the future. I can be reached at 612-220- 7459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to all of you for the challenging work you do on behalf of students throughout Minnesota.