Friday, March 20, 2009

Budgets are released, P-16 discussed, Higher education-related bills heard

What the Governor and House budgets mean for the System
There is now more detail known for the Governor's revised budget. For the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system Gov. Pawlenty's revised budget is a base cut of $161.8 million for the 2010-11 biennium, about $15 million more than the $146 million cut he originally recommended back in January. The Governor has also recommended $133 million in one-time federal stimulus funds for the System.

The House released their budget targets yesterday and they have echoed the Governor's cuts; a $161.8 million cut to the system's base budget in 2010-11, with $133 million awarded to the system in federal stimulus funds. Moving into the next biennium of 2012-13, the Governor reverted back to his original cut of $146 million for an annual system budget of $608.597 million. The House on the other hand, leaves the base higher than the Governor at $656.597 million. So compared to what was forecast, the House is recommending a cut of $50 million to the system in 2012-13.

The House budget plan also calls for $1.5 billion in new revenue. Speaker Margaret Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said the House Taxes Committee would be coming forward with recommendations next week.

Senate takes up several P-16 related bills
The Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division met yesterday to take action on several bills, all of which were recommended for possible inclusion in the division's omnibus bill.

SF 851, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, establishes a Minnesota reading corps program and appropriates $1.7 million in FY 2010 and $1.7 million in FY 2011 from the general fund for the program. The reading corps program provides Americorps members with a data-based problem-solving model of reading instruction to use in training pre-kindergarten program providers and teachers with students in kindergarten through third grade, Saltzman said.

Another bill, SF 866, also sponsored by Sen. Saltzman clarifies the definition of comprehensive scientifically based reading instruction and creates additional requirements for teacher licensure. The bill requires an individual to complete and pass a reading instruction assessment before receiving an initial teaching license to teach students in pre-kindergarten or elementary programs, Saltzman said.

SF 1342, carried by Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, creates an alternative teacher preparation program and a resident teacher license for qualified nontraditional candidates. Matt Kramer, president and chief program officer, Teach for America, said the bill allows Teach for America students to teach in the state of Minnesota. This is beneficial for the state of Minnesota, he said, because after a student finishes the two-year Teach for America program, he or she may be more likely to stay in Minnesota and continue teaching here.

Senate Higher Education committee hears about oral health practitioners, credit caps and occupational programs
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division head a bill that establishes a mid-level oral health practitioner. SF 1106, authored by Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, establishes licensure and practice limitations for an oral health practitioner and a dental therapist. Lynch said the aim of the bill is to increase access to dental health services in underserved areas. The bill includes two tracks for educational requirements, one through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and one through the University of Minnesota.

Metropolitan State University, in partnership with Normandale Community College, has developed a program for oral health practitioners said Dean Marilyn Leon, College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Metro State. Dean Patrick Lloyd, School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota, talked about the dental therapist program the University if working on developing.

Sen. Lynch emphasized that there are two models contained in the bill, but they are not competing models. She said there is such a great need for dental services that both models could address the needs. The bill was approved and advanced to the full Finance committee.

Also on the agenda in the Senate yesterday were the three bills relating to the maximum number of credits for baccalaureate and associate degrees in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, known to many as 60-120.

SF 644, authored by Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, allows the Board of Trustees to determine the credit requirements for the two degrees. Current law sets the maximum number of credits for a baccalaureate degree at 120 credits or the equivalent and the number of credits required for an associate degree at 60 credits or the equivalent. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

SF 579, sponsored by Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, also relates to the maximum credit issue. Lynch said the measure offers a different approach. The bill exempts an associate of applied science degree from the 60 credit limit. The bill was amended to exempt the AAS degree until July 2, 2012 from the 60 credit limit. The measure was approved and re-referred to the Rules and Administration Committee.

And the third bill, SF 972, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, allows waivers to the policy setting semester credit requirements. Erickson Ropes said the measure allows the board to provide a process for granting waivers for emerging and innovative programs and programs of special merit or need. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

Committee members also heard a review of the system's occupational programs by the Office of the Legislative Auditor. Jody Hauer, program evaluator, Office of the Legislative Auditor, said the state colleges respond well to economic conditions and workforce needs, but they also need to more routinely assess job prospects for their occupational program graduates. Hauer said colleges rely heavily on program advisory committees to identify employer needs, but not all committees work effectively.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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