Chairwoman Sondra Erickson presents the House education reform bill

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

House Education Reform Committee Chairwoman Sondra Erickson presented her committee’s omnibus K-12 education reform bill today (Thursday, April 28), with one Democratic committee member charging one provision smacked of states’ rights.

The provision would prohibit the education commissioner from adopting common core educational standards in any subject and school year developed with the  participation of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

According to the Common Core website, some 42 states — Minnesota not being one — have adopted common core standards, which are lauded as reflecting the most advanced educational thinking.

Common Core is coordinated by the National Governors Association, an organization former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty was active in.

Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, faulted the inclusion of the core provision into the bill, as the reform committee had not previously debated it. “This one, members, is a humongous issue,” she said.

Erickson conceded the provision had not been vetted by the committee — she added it, she explained, because the Senate had included it in its education bill.

“That’s even worse,” Greiling said of the reasoning.

Greiling spoke of a “critical mass” of research and experience being available by joining with other states in developing standards, a sentiment shared by other Democrats.

Democrats argued the state would not be bound to lesser standards by participating — it could adopt higher standards if seen fit.

Rep. John Benson, DFL-Minnetonka, suggested the core provision fit into a Republican “nullification” mentality afoot in the Legislature, one fearing the “evil” federal government or other states imposing their will onto Minnesota.

But Erickson argued the focus in Minnesota should be on education standards honed locally. “We take pride in the adoption of local standards,” she said.

Speaking after the committee hearing, Erickson indicated that placing the core provision in the bill would help move the bill through the process.

Beyond this, it provided another bargaining chip in eventual negotiations with the administration, she indicated.

Committee members offered a series of amendments in committee — some sticking, some not.

Greiling attempted to amend the bill to soften a provision, authored by Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, that prohibits public and charter schools from promoting third graders who fail to show grade-level reading proficiency on the statewide reading test.

The Greiling amendment was voted down.

Erickson’s committee is expected to further debate the reform bill before taking a final vote.

Erickson indicated the legislation could hit the House floor late next week.

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