Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: April 21, 2017

Week of April 16 – 23, 2017

Refining Educator Licensure, the Good and the Bad

A bill to revamp the state’s Board of Teaching and create a tiered educator licensing system was debated and passed off the floor of the Senate on Thursday, April 20. This language was also included in the E-12 education finance bill, but this version of it stands alone and separated from general funding measures.

While well-intentioned, this legislation seriously changes the alternative teacher preparation provider requirements, making it easier for an alternative program, such as Teach for America, to be established in Minnesota. I very supportive of getting young people into the teaching profession, however these changes could threaten teacher preparation quality. Concerns include elimination of student teaching requirement for alternative preparation candidates, mandatory teacher prep program approval with minimum educator standards, and removal of higher education partnership requirement. Additionally, there was nothing in the bill to make sure that young people stay in the profession once they are in it. (more…)

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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: April 21, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

After being on recess last week, we are back at the State Capitol for the final five weeks of the legislative session. With both the House and Senate passing their versions of the major budget bills, conference committees have been appointed to iron out the differences between them. Governor Dayton will also be very involved in the process as we seek to reach agreement on the final budget.

EDUCATION BILL

Wednesday, Sen. Steve Cwodzinski and I sat in on the conference committee for the Education Finance Bill. With each of us serving on our respective body’s Education Policy Committees, Steve and I are both quite interested in these deliberations. The House’s version of the finance bill underfunds our public schools. By not keeping pace with inflation, the bill essentially is a cut in funding which would result in possible teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and fewer resources for students. I hope the committee, with Gov. Dayton’s input, will reach a compromise that improves opportunities for all learners and gives our local schools the resources they need. (more…)

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It was a sad day for public education

The following column by Sen. Steve Cwodzinski was posted on the Eden Prairie News website April 19, 2017:

One of the saddest days of my teaching career was having to walk through the doors of Eden Prairie High School the day after the community defeated a referendum. The defeat told me that as a teacher, I wasn’t valued. That feeling permeated the classrooms of the school that week.

And, recently, that feeling has come back after seeing the lack of investments in the Senate education bill. While there were a lot of good items in the bill, such as language on suicide prevention and streamlining teacher licensure, I still chose to vote no.

Minnesota has historically valued public education — and the Legislature has put its money where its mouth is by making important investments that have helped our state achieve great things. Even our state constitution explicitly states that it is the duty of the Legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public education.

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Sen. Cwodzinski pens bill mandating high school civics courses

The following article by Sean Miner was posted on the Sun-Current website April 15, 2017:

Each Minnesota state legislator brings a unique set of experiences and proficiencies to St. Paul, and it’s not uncommon for a lawmaker to focus on what they know best.

In keeping with that, District 48 State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie) introduced a bill very much in his wheelhouse. The measure, which came before the Education Policy Committee and sent back for revisions, would mandate that all state public schools students take a certain number of credits in classes that teach civics.

Before embarking on his freshman term in the Senate, Cwodzinski taught primarily American government courses at Eden Prairie High School for more than three decades. He gleaned from that experience how valuable civics courses can be for high school students – particularly juniors and seniors. (more…)

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Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: April 7, 2017

Week of April 2nd – April 9th

A sad day for public education

One of the saddest days of my teaching career was having to walk through the doors of Eden Prairie High School the day after the community defeated a referendum. The defeat told me that as a teacher, I wasn’t valued. That feeling permeated the classrooms of the school that week.

And recently, that feeling has come back after seeing the lack of investments in the Senate education bill. While there were a lot of good items in the bill, such as language on suicide prevention and streamlining teacher licensure, I still chose to vote no. (more…)

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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: April 7, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

Discussion about the omnibus finance bills continues this week at the Legislature. In addition to carrying funding for various areas of the state budget, many of these bills contain controversial policy provisions as well, making for some contentious debates. However, there are many opportunities to find common ground on a bipartisan basis, and this week provided some of those.

Tuesday, the House passed the Omnibus Legacy Bill. The package funds initiatives in all parts of the state from constitutionally dedicated proceeds in areas including the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, Parks and Trails Fund and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. On the floor, we were also able to adopt an amendment increasing funding for the Dept. of Agriculture’s efforts to fight Emerald Ash Borer, which is a slow moving crisis in our state. If left unaddressed, this will cause the destruction of many trees in our communities, and their removal would leave a huge cost. (more…)

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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: March 30, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

Today we are starting to consider omnibus finance bills on the House Floor. These comprehensive bills cover each area of the state budget and will set the stage for final negotiations between the House, Senate, and Gov. Dayton. I’d like to give you an update on one of these, as well as discuss a couple of pieces of other legislation I’ve heard a great deal of feedback about.

Omnibus Environment Bills

One of these such omnibus bills we’re considering is the Environment and Natural Resources bill. Throughout this session I’ve heard from many of you the importance of protecting our air, water and natural resources. Unfortunately, this bill contains many provisions that put the health of our environment at risk. It rolls back Governor Dayton’s buffer initiative, which projects our drinking water from nitrates and phosphorous. Further, it guts the Environmental Quality Board policy, which since 1973 has created long-range plans and reviews proposed projects significantly influence Minnesota’s environment and development. (more…)

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Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: March 24, 2017

Evaluating the GOP Transportation Budget

Senate Republicans released their budget targets a week ago – which means everyone from the press to DFL senators and the public took time to pour over the numbers throughout the week.

The most startling observation comes from the transport budget, where a provision was included that barred any locality from funding a light rail project without legislative approval. The budget also completely removes any state investment in ongoing LRT costs. These provisons would effectively kill all light rail routes for as long as the GOP controls a single chamber in the legislature. Even if we could begin construction on Southwest LRT before enactment, localities could spend their own money on staffing and maintenance even if they could afford it. (more…)

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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: March 24, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

This week at the Legislature, we are seeing a shift from examining individual bills in committee, toward broader budget proposals. Here is an update from the Capitol.

Veterans Division

Some of the most important and bipartisan work done at the Legislature is the work done to make Minnesota a better home for veterans. Because of this, serving on the Veterans Affairs Division has been both an honor and a pleasure.  I learned of a major success story in our state which is how effective Minnesota has been in ending homelessness for veterans. We have not eliminated all homelessness, but Minnesota is among the leaders in the nation for meeting this goal. Two priorities that remain are addressing the unique mental health challenges of veterans and meeting the needs of the ever growing aging population. Many of the 42 bills we heard and advanced this session addressed these priorities. My thanks to Chair Bob Dettmer and our DFL lead Paul Rosenthal for their work and leadership. (more…)

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Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: March 17, 2017

Bill to Cut School Funding Based on MCA Participation Continues to Move Forward

Early Friday, the Senate Education Finance Committee heard a bill that will cut state funding to local school districts depending on how many of their students take the MCA. The bill was prompted by a massive number of student opt-outs, which is completely legal under state law. The intention of the bill is to get more students to take standardized tests so that we as a state can collect more data.

However, the bill has two major flaws. First, it can only serve to hinder student performance, giving no additional aid and only acting to punish local control. The second major problem is that this is not likely to actually serve its intended purpose. Most students are not aware of K-12 funding mechanisms, and will not be inspired to take standardized tests simply because their school would receive less funding.

I strongly opposed this bill in the Education Policy Committee last week, and I will oppose it again if it included as a provision in this year’s education budget.


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