Friday, June 3, 2011

Mediator may be called in for budget talks; U.S. Congress works on budget; No Child Left Behind discussed; Citizen League wants your opinion

No budget deal yet

As Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leadership look to a special session to set the budget for the 2012-2013 biennium, the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy met yesterday to hold public conversations about the status of the state budget. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans were asked to speak in front of the panel, but Dayton called the hearing "political theater," and said they would not appear before the commission as requested. Republicans expressed disappointment in their absence. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said she expects the commission to meet again next Tuesday and will once again invite the two commissioners.

Meanwhile, Dayton has said a third-party mediator may be needed to end the budget impasse, but Republican leaders have rejected that idea. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said they were elected to lead. Koch said she remains optimistic that they can reach agreement before July 1.

Gov. Dayton and Republican leaders met earlier today to talk about the budget and begin negotiations to set the stage for a special session, and both sides called it productive. The deadline leaders are now working against is June 30, the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Both parties have said they agreed to meetings beginning next week. Koch said the scheduled meetings call for a budget agreement by June 21 and a special session starting June 27; however, Dayton said he won't call a special session until there's a deal.

Congress working to set fiscal year 2012 budget

The U.S. House of Representatives has been working hard to pass all 12 fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills, and so far the Homeland Security bill and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill have passed the full House. Four other spending bills; Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, Defense, and Agriculture have passed their respective House subcommittees and are awaiting action by the full Appropriations Committee and will then move to the House floor. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education bill is still awaiting action. The Senate appropriations subcommittees, while holding hearings, have not started marking up the bills yet. The Senate has been on recess this week while the House was in session. The House is scheduled to recess this coming week, starting June 6.

U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan visits Minnesota

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Minnesota this week to discuss education, specifically the No Child Left Behind law. Duncan said the law is too punitive. "We simply can't continue to have the law on the books as an impediment to progress, this impediment to rewarding excellence. We're pushing Congress to act with greater urgency than you normally see," Duncan said. He said President Obama would like to have a new education law in place by the new school year this fall. Sec. Duncan also reflected upon the need for higher education providers to certify that standards required for high school graduation truly reflect college ready requirements and expectations.

Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Congressman John Kline, of the second district in Minnesota said about Duncan's visit, "I'm pleased Secretary Duncan will be in my home state of Minnesota (today) to discuss education. Our education system is in critical need of improvement, but we have all seen what can result when Congress hastily crafts sweeping legislation to meet an arbitrary deadline. The future success of America's students is far too important to risk on a flawed process. Instead of focusing on timelines and rhetoric, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is advancing a series of thoughtful reform initiatives that will address key areas for improvement in the nation's classrooms. Just last week, the committee approved the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act, which will streamline and simplify the federal role in education…It is time to set preconceived notions aside and chart a new course that encourages innovation, reduces federal regulatory burdens, and puts the needs of students first. We look forward to working with the administration and the Senate in this effort."

Citizens League higher education study

The Citizens League, which involves citizens in studying public issues and developing policy solutions at the state and local levels, has published the first phase of its higher education study in the Minnesota Journal.

"Higher education-education beyond high school-is integral to the fabric of our nation and our state. In Minnesota, higher education has produced visionary and entrepreneurial leadership, productive workers, world-class research, engaged and active citizens, and increased equality and opportunity for many of our citizens. But there is growing concern that Minnesota’s higher education system is failing to deliver the outcomes-the educated workforce and informed citizenry-our state needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our system of higher education is challenged by rising tuition and costs, students arriving unprepared for the academic demands of college, a growing workforce demand for post-secondary skills, and the loss of our graduates’ competitive edge in the global economy. As these pressures mount, we can no longer afford to ask should something be done. It is essential that we ask, and answer, not only what should be done and how, but why."

The May/June 2011 Minnesota Journal publication can be found here.

Performance based funding in public higher education financing

States around the country, including Minnesota, are grappling with budget deficits and cuts to public higher education. At the same time, there has been an increased value on human capital for economic security, which has led to President Obama's goal of leading the world in the proportion of college graduates by 2020. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has released the latest installment from its Policy Matters series entitled; Performance-Based Funding: A Re-emerging Strategy in Public Higher Education Financing. The policy brief looks at performance-based funding as one means of improving institutional effectiveness. The complete brief can be found here.