…I would do it all over again and run for President of MASA in a flash! What a year it was. I would recommend each of you consider running for the presidency at some point in the future. Here are just a few reasons why:
MASA is an exceptional organization created to support all of us. The Executive Director is skilled, appreciates feedback, is inclusive and employs a staff dedicated to supporting MASA’s membership. Just ask, and you will find answers, advice, resources, and someone who listens and knows how to remain confidential. Thank you Gary, Mia, Deb, Dave, Stephanie, and Jeanna-you are all remarkable and have assisted me throughout my entire career along with my year as president!
You will have the good fortune to work in a different way with our colleagues who are engaged in exceptionally challenging positions, yet make time to advocate, build relationships, innovate, and most importantly take care of all of Minnesota’s children. We belong to a noble profession. Leading those who lead is humbling and an honor.
The opportunity exists for you to work with MASA staff and the executive board to determine strategies for the future. I have listened to members and created an initiative with the assistance of Gary and Mia designed to support and recruit more female administrators. The executive board endorsed the concept and you will hear more in the future.
There are additional professional development opportunities that will help you grow as a professional. Who doesn’t need to learn more?
I recently had the pleasure to hear the National Superintendent of the Year, Curtis L. Jones, Jr. speak about what he has learned as a leader. I leave you with his advice and I thank you for your support during this past year. I am grateful beyond words.
This year, when you join or renew your MASA and/or MASE membership(s), the membership materials will be online.
The new platform offers a number of advantages:
√ It’s paperless, always a good thing.
√ It’s convenient. Arrange your membership(s) anywhere, anytime. No need to keep track of your materials. Just sign in and you are all set to go.
√ It’s efficient. Once you complete your membership materials, your membership benefits are immediately in force and your contact data is included in the member directory.
√ It’s accurate. You access and fill in your own data. You can even make changes as they occur.
√ It’s secure. You access your member account using your email and password, and, except for the member directory, that information remains private. Our data back-up will be constant so there will be no chance of losing your membership record.
√ Your dues will be paid online, too. You may use a credit card, PayPal, or choose to be billed.
The Governor and the Legislature completed their work on the state budget but not without going into a special session to get it done. In fact, an agreement on the overall budget was not reached until one day before adjournment, so late there was no way they could complete work on the state budget by the constitutionally required adjournment date of May 20. Highlights of the overall budget agreement include:
No gas tax increase or tab fee increases
Health care provider tax made permanent at 1.8%
2% per year increase to the general education formula
Second-tier income tax bracket rate decreased by 6.8% beginning in tax year 2022
Conference committee chairs were instructed to finish their bills by 5pm Monday, the last day of legislative session. In all cases, except for Higher Education, this was not accomplished and ultimately most of the specific budget negotiations resulted in the three leaders working out differences. Committee chairs could not do this by their 5pm deadline, including E12 Education.
Once it appeared the details of each budget bill were coming together, Governor Walz called for a special session to begin Friday, May 24. The special session lasted one day and adjourned Saturday, May 25 with a state budget passed by both bodies. Governor Walz signed all the budget bills the following week without any line item vetoes.
E12 Education Appropriations
The E12 budget was increased by $543 million over the next biennium. This was considerably less than the House proposed increase at $900 million, and the Governor at $718 million, but higher than the Senate’s $206 million proposed increase. Most of the new funding was dedicated to funding:
2% per year formula increase;
Holding the line on the special education cross subsidy; and
Continuing funding for the VPK/SR+ slots for two more years.
Each side was also given $1.5 million to allocate as they wish. The House invested much of that to expand and support the diversity of the teaching workforce. The Senate invested much of that in P-TECH school grants.
The bill is notable for what it doesn’t include – significant or controversial policy provisions. The only policy provisions adopted were not controversial, included in both bodies’ initial budget bills and had already been agreed to in conference committee up to the deadline. Any controversial policies, which were primarily in the House bill, were not included. The most notable provision that didn’t survive was the House proposal to roll back tiered licensure, but other items also failed to move forward including changes to the pupil fair dismissal act, pre-kindergarten teacher licensure, continuing contract status for ECFE and ABE teachers, and comprehensive sex education.
Your time spent connecting with your elected officials does not go unnoticed. We know this is a busy time in your districts but your calls, emails and visits make a difference. We see the direct impact they have on the success in moving our issues forward so thank you!
Perhaps Horace Mann, considered by many to be the grandfather of public education, said it best:
“Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men – the balance wheel of social machinery.”
In previous Leaders Forum visits, we have addressed issues on dealing with poverty, recognizing the intelligence and motivation of our Technical College students, closing the achievement gap by first closing the opportunity gap, and other issues leading to our quest for Universal Pre-K education and the promise of at least two years of free college. We have visited both the social and economic benefits of doing so, but for now let’s focus on one specific academic issue.
A Primary Focus: Behavior, Respect, and Educational Decorum
In a recent legislative town hall meeting on education, one of the participants brought up, what I consider, a priority for our Pre-K curriculum – teaching social skills and proper behavior in an educational setting from day one. Call me old fashioned, but I truly believe that one of the biggest deterrents to academic success is classroom disruption. Learning to sit properly in a desk or at a table is not an unreasonable expectation. Being quiet and attentive during class discussion time is not an insurmountable goal. Learning to respect a productive work environment is doable, especially if we start teaching it in Pre-K. In many schools, good behavior is a way of life. In others, just the opposite is true. What a difference.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that home, demographics and socio-economic status are the largest determiners of the above, which brings us to our major focus – the need for fully funded Universal Pre-K, including transportation. Think how different the life of a kindergarten teacher would be if students came prepared both academically and behaviorally. Think how different the life of a less fortunate six-year old would be if he or she had mastered social skills, had a fighting chance academically and was in an environment conducive to learning. Universal Pre-K isn’t going to cure all of our ills, but it’s a logical place to start.
Consider this. We can –in fact, we must– overcome academic and behavioral deficiencies without being judgmental. We know that many of our students come from horrendous backgrounds, so teaching and modeling something different is paramount. Our goal is not to criticize, but to allow them to experience the benefits of order and discipline. It is the mission of every school to produce graduates that are intellectually and emotional prepared to live happy and meaningful lives. Early intervention offers our greatest hope.
Let me share a conversation with a student that solidifies our point. I was subbing in a school with block scheduling, mentioning the advantage of having work time while the teacher was in the room to help. The student relayed that one of his classes was quiet and well ordered, allowing him to concentrate and work effectively in an academic setting. Another was chaotic, which adversely affected his ability to learn. Most students appreciate a quiet, well-ordered learning environment.
This may sound like we are advocating that every student flourish in a traditional classroom setting, which is not the case. Current structure and curriculum may require them to spend some time in that setting, but even in hands on classes like auto mechanics or industrial arts, when the teacher is teaching, we can expect students to be quiet, attentive and respectful of the teacher and the learning climate. The same holds true in extra-curricular, co-curricular or any educational setting – structure and order in a climate of mutual respect should be a way of life. The major focus of our discussion is that teaching academic integrity should start in Pre-K and permeate our entire structure.
In previous Leaders Forums, we have outlined economic benefits of education and here is another one to add to the list. At the town hall meetings, we hear of the need for more counselors, social workers, etc. We also hear that their overwhelming workload hinders them from fully serving their students in need. The more time and resources we invest addressing social and academic behavior in Pre-K, the less we require later.
A TV commercial from ten years ago puts things in pretty good perspective. An auto technician stresses the importance of changing oil often as prescribed. He reminds us that not doing could result in major engine damage, costing thousands of dollars. His closing statement summed it up. “You can pay me a little now or pay me a lot later.” So it is with Universal Pre-K Education – investing now will help prevent more costly options in the future.