MNCDHH Legislative Update – April 3, 2017 (Part 2)

Reorganization of State Education Agencies & Teacher Licensing
The bill to create four tiers of licenses for teachers that we mentioned in our last update has a new number. It is included in several different bills: HF 140, SF 4 and the Education Finance Omnibus bill (HF 890, SF 718).
This bill also restructures which state agencies oversee teacher licenses. Currently, the Board of Teaching does part and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) does part. Having two agencies manage the process has caused confusion. The bill would remove MDE from the process entirely. It renames and restructures the Board of Teaching. It would now be called the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.
The House and Senate bill both establish four tiers for teachers, but the bills have differences in the requirements for getting a license in each tier. The Commission is talking to legislators to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing students are only taught by teachers with the appropriate training to meet their needs.
Superior SLPI Rating for Teachers
A few weeks ago we were surprised to see an amendment to the Teacher Licensing bill that would have required all teachers for deaf and hard of hearing students to have a minimum of superior rating on the Sign Language Proficiency Interview. This would have included teachers with a regular DHH teaching license and an Aural / Oral teaching license. Superior is a rating that is typically achieved by native ASL users or those immersed in ASL in their formative language-learning years. If this change was made to the law, it would have disqualified many DHH teachers. The Commission was not aware that anyone was asking legislators to make this change. We always try to be sure that all of the affected groups sit down and talk and try to find agreement before a bill is introduced, especially on issues related to teacher licensure.
The Commission needed to respond quickly. We contacted education experts we have worked with in the past on teacher licensure. Jay Fehrman, Ann Mayes, Kitri Kyllo and board member Bren Ackerson. Jay Fehrman was unable to come to the Capitol but wrote a letter asking the legislators to drop the amendment. Ann, Kitri, and Bren came to the Capitol to ask legislators to drop the proposed amendment requiring a minimum of Superior rating on the SLPI for now. The legislators agreed and it was not added to the bill.
Adult Basic Education Funding
The bill to provide additional funding to Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs, including the Deaf ABE program has been introduced. In the House, it is SF 1973 and is authored by Representatives Roz Peterson (Lakeville), Jerry Hertaus (Greenfield) and Carlos Mariani (Saint Paul). In the Senate, it is SF 1792 and is authored by Senators Carla Nelson (Rochester), Paul Anderson (Plymouth), Eric Pratt (Prior Lake) and Patricia Torres Ray (Minneapolis). Unfortunately, this additional funding for ABE was not included in either the House or Senate Education Finance Omnibus bills. Jessalyn Akerman-Frank and Beth Fraser testified. They explained the critical services that Deaf ABE provides and asked legislators to try to find more money for ABE as the bill moves through the process.
Minnesota State Academies Funding
The Governor recommended that the Minnesota State Academies receive an additional $2.7 million to increase staff, purchase updated resources and to maintain the facilities. Unfortunately, the House did not include any additional funding for the State Academies in its Education Finance Omnibus bill. The Senate included an additional $800,000 in its Education Finance Omnibus bill. Terry Wilding and two students from the Academies testified and urged the committee to provide all of the additional funding that had been requested. The Committee did not make a change at this point. There is a chance that funding for the Minnesota State Academies could be increased as the legislature negotiates with the Governor over the Education Finance Omnibus bill.
The Minnesota State Academies also asked for $2.6 million in funding for improving the facilities on campus. We do not know yet whether these funds will be included in the Capital Investment Omnibus (Bonding) bills.
Vocational Rehabilitation Funding
The Governor recommended an additional $3.5 million per year be dedicated to Vocational Rehabilitation to eliminate waiting lists for these services. Unfortunately, this funding was not included in either the House or Senate Jobs Finance Omnibus Bill (SF 1937). We expect that the Governor will push hard for this funding in negotiations with the legislature.

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