Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- After nearly six hours of debate, Minnesota lawmakers voted 68-59 early Wednesday morning to pass legislation that would severely alter the course of public education in the state, including curbing most teacher bargaining rights.
"It's nibbling away at the outsides," Independent School District 712 Superintendent John Klarich said. "It's not taking all the rights away, but it is making it very difficult to conduct some negotiation between the unions and the administration and the school board, ultimately."
In addition, Independent School District 709 Superintendent Keith Dixon said this bill, in its current form, would take away more than $1 million from the Duluth school district in the next fiscal year.
"This really does target the three main areas of integration revenue," Dixon said, "which focused on helping our students of color and helping our students integrate into the district through experiences, special education revenue, and compensatory revenue, which focuses on free and reduced lunch."
Klarich said the legislation is clearly something to be taken seriously, but also that there is still a long way to go before it becomes law.
"I think the teachers are taking a wait-and-see attitude because we have two parties," Klarich said, "the Democrats and the Republicans at odds, and a governor saying he's going to veto most of this stuff, or some of this stuff."
Besides slashing teacher bargaining rights, the bill includes eliminating the current teacher tenure system, increasing per pupil funding, and granting low-income students at "failing public schools", vouchers for private education.
Dr. Michael Ehrhardt, the head of school at Duluth Marshall, said while he will continue to closely follow this legislation, his school already has a strong form of financial aid.
"A school like Marshall has always put affordability for families across all economic spectrums high on the list, and we already have our own types of vouchers through a very generous financial aid program that the school has," Ehrhardt said. "We're already there philosophically. As to where vouchers might fit in, in a larger sense, we'll continue to follow the legislature through that process."
The bill still needs to be passed by the state Senate before it goes to the governor's desk, but Governor Mark Dayton has said he would veto legislation with any controversial policy changes.
Posted by Zach Schneider