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December 13, 2007

MN Senate GOP: Get MN out of NCLB

        Last week Minnesota state GOP senators held a press conference ( this news story.) to announce their plans to introduce legislation in the 2008 legislative session to withdraw Minnesota from the federal No Child Left Behind law. (See Getting Past 'No Child' and NEA /Hillary Clinton Back NCLB.)

        The Senators should be thanked for putting NCLB back on the table and high on the legislative agenda. They are: Senate Minority Leader Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester); Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina); Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie); and Sen. Dick Day (R-Owatonna). The entire roster of Minnesota state senators can be found here,
and you can find your own Senator here: Find Your District.

The entire roster of Minnesota state House members can be found here,
and you can find your own member here: Find Your District 

Order your copy or copies of the Congressional NCLB Briefing Packet to use with your candidates for Congress.

Order your copy or copies of Legislative Briefing Packet, which covers various state education-related issues including NCLB, to use with your candidates for state office. ($5.00 each, plus shipping and handling.) 
Email here or call 952-361-4931.

        In January of this year, the Minnesota Senate Education Committee passed a resolution critical of NCLB, authored by Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-North St. Paul) and co-authored by Sen. Vickerman (DFL-Tracy). That resolution, which passed unanimously, labeled NCLB a "federal intrusion into state and local control of education, which violates time-honored American principles of balanced federalism and respect for state and local prerogatives." Sen. Michel (R-Edina) added an amendment opposing NCLB expansion into high schools. While that Senate resolution was a positive gesture, it was a "mend it, don't end it" approach, leaving the federal government and its mandates for equal outcomes (AYP) fully in control of Minnesota education.

        The Education Minnesota teachers' union and the Minnesota School Board Association are urging the legislature to demand more federal funding and the right to meet federal mandates in Minnesota's own way. That approach, reminiscent of a similar resistance to repealing the Profile of Learning, is no solution to the onerous and destructive effects of NCLB. (See "Why reauthorize NCLB?")

        When the Senate resolution was passed last January, Dr. Karen Effrem of EdWatch highlighted the bipartisan criticisms of NCLB from legislators and groups at all points on the political spectrum. She affirmed Senator Wiger's resolution, but she also concurred with Senators Stumpf''s (DFL-Plummer), Michel's, and Olson's (R-Minnetrista) concerns about its limited approach.

        Dr. Effrem reminded the Committee that in 2004, the Senate Education Committee passed a strong bipartisan bill, authored by then-Sens. Bachmann (R-Stillwater) and Ranum (DFL-Minneapolis) to withdraw Minnesota from NCLB unless it was specifically affirmed by the legislature. (Michele Bachmann is now a member of Congress from Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.) Dr. Effrem stated EdWatch's unequivocal support for that same type of legislation. The Bachmann/Ranum bill passed the full Senate in 2004 as part of the Senate omnibus education bill in 2004, but it was gutted on the House floor. At that time, the DFL blamed the Republican House majority for gutting the bill to prevent its reaching the Governor's desk. Governor Pawlenty supports NCLB.

        This year, however, with the DFL firmly in control of both the House and the Senate, NCLB withdrawal legislation was not allowed even a hearing in either the House or the Senate education committees, in spite of its broad support. Sen Michael Jungbauer (R-East Bethel) authored the withdrawal: SF 1768. It was co-authored by Sens. Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona); Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove); David Hann (R-Eden Prairie); and Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake).

        Its House companion, HF 2007, was authored by Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) and co-authored by a host of Republicans and DFLers alike. They are: Republicans Bruce Anderson; Chris DeLaForest; Bob Dettmer; Rob Eastlund; Tom Emmer; Sondra Erickson; Pat Garofalo; Steve Gottwalt; Mary Liz Holberg; Bud Nornes; Dean Urdahl; and Kurt Zellers. DFLers are: David Bly; John Benson; Jim Davnie; Mindy Greiling; Debra Hilstrom; Frank Hornstein;  Phyllis Kahn; Will Morgan; Jeanne Poppe; Tom Rukavina; Linda Slocum; and John Ward.

        As a result of this year's inaction on the NCLB legislation, questions persist as to whether leaders of the DFL majority are genuinely committed to withdrawing from NCLB, especially in light of the teachers union's approach to "mend it, not end it."        

         House members who signed on as co-authors of the 2004 repeal legislation were Reps. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake); Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona); Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo); Marty Seifert (R-Marshall); Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton); Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover); John Dorn (DFL-Mankato); Dan Dorman (R-Albert Lea); Mary Ellen Otremba (DFL-Long Prairie); Dick Borrell (R-Waverly); Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville); Judy Soderstrom (R-Mora); Joe Hoppe (DFL-Chaska); Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth).

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