Newspaper article

Education Leadership Team Seen as Balanced, Thoughtful

Newspaper article

Education Leadership Team Seen as Balanced, Thoughtful

Article excerpt

Education policy advocates were unanimous in their first quick reaction to the newly announced Capitol leadership team: The committee and subcommittee chair appointments in both the state Senate and House of Representatives seem thoughtful, balanced and unlikely to act in lockstep.

"You have some really smart and balanced leadership on all of the committees," said Brian Sweeney, director of business excellence for Charter School Partners (CSP). "I think they're thinking of actually governing for two years and of not over-reaching."

Not only is the lineup of chairs announced Thursday and Friday balanced by geography and race, its members have differing perspectives on some of the thorniest issues likely to dominate the education agenda in the next biennium.

"They could have lined it up in a way so things would just sail through," said Mary Cecconi, executive director of Parents United for Public Schools. "They were very thoughtful."

Other education advocates are confident that the diversity means actual discourse will be required for any single faction to win over enough support to pass its agenda -- and a governor whose likely actions vis-a-vis a DFL-controlled Legislature is anybody's guess.

Dayton's priorities

Gov. Mark Dayton's top education priorities are wonky, long- term, structural changes that the last decade's gridlocked legislatures haven't so much as glanced at. He walked a very fine line concerning the last biennium's most controversial education reform proposals, but may well look more kindly on more teacher- friendly versions drafted by his caucus-mates.

In both chambers, the lawmakers who have been the staunchest advocates of education reforms that rank-and-file DFLers have struggled with drew the least-powerful appointments. There are decent cases to be made, however, that they are not necessarily being punished for breaking ranks in recent sessions.

Before the appointments were announced, new Senate leaders decided to revert to a structure of committees used by their House counterparts and that has been used by past DFL-controlled legislatures. This bureaucratic maneuver gives some committees power over others.

In both chambers, subcommittees responsible for education policy will now report to education finance committees, which will have the authority to kill, revise or pass any bill with a fiscal note -- in other words, anything with even the slightest financial implications -- on to a general finance committee.

House leadership

In the House, Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, will chair a single, unified Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, will run the Education Finance Committee. Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, will head the education policy subcommittee and Rep. …

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