Sunday, March 9, 2014
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The bill initially failed to get the two-thirds vote it required for passage as an unfunded mandate. It was amended to allow the Department of Education to make small grants to schools to assist the transition, if money is available. That is expected to cost the state $1.9 million next year.
L.D. 1632: Ease limitations on double dipping
Status: Lost committee vote
A law that took effect last year limits the pay of public employees returning to work after retirement to 75 percent of their previous pay and prevents them from receiving health insurance. It affected more than 1,200 workers, 86 percent of whom worked for Maine school districts.
House minority leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, sponsored the bill to limit the law's application only to superintendents and principals, which is what she thought the original law would do. The Appropriations Committee recommended that the bill not pass, by a 7-4 party-line vote.
Republicans opposed the bill, and because they have majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, it appears unlikely to pass when the Legislature considers it this month.
That's disappointing to the Maine Education Association, said Executive Director Rob Walker.
"For our members who go through a life-changing event, divorce or death of a spouse, and have a need to return to work, they won't have access to health insurance, and will get paid 75 percent of what they're worth," Walker said.
L.D. 1854: Open enrollment
Status: Became law without LePage's signature
Members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee worried that L.D. 1854 came up too late in the session, without enough information available on the potential impact for schools and students. They turned the bill into a resolve that sets up a study committee and allows school districts to adopt mutual policies allowing students to transfer among those districts.
The original version of the bill would have allowed school districts to accept students from other districts, without requiring agreements between superintendents for individual students. State funding would follow students to the district where they enrolled.
The stakeholder group established by the resolve will develop a public school choice model that addresses concerns raised about transportation, impact on rural schools and access for students from low-income families or those with disabilities.
"There's a recognition of a need to expand school choice options for students," said Stone, the education department spokesman. "That will be delayed, but that delay will give us time to do what the Legislature asked us to do, which is to do more exploration into open enrollment programs."
L.D. 1858: Teacher and principal evaluations
Status: Signed into law by LePage
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen has called L.D. 1858 the most important achievement of the legislative session because teacher quality has the most impact on student achievement of any in-school factor.
The law requires school districts to create comprehensive performance evaluations for teachers and principals. Districts will be able to make personnel decisions based on the evaluations and the effectiveness ratings they produce. The evaluations are required to incorporate student learning and growth data, but it hasn't been decided what that means.
The MEA supports the creation of rigorous, thorough evaluations. The union is worried, however, about limitations on appeals of poor evaluations, even after the bill was amended to protect teachers from "bad faith" evaluations.
"That was helpful," MEA Director Walker said. "It took a step in the right direction. It should have gone further."
L.D. 1858 also creates an alternative certification process for teachers and requires collection of data on teacher preparation programs.
L.D. 1865: Enhancing career and technical education
Status: Signed into law by LePage
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