So the education funding bill is now law. It’s both good and bad, as you might expect.

On the bad side, state aid to schools had gone up, suggesting that the public school industry is a sacred cow. Can such a large portion of the state budget actually be off the table when it comes to looking for ways to spend less? Is it run so efficiently that there’s nothing to cut?

Also on the bad side, many important reforms have been scuttled from the original bill, which I praised. A voucher program. Gone. Letter grades for ¬†schools. Gone. A no-strike provision. Gone. Reduced: Appropriations for alternative compensation (that is, not just “seniority and number of college credits.”)

But there are some good things that came out of the final bill, which:

– offers some modest regulatory relief to homeschooling families.

– changes the time requirement from days to hours, offering more flexibility.

– eliminates the financial penalty that districts face for not having a collective bargaining agreement (a one-sided penalty applies to the district, not the union)

– sets as a goal that students will be reading by the end of third grade. (A little late, don’t you think?)

– establishes routes for evaluating teachers based on student performance. School districts and local unions that do not negotiate a system will have one forced on them by the state. This holds some promise, though evaluating teacher performance based on student achievement is still a science (if that’s the word for it) in its infancy. A similar requirement is imposed regarding principals.

– establishes mechanisms for evaluating and mentoring new teachers.

– says teachers can be fired for “inefficiency in teaching.”

– makes it easier for 501c3 organizations to authorize a charter school by removing the requirement they have $2 million on hand, but also says they must be in business for at least five years. It also removes the limit on 3 “single-purpose authorizers,” which effectively lifts a cap on charter schools. On the negative side, the bill removes start-up funding for charter schools in the first year of operation during FY 2012.

– High school students who graduate early can get money for college or a bonus for enlisting in the military. This will slightly decrease the need to fund public schools.

– Textbooks may now be electronic–bringing Minnesota into the 21st century.

– Schools face fewer restrictions on spending “safe schools” money, so they can allocate it to areas of the highest need.