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Legislative Audit Commission Meeting


February 3, 2010

Members Present:

Representative Michael Beard Senator Don Betzold
Representative Rick Hansen Senator Joe Gimse
Representative Bill Hilty Senator David Hann
Representative Mary Liz Holberg    Senator James Metzen
Representative Steve Simon Senator Ann H. Rest
Senator Claire Robling

Members Absent:

Representative Ron Shimanski


Senator Ann Rest, Chair, called the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) meeting to order at 10:10 a.m. Senator Rest said that there were three items on the agenda for the meeting: 1) release the evaluation, Alternative Education Programs; 2) discuss the impact of the Legacy Amendment on OLA; and 3) review the schedule for release of the upcoming OLA evaluation reports.

Senator Rest introduced Jim Nobles, Legislative Auditor. Mr. Nobles said that legislators want to know what education programs are working. He said that this report shows mixed results, however the positive results outweigh the negative ones. Mr. Nobles introduced Judy Randall, Evaluation Manager for the Alternative Education Programs evaluation, to give more details. Ms. Randall explained that alternative education programs are public school programs that help students struggling in the traditional schools. These programs are provided by Area Learning Centers (ALCs), Alternative Learning Programs (ALPs), and Contract Alternatives. Students must meet 1 of 12 eligibility criteria as defined in Minnesota Statutes 2009, 124D.68, subd. 2. Some of the criteria are that the student is behind academically, pregnant or a parent, expelled, or has limited English proficiency. Students in alternative education programs are more likely to be nonwhite, mobile, or eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The report found that growth for students in targeted services was encouraging; however, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) limits who can provide targeted services. Currently, only ALCs can provide the targeted services. OLA recommends the Legislature allow all school districts to offer targeted services, regardless of whether they provide other alternative education programs. Since MDE has no authority to review the curriculum of alternative education programs outside of their districts, OLA recommended the Legislature allow MDE and school districts with students enrolled in alternative education programs to be able to challenge the validity of the curriculum provided by those programs.

Senator Rest welcomed Karen Klinzing, Assistant Commissioner, and Glory Kibbel, Supervisor of Alternative Programs, from the Minnesota Department of Education. Ms. Klinzing thanked the state for recognizing that one size does not fit all when it comes to students and noted that there are many options for students to succeed in Minnesota. Ms. Kibbel said that OLA’s recommendation that MDE review its policies for determining alternative education schools’ adequate yearly progress (AYP) goes hand-in-hand with the No Child Left Behind law. She said that there are already multiple measures in place to grow on and that MDE plans on using the recommendations in the evaluation to help determine the modifications needed to improve alternative education programs.

The meeting turned to a discussion of the impact of the Legacy Amendment on OLA. Mr. Nobles explained that current law gives OLA very clear authority to audit and evaluate activities funded with Legacy Amendment money. He said that any evaluations related to Legacy Amendment programs will be determined by the commission just as with other evaluations done by OLA. Mr. Nobles went on to explain that one of the funds, the Outdoor Legacy Fund, has been mandated in law to be audited every two years by OLA. He said this audit will be worked into the financial audit schedule. The other funds will be audited as timely as possible, possibly every three to four years. Mr. Nobles asked that instead of being given additional funds, the Legislature change the language regarding OLA’s carry-forward money so it can be used to audit the Legacy Amendment funds rather than just for improvements as the language currently states. After many questions, it was decided that Mr. Nobles would submit his suggested language to the members and then the commission would move forward after that.

The meeting moved to a brief comment from Mr. Nobles regarding the schedule for the release of the upcoming program evaluations. He also reminded members of the three evaluation topics on which the OLA will begin working. Mr. Nobles said he would follow up with a memo to members with the evaluation release dates. Senator Rest also requested a schedule of the Topic Selection process. Mr. Nobles said that would be forthcoming as well.

With no further discussion or comments, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.

Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair

Shelly Watterud, Recording Secretary


Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155