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S.F. No. 1474 - Innovation Zones
Author: Senator Justin D. Eichorn
Prepared By: Ann Marie Lewis, Senate Counsel (651/296-5301)
Date: March 20, 2017


Section 1. Innovation Zones.

Subdivision 1. Establishment; requirements for participation; innovation zone plans. (a) Establishes the innovation zone program to improve student and school outcomes consistent with The World’s Best Workforce requirements.  

(b) Allows one or more school districts or charter schools to form an innovation zone partnership.  Nonschool partners may participate, too.  The school's instructional staff must be involved in the development of the plan. 

(c) Requires innovation zone partners to research and implement innovation education programs and models.  Examples of innovation zone research includes, but is not limited to: 

  1. personalized learning;

  2. new approaches to evaluation and assessment;

  3. the use of competency outcomes;

  4. multidisciplinary, real-world, inquiry-based, student-directed models designed to make learning more engaging and relevant;

  5. models of instruction designed to close the achievement gap;

  6. new partnerships between secondary schools and postsecondary institutions, employers or career training institutions;

  7. new methods of collaborative leadership;

  8. new ways to enhance parental and community involvement in learning;

  9. new models of professional development for educators; or

  10. new models in other area. 

(d) Requires the innovation zone plan to describe: 

  1. how the plan will improve student and school outcomes;

  2. the role of each partner;

  3. the research methodology used for each proposed action in the plan;

  4. the exemptions from state statute and rules that the partnership will use;

  5. a timeline for implementing the plan; and

  6. how results of the plan will be disseminated. 

(e) Requires the approval of the initial partners and the Commissioner of Education to extend membership to other partners.  

(f) Allows a school district or charter school participating in a partnership to continue to receive all revenue and maintain its taxation authority in the same manner as before the partnership existed.  The partnership participants remain organized and governed by their respective boards with general powers under chapter 123B or 124E and remain subject to their employment agreements.  

Subd. 2. Exemptions from laws and rules.  Allows an innovation zone partner to be exempt from the following education laws and rules specifically identified in their plan: 

  1. any law or rule a district-created, site-governed school is exempt from;

  2. any statute or rule the commissioner has granted exemption from to another district or school;

  3. student attendance reporting requiring more than one count each day;

  4. high school curricular or graduation requirements that may be met through the adult learning programs;

  5. individual course requirements for Algebra II for a student enrolled in a course in applied mathematics, science, technology, engineering, math or other learning experiences;

  6. online learning program approval if the district or school offers a course or program online combined with direct access to a teacher for a portion of that course or program;

  7. certain restrictions on extended time revenue;

  8. calendar and credit restrictions if the student meets the competencies required for graduation described in the plan and the student completes either a career certification or one or more years of postsecondary education; and

  9. any required hours of instructions in any class or subject areas for a student who is meeting all competencies consistent with the graduation standards described in the plan. 

Subd. 3. Planning and implementation grants. (a)  Allows a partnership to submit an application for approval of the plan, a planning grant, or an implementation grant. 

(b) Allows a partnership to submit its plan to the commissioner at any time.  Requires the commissioner to approve or reject the plan after reviewing the recommendation of the Innovation Zone Advisory Panel. 

(c) Requires a planning grant application to include: 

  1. the name of each member of the partnership;

  2. the hypotheses or practices the innovation zone will implement based upon the research and methodology design cited in the plan;

  3. how teachers and other educational staff from the affected schools sites will be included in the planning and implementation process;

  4. a proposed timeline of activities to develop an implementation plan; and

  5. the planning process budget. 

(d) Requires implementation grant applications to be submitted by April 1.  Requires the commissioner to approve or reject applications by May 1.  Allows grants to be awarded for up to four years and they may be renewed.  A partnership may apply for an implementation grant without having first applied for a planning grant. 

Subd. 4. Innovation Zone Advisory Panel. (a) Requires the commissioner to establish and convene a 14-member Innovation Zone Advisory Panel. 

(b) Requires the panel to be composed of one member appointed by each of the following organizations:  Education Minnesota, Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association, Minnesota Association of School Administrators, Minnesota School Boards Association, Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota, and the Office of Higher Education.  Requires the commissioner to appoint six members, three with expertise in innovation and three with expertise in evaluation and research. 

(c) States the duties of the panel as:

  1. reviewing all innovation zone plans submitted for approval; and

  2. recommending planning and implementation grant amounts for each qualifying applicant. 

Subd. 5. Commissioner approval. Allows the commissioner to approve plans and award implementation and planning grants to qualifying applicants.  Requires the commissioner to consider geographical distribution in awarding grants.  Requires the commissioner to alert an innovation zone partnership that fails to implement its plan as described in the application and provide them with an opportunity to remediate.  If the implementation continues to fail, the commissioner must suspend or terminate the innovation zone plan. 

Subd. 6. Project evaluation, dissemination, and report to legislature.  Requires each partnership to submit project data to the commissioner.  Requires the commissioner, once every two years, to analyze each innovation zone’s progress in realizing the objectives of the partnership’s plan.  Requires the commissioner to summarize and categorize innovation zone plans and submit a report to the legislature.  

Effective Date. Makes the section effective immediately. 

Section 2. Appropriations; Innovation zones. Appropriates blank amounts in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 for planning grants, implementation grants, and administrative costs.


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