Three Wise Women who are helping youngsters / Joe Nathan’s Column

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By Joe Nathan on December 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm



Three Wise Women who are helping youngsters


Jeanne Krile, Angie Johnson and Lisa Gale are three wise women who are helping students and their families. Gale is a mother who asked important questions about Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options. Johnson and Krile are Minnesota Department of Education employees who responded swiftly to her questions and concerns.

Gale contacted me about six weeks ago when her family was informed that they would have to pay $135 for their youngster to participate in PSEO. That’s the law that allows 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students to take courses for free on college campuses, or via the Internet, if the courses are offered by a Minnesota college or university. According to state law, those courses are supposed to be free, including tuition, books and lab fees. State funds also are available to help students from low-income families get to the campus. MDE provides an overview of PSEO on this Web page.

But the college where Gale’s youngster was taking PSEO classes notified the family that there would be a charge for two required workbooks the student would use during the class. Gale told me via email, “It is my understanding that there are a number of courses that use workbooks, so this will probably be an ongoing issue next year as well.”

My understanding was that all required materials in PSEO courses were supposed to be provided free to students. But perhaps I was wrong, so I checked with Johnson, MDE’s supervisor of High School to Postsecondary Initiatives. She responded within 24 hours, writing, “A postsecondary institution that receives reimbursement for the pupil may not charge that pupil for fees, textbooks or materials that are necessary for that course.” She also quoted language of the PSEO law. My experience with legislators is that they wanted PSEO to be an extension of public schools, where class materials are provided free, so all youngsters can participate.

Johnson also contacted Krile, of the MDE Division of School Finance, who responded immediately. She wrote: “A good rule of thumb to consider is the necessity of the item for a PSEO course. If an item is required for a course, it cannot be charged to a PSEO student. With that said, it is always the option of a postsecondary institution to offer the item for sale subsequent to the course ending (ex. knives, tools, etc.).”

Krile and Johnson told me that this issue has come up before, so MDE includes this in the PSEO Reference Guide, which you can download here.

The college Gale’s youngster attends via PSEO acknowledged the guidance from MDE and stated its intent to follow the law.

These three women deserve recognition and praise. Gale didn’t just shrug her shoulders; she raised a good question. Johnson and Krile are examples of true public servants; they were clear and responsive.

Because thousands of Minnesota high school students participate in PSEO, I thought this clarification was worth sharing.

Things don’t always turn out like this. Sometimes we (parents) are wrong. Sometimes government officials are not so responsive, or laws are not so clear. Some laws are not interpreted in ways that serve families, especially low-income families.

But in this case, three wise women worked together well. Thanks to each of them.


Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome, please comment below.