Time to get REAL about public education: Invest and transform in 2023
While awaiting what eventually became a beautiful 14 inches of pure white snow draping every lawn, tree branch, bush, and housetop, the 2023 State Legislative session was gaveled into order.
The largest turnover of members in years was accented with a joyful sense of wonder as the composition of both House and Senate was the most diverse ever to have been elected. Greater numbers of people of color and Indigenous people, LGBTQ, and women were sworn into office.
As that breathtaking moment unfolded, after having served 16 terms, I officially became a former member. I spent my day wishing individual members well in the renewal to keep our state government good, strong, and true to its people.
At MnEEP we believe such a renewal begins with a new commitment to education; both E-12 and Post-secondary. We also contend that no meaningful legislative agenda for education is possible without racial equity as a centering principle for infusing practices, changing structures, and transforming institutional cultures.
In addition, we believe Minnesota has a momentous opportunity this year to vastly increase investing in our students, schools, colleges and universities. A vibrantly strong state economy makes that possible, as the state wisely generates healthy tax revenues to reinvest in serving the public’s well-being.
Investing in universal, inclusive public education
Now in my new exclusive role as the director of MnEEP, I call on the 2023 Minnesota state legislature and on our Governor to make a historic leap of powerfully equipping the core engine of our social-economic success by immediately investing $2 billion in our systems of education and to commission those systems to deeply center itself in racial equity.
Anna Kamenetz, a long-time education journalist, wrote in a recent NYT opinion piece “Schools is for Everyone” that universal, inclusive public education is America’s “most powerful social innovation that helps us construct a common reality and try, imperfectly, to understand one another.”
She points to what that innovation has powerfully done for America; produced world-leading literacy and “established our industrial and scientific might, welcomed newcomers from all over the world, knit our democracy back together after the Civil War and become a wealthy nation with high living standards.” All made possible by Horace Mann’s call for “schoolhouses” for all.
What this means for the State Legislature
On the K-12 front, MnEEP recognizes the strain that unfunded vital services put on our schools. We call for a major appropriation to better support emerging multi-lingual learners (e.g., EL students) and to open and expand accelerated learning coupled with credit recovery for secondary students. We call the latter “Race Equity for Accelerating Learning” (REAL).
Recently, our MinnState post-secondary system actively engaged with citizens across the state—including students, business owners, civic leaders, farmers, and white-collar workers—to listen to their aspirations for prosperity and the role that their colleges and universities must play to ensure the viability of their dreams.
They propose over $400 million dollars of state legislative appropriations to be made for a carefully constructed higher-ed redesign, combining racial equity with workforce and career development.
The University of Minnesota is also proposing major new appropriations to smartly strengthen its production of new knowledge and citizens equipped for social and economic success.
In addition, our state’s system of private colleges are calling for major changes to our student financial aid structure to further empower students with resources for their dreams.
Too often, education legislation is proposed as either a choice of “pumping in” more money to the present delivery system or mandating new approaches but only dependent on one-time “pilot” investments or paid for within existing appropriations.
Both are recipes for disappointment and underserving our students and our state. And both are unnecessary choices, given what we know to be effective educational practices and the financial resources we have at our disposal with a sustainable $17 million state surplus and powerful economic engine producing wealth in our state.
Our state, our schools and colleges, our students, and our future are worth at least a new investment of $2 billion from our state legislature. We have the goals, the plans, and the means to do that this year.
In the coming weeks, look for more blogs from MnEEP on specific legislative action advocating for and supporting in 2023.