Many of the conversations at the State Capitol this session surround the state’s economy and what the Legislature can do to move Minnesota towards prosperity. Much of the time, the discussions focus on the Governor’s capital investment bill and a variety of bills focused on helping Minnesota’s job creators. Another topic we need to discuss, and one of my top priorities, is investing in our future employees; the students in the E-12 education system.
Gov. Dayton recently said, “Education was key to our state’s past prosperity, and it will be key to our future prosperity. An excellent public education system will be the driving force behind job creation in Minnesota.” The Governor goes on to say that we must prepare our students for the jobs and industries of the future to ensure our state’s economic prosperity. I agree with his mission.
To accomplish this, Governor Dayton recently released a 7-point Plan for Achieving Excellence. The seven points include:
Funding Education for the Future: Invest in early childhood and all-day kindergarten, invest in strategies that close the achievement gap and target resources to the classroom and establish a Governor’s Commission on Better School Funding.
Better Early Childhood Education: Target all-day kindergarten, expand existing K-12 system into a comprehensive pre-K-12 system and implement clearly defined school readiness standards.
Raise the Bar – Close the Gap: Set accountability targets to close the achievement gaps, establish a Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education and a Governor’s Achievement Gap Innovation Fund.
Reading Well by 3rd Grade: Launch a Statewide Literacy Campaign, set school accountability targets to ensure all students are reading well by Grade 3 and adopt pre-K-3 Literacy Standards.
Support Teaching for Better Schools: Create alternative pathways to teacher licensure that maintain quality, establish a statewide teacher performance evaluation and development system and create support networks and support early childhood teacher observation and development.
Better Testing for Better Results: Develop assessments for learning that measure growth, establish a Test Reduction Task Force and examine new accountability measures based on growth that fairly assess and report student and school progress.
A Department of Education that Provides Educational Leadership and Support: Reposition the Minnesota Department of Education to support teachers, schools and districts, reauthorize Statewide Early Childhood Advisory Council and reestablish the Children’s Cabinet and charge the Commissioner of Education with leadership of early childhood initiatives.
Our economic future is only as strong as our ability to prepare our youngest learners for tomorrow. I applaud Gov. Dayton’s plan and hope the Legislature can do its part to carry it out. The governor has given us a clear plan, but Minnesota needs the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives to step up and carry out his vision. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I will do my part to support the Governor’s goals.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your house or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.