Sen. Wiger released the following statement:
“Earlier today legislative leaders and Education Committee members heard a presentation from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. While I respect the former Governor, I must respectfully disagree that his Florida education proposals will work in Minnesota, and ask that our GOP legislative leaders get to work to pass an honest, workable education bill for the schools and children of our state. The Senate’s Education Committee has already heard a presentation about the Florida program, and components of it are contained in both the House and Senate bills.
As I said in this morning’s press conference: this is comparing Florida oranges to Minnesota’s apples. The two states have dramatically different challenges and educational foundations. Florida has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country; Minnesota has the third highest. Florida has one of the lowest ACT score averages; Minnesota has the highest. We need to address our educational challenges in a way that works best for us.
Are there some things that I like about the Florida model? Yes. We know we need to boost early childhood funding and quality. I believe we need to focus on making sure our children can read by third grade. However, I do not believe in using the threat of vouchers—as Governor Bush alluded to today—as a way to boost test scores in public schools.
I believe in Minnesota’s teacher preparation programs, and strongly support how our 32 higher education institutions train our teachers. While alternative teacher preparation is a useful tool, having more than 50 percent of classroom teachers trained in this way, as Florida has, should not be the Minnesota model.
Governor Bush’s visit is a distraction from the difficult work that lies ahead. We have less than a month before the end of the legislative session, and we have a great deal of work to do to pass a reasonable education bill. The Senate GOP’s education bill provides little in the way of reform, threatens our most vulnerable students, punishes schools that are already struggling, caps funding for both urban and rural schools, and punishes the people who make a real difference in the classroom—teachers.
We know what we need: quality early education, all-day kindergarten, appropriate teacher training and assessment, class-size reduction, assessment reforms that will save money and benefit our students, an increase in our compulsory education age, and more rigorous high school educational opportunities. We have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. I urge our GOP leaders to attend to the task at hand.”