As a result of my “side job” as a State Senator, I watch the changes in our education system from several different perspectives: policy maker, educator, and parent. From all perspectives, the laws we put in place this last legislative session are already showing themselves to be a success where it counts: in the classroom.
My kids may not have noticed all the changes, but they’ve already realized that classes are a little smaller and their teachers have more time to spend with them in the classroom. Last year’s education bill included a 2% increase on the basic funding formula for Minnesota schools, meaning that local districts are able to stave off further staff cuts, build on existing programs, and sometimes hire additional educators.
The legislature nearly doubled the money allocated to Concurrent Enrollment programs, which will expand the presence of college-level courses in our schools. Students are facing fewer standardized tests this year, thanks to a streamlining of our testing regimen and an effort to cut out exams that pull focus away from learning instead of improving it. About $30 million in new funding for school readiness is helping our very youngest as they start their journey through public education.
My own bill to reform outdated school facilities financing may have been a dry read for my colleagues in the legislature, but my teaching colleagues and their students across Greater Minnesota have already seen new funding make real changes in their school buildings. Whether it’s a replacement boiler, the installation of important security, or even patching holes in the roof, schools outside of the suburbs now have access to the same funding to fix up their aging buildings that their neighbors have had for years.
I’m pleased that, for all its controversies, this past legislative session was a good one for Minnesota students. As we move forward in the school year and closer to the 2016 legislative session, I’m already looking at our next steps, and hoping that we make the kind of progress we made last year. Education is always my main focus, and I will continue to work with other senators to add money to the formula next year as well; Governor Dayton and I share this priority.
Education reform is always a controversial subject, but I remain committed to reduce the amount of burdensome paperwork for special education, and streamlining testing for all students. Coordination with the federal government is critical for both of these efforts, but many education partners are working on these initiatives at that level as well. I will also continue my attempts to reform the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examination (MTLE), which has been shown to contain unacceptable bias against minority teacher candidates and those with learning disabilities that do not affect their performance in the classroom.
If you have any questions about the legislative initiatives facing the Senate or comments about what would be best for your community, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time. I can be reached at (651) 296 1279, or by email at email@example.com