St. Paul, Minn.—Today Sen. Chuck Wiger, Chair of the E12 Committee in the Senate held a press conference with Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury), Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna), Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield), Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Cottage Grove), and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook). Many DFL Senators attended to show their support for this Senate DFL Caucus priority. The proposals included agriculture educator grant, preK investments, a voluntary program to address the shocking student to counsellor ratio, funding Teacher Training and Development, and addressing the teacher shortage crisis. The following Senators have released statements of support for the E12 package unveiled today.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook):
“Our commitment to expanding education opportunities to all Minnesota schoolchildren is unwavering. In order for children from all backgrounds to succeed in school and keep teachers in the profession, we need to fund mandated ongoing, training and teacher development, which is why the Senate DFL is proposing to invest in TDE. In order for students to have clear direction, know their best post-graduate options, and to be kept on track we must correct Minnesota’s embarrassing ratio of school counsellors to students,” Bakk said.
President of the Senate Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul):
“Our struggling schools have been making gains, but we need to work harder to close the achievement gap and so all Minnesota children have the chance to succeed. We can do this by investing in early childhood education, which jumpstarts the path to learning, and adequately funding schools based on their unique needs,” Pappas said.
Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis):
“To improve education outcomes we need to be supporting both students and teachers in the classroom. I am excited we are prioritizing investments that target these two areas. If students have access to counsellors they are more likely to stay on track at school and have a better customized educational experience that supports them and their learning needs,” Hayden said.
Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis):
“Minnesota cannot stay on the forefront of education excellence unless we support our students, teachers and schools. While we’ve made a lot of progress over the last few years in increasing our investment in education, challenges remain – including a shortage in teachers and a lack of diversity in our current crop of teachers. I’m proud to work to pass legislation that can address these challenges, including the Collaborative Urban Educator Program included in the Teacher Shortage Act. The legislative package announced today can do much to improve our education system in Minnesota,” Dziedzic said.
Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley):
“Minnesota’s workforce shortage is a real problem. Last year, I chief authored and passed the rural healthcare professionals loan forgiveness program. This year, I am supporting a similar program to forgive student loan debt to entice more to students to consider teaching as a profession. This initiative will help fill Minnesota teaching shortages in math, science, and special education. Loan forgiveness programs not only helps reduce student loan debt, it addresses workforce shortages and lays the groundwork to attract and retain quality teachers for the future,” Clausen said.
Sen. John Hoffman (Champlin):
“I firmly believe the opportunity to succeed is built on education, and I am proud to support both high-quality teachers, more student support services – and flexible pre-k for Minnesota 4-year-olds. Without recruiting more students to the teaching profession – we won’t have high-quality teachers to teach our students. And without proper support services like counselors, nurses and school phycologists – our students won’t get the support and encouragement they need to excel in their academics. And without access to flexible pre-k, our youngsters won’t be entering kindergarten fully prepared to succeed. The Senate DFL’s top education priorities put children and families first – we are investing in the workforce of tomorrow,” said Sen. Hoffman.
Sen. Alice Johnson (DFL-Blaine):
“Our children will not be ready for the workforce if we do not have high quality teachers. We must do everything we can to retain and recruit quality teacher candidates. To do this, it’s important we invest in mentorship programs and teacher development initiatives,” Johnson said.
Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis):
“These education reforms are focused on what should always be our priority, students. Our lack of investment in school counselors has created ongoing struggles in our schools. Achievement gaps, suspensions, and poor attendance are just a few of the many problems affecting schools today. The ratio of 750 students to 1 counselor is unacceptable. When budget cutbacks, high testing administration demands, and skyrocketing mental health needs are considered as well, it becomes clear that hiring more student counselors is not an option. It is a necessity,” Torres Ray said.
Senator Melissa Wiklund (DFL-Bloomington):
“In the past few years, we have been committed to investing in Minnesota’s education system, from our earliest learners through college. Even with much progress, challenges remain for far too many of our students, teachers and schools. I am proud to support the package of bills we are introducing today to address Minnesota’s teacher shortage and to increase funding for pre-k options. I am also proud to co-author legislation to increase the number of support staff and counselors in our schools. A ratio of 754 students to every 1 counselor cannot continue – and this year we will fix it,” Wiklund said.