After nearly two years of listening to Minnesota teachers, parents, and children plead with state leaders to provide the resources that will help them address and recover from pandemic-related stresses, Senate Republicans spent this week presenting their solution: a series of political bills that would erode Minnesota’s nation-leading brand of public education and decimate the teacher workforce.
Inaccurately dubbed the ‘Parent’s Bill of Rights,’ the bills duplicate other far-right, extreme bills introduced and passed in other states around the nation. They do not reflect what Minnesota parents and teachers are asking for, or what’s best for Minnesota students – they reflect right-wing special interests’ ideas about how to limit children’s educational experiences.
None of the bills address urgent matters that Minnesota classrooms need: more counselors and nurses in all Minnesota schools, qualified substitute teachers, teacher-training assistance to attract new leaders into classrooms, and funding to fill the many gaps exacerbated by two years of life-changing circumstances.
Instead, one bill would allow non-licensed people without bachelor’s degrees to enter the classrooms as substitute teachers. By avoiding a basic license, substitutes could travel between districts without any record of violations or complaints against them that occurred in a different jurisdiction. Another bill requires school districts to allow parents to review class curricula and bars districts from charging for the staff time and/or materials provided upon request. Teachers pointed out that this bill is unnecessary, as class materials are already available to parents on many different platforms. Another bill (SF 2666) goes one step further, asking teachers to report a detailed syllabus electronically to parents that include a list of textbooks to be used. This is a dangerous step that could lead to banning books in some schools. Teachers also testified that this adds an unnecessary paperwork requirement at a time when educators are completely overwhelmed.
DFL proposals instead are focused on providing a safe path for substitute teachers to be in classrooms and in enticing and retaining more people into the profession. Democrats also believe that educators and other school staff need more time to spend in the classroom on learning recovery and less on frivolous paperwork that leads to stress and burnout.
Minnesota has a tradition of quality education, and our students deserve for that to continue.