Senator Steve Cwodzinski: Minnesota’s Constitution is Our Roadmap for Quality Education

According to the Minnesota Constitution, it is the responsibility of the Legislature to create and establish a general and uniform system of public schools. This is because, as the constitution states, a republican form of government is dependent up on the intelligence of its people.

With layoffs imminent in school districts across the state, We the People need to step up and make our voices heard! That is why I am proud to announce my support for a new Emergency School Aid package that will prevent 240 of our fellow Minnesotans from losing their jobs and their paychecks.

Many schools are facing budget crises, and I can guarantee that if we do not act immediately, class sizes will increase, after-school programs will be cut, and some of our state’s greatest public servants will lose the ability to support their families. This is not the Minnesota we should be leaving to our children and grandchildren. The Legislature can, and must, do better.

Providing our state’s youth with a quality education also requires that students feel safe in their classrooms, without fear of being harmed. If they don’t, how can we expect our kids to learn reading, writing, math, science, history, arts, and civics.

My heart is warmed by the robust bipartisan agreement to increase funding for school safety, but we cannot stop there. Minnesota needs concrete gun violence prevention laws immediately. Anything short of that goal is a moral failure of epic proportions.

State lawmakers introduced many ideas to prevent gun violence in the wake of the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the Legislature has not approved a single one. We need to study gun violence as a public health issue. We need gun violence protection orders. We need universal criminal background checks on all firearm purchases. Minnesotans overwhelmingly support these policies. For heavens’ sake, what is the Legislature waiting for to act?

While I have mainly discussed ideas that we can all support, there are also policies that we as Minnesotans must stand against. The “academic balance” policy included in the Senate’s supplemental budget is one of those terrifically harmful policies we must oppose.

If this legislation becomes law, teachers could face retribution for expressing political beliefs in the classroom. This can be all-encompassing, and teachers can be punished for challenging a student for discriminatory behavior. As a former educator of 33 years, I can attest to the fact that this is both impossible and wrong. It may also be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decided this in 1969 in their decision on Tinker v. Des Moines, stating that neither students, nor teachers, shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Schools are the marketplace of ideas, and we need to embrace that.

In my 33 years of teaching American government, I tried to instill the ideal of how can I make this country a more perfect union. At the end of the day, the answer is simple: Support students. Support teachers. Support public education.

Steve Cwodzinski represents District 48 in the southwest Twin Cities metro.

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