Earlier this month, after the traditional State Fair cheese curds and trip around the Education Building, school started for my family, along with thousands of other families and teachers in Minnesota. For my three children and me, it was back to the classroom for another year of growth and all the changes that surround us, no matter our age.
Because 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 in the classroom where it counts.
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.
As my oldest nears closer and closer to graduation, I’m also thankful that the legislature nearly doubled the money allocated to Concurrent Enrollment programs that will expand the presence of college-level courses in our schools. Building up a few college credits even before graduation will help prepare students of all kinds for life after high school, and save them some money if they do decide to pursue higher education.
My second child is 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. My youngest has moved well past his preschool and kindergarten years, but $30 million in new funding for school readiness is helping family friends as they start their journey through public education. Another $3.5 million for Minnesota’s Reading Corps program will narrow the achievement gap and target students who otherwise wouldn’t receive the help they need.
My own bill to reform outdated school facilities financing may have been a dry read for my colleagues in the legislature, but my teaching colleagues and their students across Greater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, please reach out to me and let me know what’s working well in your child’s school, and what we still need to improve on. I’m always talking with constituents even outside the Senate’s typical season; don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 651 296 1279.