Constitutional Amendment a good first step, but needs to go further to ensure funding and other challenges

Recently former Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari held a summit with business and community leaders to discuss how a Constitutional Amendment could close the achievement gap.

The proposed language would replace Art. XIII, Sec. 1 of Minnesota’s constitution in its entirety, and reads:

EQUAL RIGHT TO QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION. All children have a fundamental right to a quality public education that fully prepares them with the skills necessary for participation in the economy, our democracy, and society, as measured against uniform achievement standards set forth by the state. It is a paramount duty of the state to ensure quality public schools that fulfill this fundamental right.

The current constitution reads:

UNIFORM SYSTEM OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.

MSBA President Deb Pauly, Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind, and Director of Policy and Legal Services Terry Morrow met with Justice Page and President Kashkari last week to discuss the impact of the proposal on school districts and students.

MSBA agrees with the broader goal of closing the achievement gap, but believes the amendment does not go far enough to ensure funding for education or address other challenges associated with the achievement gap.

If you want to hear more about the proposed amendment, The Fed will be offering listening sessions around the state. The first meeting is planned for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the City Council Chambers in Mankato. To RSVP, go to https://www.minneapolisfed.org/events/2020/children-first-a-community-conversation-in-mankato-on-educating-all-children.

A second meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at 125 Live Center in Rochester. To register, go to https://www.minneapolisfed.org/events/2020/children-first-a-community-conversation-in-rochester-on-educating-all-children.

Some questions you may want to bring up are:

  • Minnesota’s public schools receive federal and state funding that is not sufficient to meet student needs. For this reason, most Minnesota schools must pursue voter-approved operating levies. Will the amendment’s phrase “paramount duty of the state” effectively end districts’ reliance on voters to approve property tax increases and operating levies?
  • Poverty has a direct and significant impact upon academic proficiency. How will this amendment address poverty and other factors-often called the opportunity gaps-that affect students throughout Minnesota?
  • The amendment refers to the ‘paramount duty’ of the state to ensure that students receive a quality education.  Can you assure locally-elected school board members that their public service will not expose them to the litigation that this amendment will likely create?

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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