Education for a Stable Future
Minnesota is one of the best states to do business in because of our well-educated workforce. When we make an investment in a young Minnesotan's education from an early age, we benefit not only economically, but intellectually as well. We know that once a child falls behind at an early age, it can often be nearly impossible for that student to reach their full academic potential.
States that have neglected public education and opportunities to increase workforce training have seen struggling economies, growing poverty, and a generation of students who are unprepared for a competitive job market. This is not the future I see for our great state.
Minnesota once prided itself on funding our public school institutions as a matter of moral principle. Over time however, politicians in our state government have turned their backs on this principle, instead choosing to underfund our public schools, leaving public school funding far behind what it was in 2006 after nearly a decade of education cuts.
Minnesota is currently 18th in the nation for per pupil public school spending. While the amount of our budget that we invest in public education is slightly higher than the national average, I know that we as Minnesotans pride ourselves on being above average. We owe it to our students, and their future prosperity, to once again champion public education as a necessity for our establishing the long-term stability of our state.
By adjusting state funding for education to the level it should be had it kept up with inflation, we can reduce the unsustainable property tax burden that our residents face. We already have the financial resources to improve funding, and it's time that we start using those resources more responsibly.
I have outlined a few of my key educational goals that I think will help our state grow, and ensure equality of opportunity for everyone:
- Treating our teachers with the respect they deserve. Teachers are part of the backbone of our society. All of us can think of at least one or two educators who mentored and inspired us in ways that changed our lives for the better. In Minnesota, we have neglected to honor the profession of teaching--which is anything but a 7-3 job. Our state underpays our teachers--many of whom spend close to $2,000 of their own money per year on classroom supplies, burdens them with paperwork, and leaves many educators struggling with student loan debt while they work tirelessly to shape the future of our state. This has resulted in 25% of new teachers leaving teaching within the first three years in Minnesota, and if we are not supporting our educators, then what kind of state will we have down the road? We can make improvements that allow greater independence in the classroom while providing debt relief for people who choose to enter this profession that we all depend on.
- By improving staff to student ratios, we can guarantee better outcomes. The current ratio of counselors, educators, school psychologists, and other support staff to students is so large that many students are not able to get the attention and resources they need to be successful. Increasing staffing is one of the most commonly identified ways that we can improve growth in the abilities and outcomes of our students. Minnesota currently has a worst in the nation opportunity gap, and we owe it to our students who are underserved to make sure that they are not left behind because of a lack of support.
- Minnesota is one of the most expensive states for child care. According to a 2016 report from Child Care Aware, the cost of child care for many families in Minnesota is similar to or exceeds the cost of college tuition, and child care is comprising an increasing percentage of annual family income. My primary goal is always to increase options and opportunities for members of our communities, and one of my priorities in the legislature will be to advocate for universal, optional pre-kindergarten options if parents decide that pre-kindergarten is right for their kids. Research indicates that pre-kindergarten education helps give kids lifelong learning advantages, and by providing access to pre-kindergarten for all students, families who choose to enroll their children can save around $8,000 in total childcare expenses by having the option to reduce the number of years their children have to be at costly daycare centers.
- A four year university education is not the only path to success. In fact, we will have a growing need for a well-trained work force in Minnesota of welders, carpenters, and many other vocational skilled workers in the near future. Establishing training programs in high schools that partner students with our business community will give students the opportunity to graduate from high school with skills that fulfill our workforce needs, as well as help them secure good paying jobs right out of the gate. As the cost of college and vocational programs rise, we can focus on innovative measures to repay students who contribute intellectually, economically, and financially to our state by working to free them from the burden of school debt if they find employment in Minnesota after completing their education. This will provide a substantial economic stimulus to our citizens, freeing our fellow Minnesotans to invest in our communities and in their futures.