The 2016 state legislative session starts next Tuesday, March 8 and we’re already hard at work advocating for policies to ensure that every Minnesota student has the opportunities they need to be successful.
Heading into session, our top legislative priorities are to:
- Disaggregate and cross-tabulate student data to better understand how Minnesota learners are doing. In order to help all Minnesota students excel, we must start with an accurate picture of—and detailed data on—where they are now, and how they’re learning and growing. But, unfortunately, our current data reporting systems offer only a crude outline of how children from different backgrounds are faring. To paint a better picture, and empower educators, policymakers and families to advocate for more tailored supports for student groups with diverse assets and needs, we must break down the student data by prevalent racial and ethnic identities such as Hmong, Vietnamese, Mexican, Somali, etc. We must also cross-tabulate data, allowing us to know how, for example, Hispanic kids with disabilities are doing compared to Native American students with disabilities. With more detailed student data, we can better understand how kids are doing, make smarter decisions about where to target resources and efforts and also become a national leader in educational equity.
- Improve school discipline policies to close racial disparities and keep students in the classroom and engaged in learning. In order to learn, students need to be in class. That’s why we must improve Minnesota’s school discipline policies, focusing on keeping learners in class, particularly black and Native American students and students with disabilities, who have been most negatively and disproportionately impacted by exclusionary discipline. By scaling back exclusionary practices like school and classroom removals, helping educators lead on crafting alternatives and proactively confronting racial bias in current practice, Minnesota can become a national leader on school discipline and help all students thrive.
- Create and expand successful alternative certification pathways for aspiring teachers, filling shortages and increasing educator diversity. Teachers are critical to the success of our students. With mounting educator shortages especially among teachers of color, in rural and greater Minnesota and in certain licensure areas, we must pursue an urgent and multi-pronged approach to recruiting, training and retaining the educators our students need. It is imperative that we create new pathways to the classroom right here in Minnesota. Through policy changes and robust investments, we can create initiatives to modernize teacher preparation, fill high-needs teaching positions and increase educator diversity.
- Continue to improve teacher licensure for experienced out-of-state educators, ensuring that Minnesota kids have access to the great teachers they deserve. Data, research and common sense tell us that teachers are key to student success. This is why opening Minnesota’s doors to experienced and passionate teachers must be a priority for state leaders. Thankfully, in 2011 and again in 2015, our Legislature took bold steps to clarify and streamline the licensure process for out-of-state and alternatively trained educators. Now, we must make sure the Legislature’s directives are upheld and implemented with the fidelity and urgency our students need. By streamlining out-of-state teacher licensure and re-opening licensure via portfolio (a once popular option for educators with nontraditional backgrounds), we can address growing teacher shortages, increase educator diversity, grant school leaders much-needed flexibility to recruit and retain the best teachers for their schools and honor experienced educators’ expertise, all while maintaining the high standards we want for Minnesota teachers.
- Invest in high-quality, parent-directed early learning opportunities, with a focus on low-income children. Nearly all Minnesotans agree that early childhood education really matters and that we should increase early learning opportunities for our state’s youngest learners. But what also matters is what kind of opportunities we expand and how we expand them. That’s why we believe that as we strive to set Minnesota’s young children up for success in school and in life, we must increase investments and focus on kids that are currently most underserved. We must also ensure early learning programs are high-quality and allow parents to choose the best program for their kids.
Do any of these issues matter to you? If so, I hope you’ll take a moment to send me an email if you want to get more involved in any area of our work. We’ll then follow up with opportunities throughout session, such as talking to your legislators at the Capitol, attending—or even testifying at—a legislative hearing or participating in an advocacy training.
We hope to hear from you about what issues you care about, so take just a moment to email me!