As I consider the growing poverty across our state, I think about my kids, our kids and the situation we have created for them. It is far from where I think it needs to be. One of the places where I think we can make the greatest difference is in education. Schools are an important place where we can identify the challenges students and families face and give them the attention they deserve. My belief is underscored time and time again as I door knock. The need for a stronger, better funded education system is something I hear from parents, teachers, and others who work or have worked in the schools. I have felt an increasing urgency to begin to address the crisis facing our children and schools. I tell people I am not an expert, but that I am committed to finding and creating solutions together with other committed lawmakers if elected. People who know me, know I get things done.
I remember when my oldest child started kindergarten just a few years ago. At first, I felt relieved that she was at one of the “best schools in the district.” The percentage of kids on the free and reduced-price lunch program was the lowest in the district at 30%. But I soon realized at 30% that meant that at least 8 of the 28 students in her class were likely receiving free or reduced-price lunch. The following year, I learned one in five children in the district is on an individual learning plan. My initial feeling of relief has now been replaced by a serious concern for the wellbeing of my children, their friends, their education, and ultimately, their shared future.
Minnesota has for several decades been known to have one of the greatest education systems in the country. Sadly, over time that legacy has eroded. I believe my children deserve better, and that all children deserve better. I will continue to have conversations with constituents at their doors about what we can do to get us back on better footing.
For now, I think about the best ways we can better prepare students to learn, how can we ensure all kids aren’t hungry in school, how to lessen stigma around poverty, and what are manageable class sizes for students and teachers. We absolutely need to be thinking about the purpose of school today and the things students need to learn and study. We need to think about the people children need to become and the qualities they need to have if they are to succeed as adults in today’s world. But we cannot do any of this if they are not coming to school ready to learn.
Here are some ideas I would like to explore if elected:
Universal Pre-K offered to all 4-year- olds, with transportation included, (possible all day option to help working parents)
Free or reduced-price lunch for all students K-12
Smaller class sizes
Increased number of counselors in schools
Creating a more comprehensive funding formula
I am willing to work across party lines on these ideas, or better ones if they are proposed. I want to create reasonable, cost effective change in schools that will create more ease and support for parents and students, and a more manageable work environment for teachers. Few people and families have extra money or time anymore, we need to make sure the money that we spend on our children’s education should be spent well, and create and maintain a sense of integrity we can all feel proud of. School is a path to future, but more importantly it is where our kids are spending their precious young years.