Attorney General Keith Ellison Remarks on the Page Amendment at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Let me thank all of you for the great work that you’ve been doing. I mean that being administrators in our schools teaching in our classrooms right after school programs being an active civic leader community groups, all the things that you have been doing. I want to thank you for.

And it’s been good work.

And yet, and yet we don’t have the outcomes we’re looking for, and yet we have an abysmal disparity between student white students and other students of color, and yet we know we’ve got to have all students able to fully participate and get the benefit of equality, public education in this state, if we are going to have a future as a state.

And so even though I want to say great job.

I’m only going to give you one clap.

Because we got a whole lot more work to do in order to reach our potential as a state. And I think that one of the best ways for a group of talented people to be successful when they aren’t being as successful as they would like to be is to get back to the basics and understand that we have got to review and interrogate purpose.

The idea that the state of the people the state of Minnesota are going to make it make Paramount quality public education as a fundamental right for our kids is a value statement, which orient us, I believe, around what we all need to be doing.

It’s a value statement which helps focus our attention.

And in many ways, the journey that we’re embarking on right now is the destination.

Earlier, the question was asked how are you going to get people’s attention on this issue. Well if this room has any indication we’ve already got some attention on the issue.

I hope that you go back and dispute language that you see in the proposed amendment. I hope that you say well, it could be better if we did this or, and I want, many of others of you to defend the language that’s there. Because it is this discussion that we have got to have good is going to help propel us to a better future than the one that we have.

But I just want to say to you this.

When we have the worst disparities. When we have abysmal failure. When it comes to educating all kids. And when a proposal comes out and the only answer you have is, no.

That’s not good.

Let’s try. Yes, if okay as long as.

Right. Are y’all even go from no unless we’re just no, full stop period is a non starter, not with the crisis that we have in front of us.

Not with the crisis we have in front of us. You know the fact of the matter is, is that the answers to the most difficult questions facing us at this very moment, are locked up in the mind of a preschooler, who is in a shelter.

The answers to climate change, racial harmony. Police accountability.

The answers to renewable energy, the answers to shared prosperity. A green future. The answers to the problems that keep, many of you awake at night, are locked up in a child’s mind.

But just like gold under the ground. You don’t get it, unless you dig for it.

It’s fine how it is, is good enough. Adequate.

Let me tell you, even if the constitutional standard is adequate adequate for us can’t be good enough.

Even if the constitutional is a uniform standard of education, adequate education. Unlike you know that might be what the law says, but not everything in the law is right, we’re coming up on Martin Luther King’s birthday everything he did was illegal he got arrested 30 times.

30 times. Because what he did was against the law, but he was morally right.

So today, the idea that we us together can say we’re going to say that kids have a fundamental right to a quality public education in Minnesota, and we all are going to get together and say that’s the and then we’re going to make sure that it’s that because we’re gonna measure. I’m not talking tests I say measure people say test. Can’t we be more creative than that.

If we are bold enough to do that. I’m telling you that it can set in motion a trajectory that 10 years from now, will have us all extremely proud of our education system.

And today, we might be able to be proud of certain pieces of it. But we can’t be proud of the whole thing.

In Minnesota, we can say oh our kids got the highest say T’s and AC T’s except for.

And then we got a little splainin to do.

But I believe that this take and educate white kids and can educate black ones. I believe that if this taken educate upper middle class kids that can educate working class kids.

I believe that we can do it.

The question is do we want to do it.

And once we said we want to do it.

Are we willing to do it.

That is actually the real challenge.

But if we set our purpose right.

Every kid has a fundamental right to a quality public education we set our purpose correct, then we will be unlocking a whole lot of things, because that seven year old, African American boy who maybe came to school on the shelter bus that morning. He will not be a miniature suspect in the minds of some people. He will be the holder of a fundamental right.

And that will change the minds of people. And if they don’t want to change their minds then other people will help them see the light.

We have in front of us an opportunity, and I don’t think we should let it pass.

We have in front of us an opportunity and I think that we should embrace it.

And let me say that if every child in this state has a fundamental right to a quality public education, the people who provide that right are going to have job security.

So I encourage people in the education field to embrace it, to look at it as a chance to make your profession the profession that locks in opportunity, and is respected to record to deliver on it. Now let me just say this for our teachers. We don’t expect you to do it alone. I know this is a real concern. And I don’t blame me for raising this as a concern, but let me assure you that my presence in support of this amendment is predicated on the idea that this is something that we all have to do it is perfectly legitimate for you to say okay society. You won’t even pay their parents a livable wage. You won’t even have them in a decent affordable housing. You make it live next to a toxic waste dump. And then when you, when you mean you drop them off to us and say make them all valedictorians.

That’s not okay.

And let me say this to the business community and I’m glad you’re here.

It is a problem to come to the legislature and say, we don’t want to pay any taxes.

But we want high quality public education, and a very well educated workforce.

Know I promised Neil, and justice page I would be nice today. That’s the only tough thing I’m going to say, but I just want to ask our business leaders, I mean, you know, are you telling us that yes, you’ll pay the taxes if you get the outcomes you’re looking for. Because if that’s what you say, we will take that challenge. If that is your point. Fine, let’s do it.

But if it’s just like you know if the economy’s doing good I need a tax cut if it’s doing bad I need a tax cut and if it’s doing up and down I need a tax cut.

Then don’t come to us about the state of education, public education, because you’re not helping that deal.

I think, yeah, that’s a deal.


I believe that it’s time to finally commit to investing in early education which I think, which I believe quality affordable public education implies, I believe it’s finally time to deliver and make serious commencement commitments our kids mental health which I believe quality affordable public education implies, it’s hard to learn when you’re deeply traumatized. We have to respond. If a kid has a fundamental right to learn, they have a fundamental right to be emotionally well.

I think it’s time to put into disparate discipline.

This is a serious problem. And I earlier I alluded to this I said a kid has a right to be considered the holder of a fundamental right to education as opposed to a suspect. I know many of you don’t want to believe that.

It’s true.

Your attorney general walked into Detroit Public Schools at seven years old, under suspicion of wrongdoing, and was desperately disciplined. When his crewmates weren’t for the same behavior.

Don’t tell me it wasn’t because I was black I know exactly what was happening, and everyone else did too. And if you think that that’s not going on in Minneapolis schools or Minnesota schools, it is happening, but it may not be happening consciously.

There’s no such thing as implicit bias.

And when judges used to say you know that kid. I gave him a break because he just reminds me myself when I was a kid you know I was just a little scamp that kid, the kid with the saggy pants in the braids and he don’t remind me myself, I’m scared of him. He needs a harsher punishment. Not did the judge say I’m gonna do this one thing for the white kid I’m gonna do this other thing for the black kid. No, it was just a gut level reaction and understand this about human beings. Emotion drives choice. Not rationality and logic.

We’ve got to unlearn things we have learned.

None of us was around for the 250 years that this nation was slaveholding. Very few of us were around when it was a, Jim Crow society for the next hundred years. And all of us inherited these last 60 years were we dealing with the legacy of those first 350 years. So it’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility to build liberty and justice for.

It is our responsibility, and I can think of no better place to start. In, in our educational system.

I believe that inside of our schools we need to commit to early childhood education we need to commit to mental health for kids, and we need to put it into desperate discipline, but outside of our schools we need help to the idea of a fundamental right. I hope signal something to people who work in the housing world, and says you know if a kid is highly mobile if a kid doesn’t even know where they’re going to sleep tomorrow. What’s our role. I hope that this conversation gets sparked this debate that we’re having has the potential to have people in all sectors of our society, ask themselves some serious questions about what they can do to help that kid’s fundamental right the reality.

It may be if you’re a housing developer, you should say you know what are we doing, are we doing anything.

But if you do come to that honest conclusion. The next thing you should say okay so what are we going to start doing outside of our schools we need to build housing and transportation, that allow working people to thrive.

We do need to raise the minimum wage folks.

It’s just not sensible, we look we live in a society where there’s worse income inequality in any time since the Great Depression.

This society has plenty of money, it’s just that most working people don’t have much of it.

And whenever time I read the paper about somebody getting a 160 $7 million golden parachute. I’m thinking there’s at least 166.5 million that should go to Texas for public education. That’s just an editorial comment.

But I can’t but I’m telling you I think that we’ve got to understand that you’ve got to pay parents better if you want better outcomes for the kids, if the parents can’t even afford notebooks and books at home, and the parents can’t afford to take a kid to a park, and they can’t afford the basics of what it means to expose kids to stuff.

Then all the onus goes on to the school system. Put the parents in a position by paying employees, better. In this America. And we don’t always look at paying employees as a good thing. Somebody said oh well. Good good news we have very little inflation growth because of course wage pressures have been very low and I’m like, how do you, how’s that good, a good for somebody, not the people who are living near people I live, I live near Neato raise. Maybe some bonuses need to be stagnant for a while.

And I also think that we’ve got to take the criminal justice system. Seriously, I want to commend the sentencing guidelines commission for having this debate around capping probation. Now you may think what does this have to do with what we’re talking about kid. Keep won’t just go talk to some kid whose mom is on probation for 40 years. What that kid’s life chances are if mom Campo mom can’t do this mom can’t do that. Mom, no matter how good she’s been over those last 40 years she’s still a felon. And she’s it’s tough to get any kind of decent work.

Now when I’ve been bringing up these outside the classroom points. A lot of people will say to me, Well, Keith Look, don’t let the school system off the hook. Everybody’s hoping to be able to blame somebody else.

I don’t, I agree with that point of view, we should do all that we can with the resources that we have, what we have is an election in November, in which we have the chance to make education a fundamental right, education, public education. Education quality public education. We have the chance to do that. And I want to invite you to this conversation, invite you to this debate. I want you to put your ideas out there, but at the end of this debate.

No is an endorsement of the status quo, which we all find unacceptable. No. is saying it’s fine how it is. No, we’ll invite litigation.

No. is not all right, saying we’re doing plenty we’re doing this, we’re doing that we don’t need to make any changes we’re doing fine. Well, look, God bless you in your little program that you’re running maybe you are having good outcomes, but as a class we’re not. And we need everybody to take that seriously. And I just want to wrap up by saying.

It’s been a long time since we’ve looked at this constitutional amendment around education in 1857.

For example, the education clause was introduced into our Constitution. And I don’t think that has been updated since two that women couldn’t vote. So when we were trying to educate people we weren’t talking about women, black folks were still in bondage and Native Americans were treated as enemy nations.

I think it’s time to take another look to examine what we might do to have the best state, not just today, but for a generation that depends upon the opportunities we open up for our children today. You and I are going to get out on the highway and benefit from Eisenhower era infrastructure as we drive home. Did you know that.

What is this generation going to do for the next one coming up. Are we willing to do something kind of crazy, change the constitution to make education, quality education, public education a fundamental right for our kids. And then, live up to that high mark that we’ve set for ourselves. I certainly hope that we will last word right now. My office is in the middle of a lawsuit. We are the defendants, and we have been sued, because some parents find the condition that their children are having to learn in inadequate. Not good enough. In, and suited to their needs in their future. Because of persistent systemic discrimination.

Our defense. It might not be great but it’s adequate that’s legal, we can win with that.

Do you understand what I’m saying to you we might win. If we convince a Fact Finder or court that it’s adequate judging might not be that great but it’s adequate. And it’s uniform enough, we can win. Even though the numbers are so bad.

Because of this situation. I’ve decided I’m helping. Because of this situation. I said that I’m in.

But we didn’t just start defending the case and say no no no we did which okay we’ll call them experts all that. We decided to engage in a process of mediation, so that we could talk it out and try to maximize opportunities for our kids to come up with a process of mediation where we would hear expert information from not just experts but parents and kids and everybody, and we listen to people and try to come up with a settlement that perhaps maybe that would do good for our children.

We’re going to keep doing that, no matter what happens here. but how much better it would be if the people of the state of Minnesota. Got to weigh in. Got to weigh in on the kind of educational system that they want for their future.

Let’s go get this thing done guys.

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