ST PAUL, Minn. – Calling it a big first step, supporters of a proposed state constitutional amendment dealing with education equality say they’re energized now that a bill has been introduced.
Formal legislation was unveiled in the Minnesota House this week. The move follows a new campaign led by former state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari.
They hope it will help eliminate long-standing achievement gaps. Daniel Sellers, executive director of the advocacy group EdAllies, says while it wouldn’t produce immediate results, it would be an important tool.
“It puts power back in the hands of affected students and families and educators,” says Sellers, “who then can use the courts to ensure that policies and the enaction of those policies are leading to better outcomes for kids.”
The Minneapolis Fed, which has said education issues can have a lasting economic impact, recently issued a report that said Minnesota is among the worst states when it comes to achievement gaps.
One of the plan’s opponents is the state’s largest teacher’s union, which says it could have unintended consequences for how public schools are funded. Opponents argue that such a move could result in more private school vouchers, and not provide a boost to public school systems.
But Sellers says that’s essentially an argument being used as a fear tactic.
“The proposed amendment uses the word ‘public’ in three sentences,” says Sellers. “The amendment is in support of public schools.”
There’s also a companion bill in the Senate. And while the idea has bipartisan support, the bill’s authors say they’re trying to gather enough “yes” votes so they can put the proposal on a statewide ballot for voters to consider.