Duluth News Tribune: Statewide View Column: Let Minnesotans vote to close achievement gap

“The Education Achievement Gap: Minnesota’s Embarrassment” — 2004
“Report Ranks Minnesota Among Worst Achievement Gap States” — 2019

There’s a 15-year gap between these two headlines, yet nothing has changed. Both are articles from the same news organization about Minnesota’s notorious, shameful distinction of having one of the worst achievement gaps in the country.

A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis called Minnesota’s education achievement gap a statewide crisis. In 2019, white students met proficiency standards for reading and math at about double the rates of black and Hispanic students and students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches in Minnesota. The report noted that the achievement gap exists in all 87 counties throughout Minnesota.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the status quo in education in Minnesota is not working and that the state’s public-education system is broken. We’ve tried various fixes, but they haven’t produced the results we need and expect in Minnesota.

Despite spending more than $13 billion a year on public schools, we continue to have some of the worst achievement gaps in the country. Approximately 40% of the state’s budget is dedicated to education funding, and those gaps continue to get worse, not better.

We applaud former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari for initiating a transformational effort to fix the crisis through a bill that would amend the Minnesota state constitution to give every child the right to a high-quality education. We refer to this amendment as the Page Amendment, and we believe it will serve as a much-needed catalyst to the state Legislature to provide quality education in our state.

We have created an organization named Our Children MN to support the passage of the Page Amendment in the Legislature. Our Children MN is a passionate and diverse grassroots campaign working with a bipartisan group of people from the business community, communities of color, outstate Minnesota, the teaching profession, education-reform organizations, and other community organizers.

Our objective is to convince the Minnesota Legislature to put the Page Amendment on the ballot this November so the people of Minnesota can speak together in supporting a quality education for all our children.

The achievement gap is a stain on Minnesota. It has gone on for way too long. It is time for change.

In this age of divisiveness and extreme partisanship, we call on all Minnesotans to come together and agree that nothing is more important than our children — all our children. Help us by contacting your legislators and telling them to support the Page Amendment and close the achievement gap.

Mike McFadden of Sunfish Lake, Minnesota, is a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate; Mike Ciresi of Minneapolis is a former Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate; and Rashad Turner of St. Paul is executive director of the Minnesota Parent Union and a former leader of Black Lives Matter. The three are board members for the new group Our Children MN (ourchildrenmn.com).

Original Story