Minnesota House of Representatives


State Representative Carlos Mariani

203 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

For more information contact: Charlene Briner 651-296-5809

Posted: 2007-01-24 00:00:00
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School Funding Discussions Must Address The Achievement Gap

State Rep. Mindy Greiling
State Rep. Carlos Mariani
Minnesota House of Representatives Contact: Charlene Briner
(651) 296-5809 charlene.briner@house.mn
State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota students and Minnesota schools have a well-deserved reputation as academic top performers by any objective measure. Graduation rates, standardized test scores, ACT and SAT results all confirm our status as a national leader.
But behind these impressive statistics hides an embarrassing reality. The "achievement gap", the disparity in academic performance between different groups of students is a national problem. But in Minnesota, that gap is particularly wide, the fifth worst in the nation. It exists in low-income rural districts and urban areas with high concentrations of students from diverse racial backgrounds. Minority students consistently score below their white peers on standardized tests, and students from low-income families face a similar divide. That puts schools in high-poverty areas and those with many students of color, at a distinct disadvantage.
Talking about the disparity in educational outcomes between minority and disadvantaged students and their white counterparts is uncomfortable for many, but addressing the achievement gap has emerged as one of the most urgent education-policy challenges facing our state. It is the filter through which both House Education Committees will view each piece of education funding and policy legislation they consider.
The costs of ignoring this gap are high. Remediation - the money spent to help low performing kindergarten through 12th grade students catch up, is proportionately higher than the cost to educate other students. Equally as costly are the long-term costs, to the individual, to our communities and to our states economic success. Students who graduate with poor academic skills may manage to stay afloat as adults, but their economic status is marginal at best. They face a lifetime of diminished earning power and low employability in a state economy that needs an increasing supply of educated workers. High school drop-outs are more likely to become involved with drugs and other criminal activities. Companies who depend on a highly-skilled workforce may be forced to look elsewhere when choosing to come to Minnesota.
Closing this gap requires serious discussion about high quality outcomes and the changing demographics of our state. It requires innovative new strategies that strive for equitable access for all students, and expanded investments in successful programs that have demonstrated high expectations. Most of all, it will require sustained commitment from policy-makers, parents, community members and others to identify and employ initiatives that hold the greatest promise for moving all students—including students of color, poor students, rural and urban students, and second-language learners—to high levels of achievement.

Discussions about our public schools should not simply take place in the legislature, but equally as important, in our communities. As chairs of the House K – 12 Education Finance Division and the House K – 12 Education Policy Committee, we want to hear from you. We are holding a joint hearing on Tuesday, January 30 at the Glover-Suddeth Community Center at 2100 Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis from 7:00 to 8:30PM. Citizen involvement is critical to effective government and this is an important opportunity for stakeholders to have their voices heard.

Addressing educational disparities and making sure that all students perform at high levels of academic achievement, is one of the most persistent challenges facing Minnesota schools. It's time to focus the education discussion on this important test of Minnesota’s values, so that all students, regardless of their economic, racial and geographic background can reach their highest potential.

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