Bill to Give All Minnesota Children an Equal Right to a Quality Public Education Introduced
ST. PAUL, MN—State Representative Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul), chair of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee, and State Representative Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls), the Republican lead on the House Education Finance Division, introduced HF 3658, a bill to amend the Minnesota constitution to enshrine the right to “quality public education” for all children in Minnesota. More than 30 lawmakers join them as authors of the bipartisan bill.
The proposed constitutional amendment has the support of Attorney General Keith Ellison and retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page.
“It is time to take action on Minnesota’s horrendous achievement gaps,” Rep. Moran said. “No parent dreams of their child being ‘adequate.’ No employer hopes for ‘adequate’ workers. It’s time to put children, their needs, and their futures at the forefront of our decision-making.”
“We have a unique opportunity at the Legislature this session to debate the outcomes for all of our students across this increasingly diverse state,” Rep. Kresha said. “It’s in our hands here at the Capitol because, frankly, the reason there’s an achievement gap is that we, as a legislature, have failed to act. Minnesotans care deeply about our children and education. I am confident that, if given the chance, they will overwhelmingly support this constitutional amendment.”
The bill calls for language proposed by Justice Alan Page and Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari to be placed on the ballot in November 2020. If passed, the amendment would replace Section 1 of Article XIII of the constitution with the following:
Sec. 1. EQUAL RIGHT TO QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION. All children have a fundamental right to a quality public education that fully prepares them with the skills necessary for participation in the economy, our democracy, and society, as measured against uniform achievement standards set forth by the state. It is a paramount duty of the state to ensure quality public schools that fulfill this fundamental right.
The bill specifies that the ballot question would be titled “Equal Right to Quality Public Education Amendment” and the question for voters would read:
Shall the Minnesota constitution be amended to provide that all children have an equal right to a quality public education?
The authors were joined at a press conference to announce the legislation by Attorney General Keith Ellison, Justice Alan Page, President Neel Kashkari, Robbinsdale Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins, community leaders, parents, educators, and civic organizations who support the proposal.
“This amendment is a conversation-starter on the urgent need for every Minnesota child to benefit from a quality public education, no exceptions,” said Ellison. “I hope that all Minnesotans, whether they support the amendment like I do or whether they don’t, will take the opportunity of the amendment to join in a meaningful conversation about how we make sure every child gets the quality public education that every child deserves.”
Justice Page praised lawmakers for stepping up. “Thank you for your courage. There are many vested interests who want to maintain the status quo. By offering this legislation, you have shown that you are truly committed to putting children first.”
The proposal was advanced after the Minneapolis Fed released new research last October that shows that Minnesota has some of the worst educational disparities in the nation. Low-income white children, children of color, and American Indian children in Minnesota have far worse educational outcomes than children from higher-income families. These disturbing disparities are true across the entire state.
“Education can be the great equalizer in America if the system allows every child the same chance at success. Our achievement gaps tell us that this is not the case in Minnesota,” said Representative Samantha Vang (DFL-Robbinsdale). “Our children of color, American Indian children, and children from lower socioeconomic families face barriers in our own system that hold them back. As leaders, we must do all we can to break those barriers down. I believe this amendment does just that.”
“The future of our state is based on a well-educated and diverse workforce,” said Senator Jeff Howe (R-Rockville). “The research is clear: We have horrible education achievement gaps in all 87 of our counties, in every one of my colleagues’ districts, including my own. That is unacceptable. We must prepare every child in the next generation of Minnesota’s workforce to be equipped with a solid future and to keep our economy strong.”
An independent, bipartisan, grassroots organization, Our Children, was formed to garner statewide support for this constitutional amendment.