Hello from the State Capitol,
Education and gun bills were among the headliners at the Capitol this week. Here’s a brief overview.
GIVING ALL KIDS AN EQUAL RIGHT TO A QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION
Legislation I’m co-authoring was unveiled this week that starts the process of tackling Minnesota’s growing educational achievement gap.
The bill would amend Minnesota’s Constitution to enshrine the right to a “quality public education” for all children in Minnesota.
If passed, the bill specifies that this November’s 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 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.
This bipartisan bill has more than 30 co-authors. The idea was birthed in part by former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, who joined us at a press conference to announce the bill.
Statistics show that what we’re currently doing is not working for all kids, especially children of poverty and color. We need a serious discussion in our state about more than just the amount of money that we put into education. It’s time to focus on the quality of that education for each and every one of our children and I believe this measure will guide us in that direction.
I do not know if the language in this bill is the perfect language or if pursuing a constitutional amendment is the appropriate direction to go. However, I do know that we need to start having conversations about the quality of education each and every child receives in our state, and I also believe we need to start thinking outside the box. I am confident that introducing this bill will bring about some long overdue for conversations on these issues.
Discussing quality education and thinking outside the box isn’t a slam on teachers; in fact I believe it will empower them. Their goal is always to do what right for their kids in the classroom, but many times their hands are tied due to micromanagement and the status quo. I’m hopeful this bill leads us on a robust discussion of improving the achievement gap and look forward to the conversation.
GUN CONTROL BILLS DON’T SERVE INTENDED PURPOSE
House Democrats approved a pair of gun control bills this week. They would create universal background checks and allow the seizure of a gun owner’s firearms. Both received bipartisan opposition.
I would support these bills if they would actually work, but as I read them it became very clear that they will not serve their intended purpose and will only inhibit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
The vast majority of gun deaths are from suicides and gang related. Instead of universal, one-size-fits-all laws that will do nothing to improve our safety, we should be focusing our legislation on finer-tuned proven strategies like mental health support for suicide prone groups or gang mentor programs that have actually reduced violence in communities.
There’s good economic news from the State Capitol as the latest budget projection shows Minnesota now has a $1.5 billion surplus, which is $200 million more than was expected in December. As I’ve said before, adding new expensive programs and the permanent funding obligations that are attached to them makes no sense when we have state obligations that are not currently being met like the special education funding gap, English language learner funding and nursing home needs. In addition to funding our current state obligations, I also believe that a large portion of this surplus should be used for targeted tax relief, including things like eliminating taxes on Social Security benefits and increasing the child care credit for families. This would be a very worthwhile use of funds that Minnesotans overpaid to their state government.
It was such a pleasure to meet with a group of local motorcycle enthusiasts who came to the Capitol this week to talk about motorcycle issues. I sure appreciate these people, most from the Geneva area and surrounding communities, who took the time to come to my office and share their legislative priorities!
Have a good weekend,