Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s State of the State Address, fresh off the heels of hip surgery in February. I’m posting this address, because Governor Dayton’s support of Minnesota’s education for it’s children is extraordinary, and especially our PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
I strongly believe the reason why Minnesota’s citizens vote Predominately for Democratic Politicians, is because its citizens are well-educated.
Improving education is closely connected with good jobs and economic growth. It is also closely connected with our citizens’ health and well-being. I am very pleased to report that we have made significant new investments in education, all the way from early childhood through post-secondary, and improved results are beginning to show.
We started in 2011, when, despite facing a projected $6 Billion deficit, we increased K-12 education funding by $223 million, reversing a decade of declining state support for our public schools.
The 2011 legislature also passed an Alternative Pathway for Teacher Licensure and a “Read Well by Third Grade” literacy initiative. It enacted comprehensive teacher and principal evaluations. Principal evaluations began last fall, and teacher evaluations will start state-wide this September.
Last year, the 2013 legislature made $485 million of new investments in education. It increased the per-pupil aid formula as well as support for Special Education.
State funding for early childhood education scholarships was increased to $46 million last year, and the Senate wants to raise that amount this year. Early childhood education is real education reform.
The legislature also passed one of my consistent priorities; and state-funded, all-day kindergarten will begin this fall. Studies show that both early childhood and all-day kindergarten can make crucial differences in boosting students’ performances and closing achievement gaps. So do nutritious hot school lunches. No child should be shamed because parents can’t afford lunch. Hopefully, that funding will soon be enacted.
And, very significantly, during the past two-and-a-half years, we have repaid ALL of the $2.8 Billion previously borrowed from our schools. Now, school districts can put their money into classrooms, not bank loans. Let us vow that no more will we balance state budgets by creating deficits in school budgets.
Just weeks ago, the legislature passed strong anti-bullying legislation. That is also important education reform. Children don’t learn at school, if they are scared. Or made to feel bad about themselves.
Once, Minnesota students competed successfully not only with students around the country, but also with kids around the world. We are on our way to doing that again.
Testing by the Trends in International Math and Science Study ranks Minnesota #9 among world educational systems in Science and 6th in Mathematics.
Back home, in the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Minnesota’s 4th graders tested #1 in the nation in math. They ranked 10th best in reading, which was a big improvement from 22nd the year before. Very important was that the state’s reading gap for African-American and Latino 4th graders closed by 10 points from 2009 to 2013.
Our 8th graders ranked 11th best in the nation in reading and 5th best in math.
We have had the highest ACT scores among seniors for 8 years running, and our graduation rate, nearly 80%, is the highest in a decade.
Regarding higher education, we have started to make progress, but we have quite a ways to go. In fiscal 2012, state support for higher education, in real, after-inflation dollars, fell to its lowest level since 1981. Last year’s legislature began to reverse that trend, and increased state funding for higher education by a record $248.5 million.
One result from that declining state funding had been the increased reliance on tuition revenues to fund our public colleges and universities. According to the College Board, in this school year Minnesota has the 4th highest in-state tuition and fees for two-year public colleges and the 12th highest for four-year colleges and universities. Last year’s legislature wisely imposed two-year freezes on tuitions at the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU colleges and universities.
In addition, the State Grant Program was expanded. As a result, over Minnesota 100,000 students have received increased state financial aid this year.
Invest in Better Education
We have to invest in better education. Education that teaches people what they will need to succeed in the world of the future, not the world of the past. We need to invest in their new ideas, in their new ways to solve problems. We need to invest in their better health. We need to invest in a cleaner environment to keep them healthier for longer. And we need to invest in the infrastructure they need to live productive lives: efficient transportation, reliable sewer and water systems, and high-speed world-communications.
We have begun that process by recognizing the critical importance of our investments in education, and reversing their decline. Increasing our commitment to early childhood education will be one key to closing the achievement gap and enabling all of our children to become successful adults. Let us all commit that by 2018, all three and four year olds in Minnesota will have access to quality, affordable early childhood education.
Then, from the beginning of their elementary school educations, we must teach our children how to think creatively. To learn how to learn. To learn to love to learn. Creative people develop new ideas, which start new enterprises, which provide new jobs. Creative people figure out how to do their work more efficiently and productively.
The excessive amounts of time and rote learning required by today’s excessive school testing are counter-productive. They stifle teachers’ abilities to not only impart information, but also to show kids how to use it. How to apply their knowledge to solve new problems in new areas. And to enjoy doing so.
This approach does not require abandoning testing, as a measure of each student’s progress. It does require more efficient, more effective testing. A growing number of elementary schools in Minnesota are applying “one-minute, read-out-loud” tests, which can determine reading levels in just that one minute. Such tests can be repeated throughout the school year, as often as necessary, to measure students’ progress and adjust learning strategies accordingly.
Compare that approach to the high-stakes, anxiety-provoking testing, which is now imposed on children in third grade – or even younger. Many children come to school terrified on test days; then go home demoralized. What purpose does it serve to send a third-grader home believing she has failed life, because she may have performed poorly on a test?
Last year, I’m very sorry to say, our state went backwards. More tests were mandated in the upper grade levels. I’m told some tests are required by state statute. Others are necessary to satisfy federal requirements. Still others are added by local school districts. They may make sense individually; but added all together, they do not.
I am asking our Department of Education to prepare for the 2015 legislative session an analysis all of the tests now required at each grade level. And to recommend which ones could be streamlined, combined, or eliminated. I urge next year’s legislators to work with state and national experts to reduce the amount of school testing and allow dedicated teachers to spend their time teaching students what they will need for their future success.
Minnesota offers one of the fewest school days per school year in the country. The amount of time students spend in classrooms each day has also declined. Next year’s legislature needs to re-evaluate those practices. The rigors of the school day and the school year are important ways to prepare young people for the far more competitive world they will enter.
We also need to consider what environments we offer young people, when they’re not in school. It pains me to drive by a school in the early afternoon and see it closed, with its playground locked up. I always wonder, “Where are the kids, who are locked out of their schools? Where do they go, when they have nowhere to go?”
We need our schools to open earlier to offer their students nutritious breakfasts, and we need them to stay open later to provide safety, mentoring, tutoring, exercise, and new learning opportunities. These additional responsibilities would not be placed upon schools’ regular teachers. Instead, a new group of adults would take over after regular hours.
Minnesota has the third highest labor force participation rate in the country: over 70 %. Too many of their sons and daughters have too little to do after school and no one watching them do it.
Afternoon and evening programs at schools and recreational centers should be community responsibilities. Ask local businesses to help pay for them. Ask major corporations to sponsor them. Ask adults to volunteer one day a week or a month to run them. Get everyone involved in the lives of our children.
Starting in Junior High School, our education system needs to make students aware of the real world opportunities and pitfalls in the world they will be entering. First and foremost, they need to hear again and again and again that continuing their educations will be absolutely essential to achieving the lives they want. Our schools need more guidance counselors, who are specially trained in career guidance, to help junior high and high school students better understand what their opportunities are and how to prepare for them.
Then we must better align our high school and college curricula with the world of the future, not the world of the past. This means we have to provide leading-edge instruction; in world-class schools, colleges, and universities; with state-of-the-art equipment and technology — all aligned with the good jobs that will be available for their graduates.
The need for this alignment is well-understood by our state’s secondary and post-secondary education leaders. However, they need the resources to carry it out.
The State’s current bonding levels do not adequately support the improvements that both MnSCU and the U of M must make in their existing physical plants, in new buildings, and in state-of-the-art equipment and technologies — to continue to attract the best students and give them the best possible educations.
Higher education is by no means alone in suffering from inadequate capital investments. We need to find new revenues to finance.
I have given special emphasis to education, both because I believe it holds the key to our continued growth. I am convinced that whoever retools their education systems to align most effectively with the world their students will live in, and gives them the tools they will need to succeed in it, will prosper. Whoever doesn’t, will lag behind.
You can read the Full transcript here.