Tuesday, February 15, 2011

21st Century Public Education

Minnesotans believe in public education. Our state's founders believed in it so strongly that it was written into Article 13, Section 1 our state's constitution: "UNIFORM SYSTEM OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state."

In the last thirty years of the education wars, Minnesotans of various stripes have tried to reinvent, circumvent, shut down and compete with our statewide public school system. I have been one of them, because I believe that parents should be able to choose how their children are educated and that competition improves performance in any endeavor.

However, I'm also a Constitutionalist.

As a Constitutionalist, and as a Minnesotan, I have to understand that Minnesotans value public education. It is the most accessible, most affordable means of education that most families in Minnesota have. Abolishing or dismantling public education in Minnesota would be unconstitutional. And since the reality is that public education will remain the most accessible, most affordable form of education for most families, we should also heed our state constitution's requirements to make it thorough and efficient.

Note to Governor Dayton: that doesn't mean throwing more money at the system.

I've spent nearly 8 years serving on a local school board here in the Twin Cities. We have made some amazing progress in transforming our district's educational systems to better serve our students. Our high school has been listed in Newsweek's Top 1,500 High Schools for three years in a row. Our AP and other exceptional learner programs have some of the highest per capita ratios of disadvantaged students of any district our size. We serve a higher proportion of special needs students than most other districts in Minnesota because parents have confidence in our capabilities to educate their children. Our district's superintendent was the first superintendent in the state of Minnesota to base her entire potential salary increase on merit alone.

And we've done it with lower tax rates and lower per-pupil spending than almost any other district in the metropolitan area.

In this series of posts, I will outline the kinds of reform that public education really needs to allow it to perform in the 21st century. I believe in competition as much as I ever did, and I believe that public education can perform just as well as any other educational option if we have the flexibility and call to innovation that our districts need to get the job done. Public education is a core Minnesota value: let's get it right.

1 comment:

  1. It's great to manage a successful school system which in a free market would still thrive and attract students. But how about systems that are not that blessed - like Minneapolis or Eden Prairie? Let's leave the tools of remediation in the hands of the parents - vouchers and credits for home schoolers. It's still publicly financed education. Competition will make all schools better and a lot of students too.
    Tom Coulter