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A constitutional amendment to transform education in Minnesota

Justice Alan Page: “This proposal will hold the state accountable to ensuring all children are getting the education they deserve.”

January 8, 2020

A constitutional amendment to transform education in Minnesota
Education achievement gaps banner

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page today called on Minnesotans to pass a constitutional amendment to give every child in Minnesota an equal right to a quality education.

Having not been updated since it was first enacted in 1857, Minnesota’s current constitution only provides students access to an adequate education system. While many other states have modernized their constitutions’ education provisions and put children first, Minnesota has not. Our education system today reflects its original 1857 design.

This proposal comes on the heels of new research by the Minneapolis Fed 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. It doesn’t have to be so.

“While many good faith attempts have been made to close our achievement gaps for at least two decades, we must be honest that we’ve made virtually no progress,” said Kashkari. “We need a bold approach to transform education in our state.”

Page said, “Updating our constitution by making quality education a civil right for all children will put power in the hands of families, where it belongs. This proposal will hold the state accountable to ensuring all children are getting the education they deserve.”

The proposed language would replace Art. XIII, Sec. 1 of Minnesota’s constitution in its entirety, and reads:

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 current constitution reads:

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.1

Since October 2019, Page and Kashkari have been meeting with elected officials and community, education, labor, and business leaders to discuss the need to update our constitution.

“We have secured broad, bipartisan support for this proposal,” Kashkari said. “Minnesotans care about one another. We are pleased, but not surprised, that so many people agree on wanting to finally put children first.”

Among those supporting the proposal are:

  • Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General
    “I’ve been fighting for children my whole life. Times have changed since Minnesota’s education clause was drafted in 1857. The amendment opens an important discussion about quality schools and placing all Minnesota children first. This bold step is long overdue. I applaud Justice Page and President Kashkari on their proposal and look forward to joining them in a continuing conversation as the proposal further evolves.”

  • Doug Baker, CEO, Ecolab
    “The business community is committed to closing Minnesota’s education achievement gaps. This amendment is a potential game changer that can finally break through politics and put all Minnesota children first. Making quality education a civil right will enhance Minnesota’s economic competitiveness.”

  • Cathy Chavers, President, Asabiikone-zaag'igan, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
    “My community has seen education used against it for generations. Our children need an education that gives them the same opportunities for success as it does to others—and I believe that we can do that together. This amendment is the first step.”

  • Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, Secretary/Treasurer, Dakota, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
    “We need to change the narrative for our kids to be able to see themselves as past, present, and future leaders in Minnesota.”

  • Chris Hilger, CEO, Securian Financial
    “I support this amendment because it is time to finally put all Minnesota children first.”

  • Carlton Jenkins, Superintendent, Robbinsdale Public Schools
    “I support the proposed amendment to Article XIII, Section 1, of the Minnesota State Constitution by President Kashkari and Justice Page. If accepted, this recommendation will serve as the foundation in transforming outcomes for all children, families, and communities in the state of Minnesota. By design, this proposed amendment illuminates the fundamental right of all children and families to gain access to pathways for excellent educational and economic outcomes. Furthermore, this recommendation would serve as a catalyst for addressing Minnesota’s opportunity gaps and restoring our state to global leadership in innovation and education. As such, this proposed amendment will contribute to our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for all.”

  • Rena Moran, Minnesota State Representative
    “The ‘adequacy standard’ has created a system that is inadequate for far too many in my community. No one dreams of providing their children with an ‘adequate’ education. Whether you live in Frogtown or on the Iron Range, all parents aspire for more than ‘adequate’ for their children. Employers are not looking for ‘adequacy.’ The time has come for Minnesota to do the right thing and commit to preparing all children for a successful future.”

  • Michelle J. Walker-Davis, Executive Director, Generation Next
    “I applaud the leadership of Justice Alan Page and President Neel Kashkari in developing this bold proposal and engaging the public around the urgency of delivering results for all children in our state. This amendment promises to be a powerful tool to test our collective will to serve those children left behind by our current system. I am encouraged by the potential to shift the balance of power in educational decision-making toward those most impacted, giving more voice to parents and students themselves.”

  • Charlie Weaver, Executive Director, Minnesota Business Partnership
    “Minnesota continues to lag in efforts to close persistent racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. The state’s business leaders recognize that accelerating efforts to narrow gaps is an economic and moral imperative—this constitutional amendment will compel our state to enact the types of systemic reforms in K-12 education that will ensure we are preparing every child for future success in the global economy.”

Page and Kashkari pledge to travel the state to build even more support for this proposal. “Neel and I agree, a quality education is both a civil rights issue and an economic issue,” said Page.

Kashkari and Page are hosting a community conversation on Monday, Jan. 13, to discuss the proposal. Additional speakers at this public event are scheduled to include:

  • Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General
  • Rena Moran, Minnesota State Representative
  • Jay Xiong, Minnesota State Representative
  • Doug Baker, CEO, Ecolab
  • Carrie Brimhall, President, Minnesota State Community and Technical College
  • Kathleen Harrington, President, Rochester Chamber of Commerce
  • Carlton Jenkins, Superintendent, Robbinsdale Public Schools
  • Erin Rathke, Principal, Justice Page Middle School
  • Sondra Samuels, Executive Director, Northside Achievement Zone
  • Charlie Weaver, Executive Director, Minnesota Business Partnership

While registration for the conversation is full, interested individuals can watch it live at minneapolisfed.org/live. To see the full agenda, go to http://minneapolisfed.org/events/2020/children-first-a-community-conversation-on-educating-all-children.

Page and Kashkari each bring a unique, but complementary perspective to their work to end educational disparities. In his 22 years on Minnesota’s Supreme Court, it became clear to Page that quality education is a key driver of justice. He said, “Children who don’t get a quality education are far more likely to fall through the cracks of society.”

As president of the Minneapolis Fed, Kashkari advances the mandates Congress set for the Federal Reserve: achieving stable prices and maximum employment. He believes a quality education is central to success in the job market. This initiative builds on the Minneapolis Fed’s two decades of work on promoting early childhood education, especially for low-income children.


Endnote

1 Minnesota Constitution, Art. XIII, Sec. 1.