Lifelong Learning Education Plan
Becky Lourey will set an evolutionary education agenda integrating early education with school classrooms and higher education so that every student has a full opportunity for learning achievement. Her vision for education success champions personal commitment involving children and their parents, teachers and community leaders.
Minnesota has a long and successful tradition of local autonomy for school success in stark contrast to the sluggish top-down, administration-heavy national approach currently influencing education policy. Innovation in education comes from hands-on experiences in the classroom. With steady, adequate funding from early learning through advanced degree programs, Minnesota can regain its competitive edge as an education leader by preparing its citizens for success in an ever-changing 21st century global economy.
Becky Lourey believes in school financing stability and consistent learning environments. Greater education efficiencies can be achieved with investments in highly energy-efficient buildings and transportation, and encouraging requests from the local level for relief from excessive administrative paperwork and regulation. A Becky Lourey administration will set minimum school standards, yet give schools flexibility to achieve high academic goals for every student in Minnesota.
The bottom line is: Education is the number one financial obligation in Minnesota – and should remain so. For at least a decade, funding education in our state has been spotty at best. Pledges to adequately fund our systems of Education must be backed by sound fiscal policy. Unlike the other candidates for Governor in 2006, Becky Lourey has offered a detailed Fiscal Policy Framework to explain how to pay for our obligations.
Stable education financing, learning environment consistency
The state must not continue the inefficient, fluctuating funding of education with adequate revenue made available only in the good economic times. Total elimination of the K-12 general education levy five years ago resulted in unstable financing for Minnesota schools and triggered other unexpected negative consequences. Sharp changes in class sizes every year creates uncertainty, stress and interferes with the learning process. A limited, equalized levy based on adjusted net tax capacity will ensure fair funding for all school districts regardless of property wealth.
Overcoming the Achievement Gap
At a time when Minnesota culture moves steadily toward greater diversity, we have not made gains in bridging an enormous achievement gap. No education system alone can be expected to repair Minnesota’s 44th national ranking in the graduation gap between white students and African Americans. We certainly risk creating a permanent underclass if high school graduation rates remain under 50% for an entire ethnic class (the current rate is 44% for African Americans). At the state level, a greater spirit of cooperation and the commitment to fully funding compensatory and categorical aids will be pursued. A broad approach to achievement gap is essential with state funding spread to recreation, after-school enrichment opportunities, and community services that focus on solving the problem. At the local level, an open approach will encourage hands-on involvement of community, faith and business leaders. The state will address achievement disparities, accelerate underachieving students, improve testing scores and promote college readiness in grades 5-12 by expanding state funding for AVID -- Advancement Via Individual Determination (www.avidonline.org) to every willing school district. This cost-effective service offers mentoring classes and school resources to enable underachieving students to accelerate and excel at advanced, honors classes. With its higher retention, graduation and college matriculation rates, this model deserves broader availability.
A Workable Alternative to No Child Left Behind
The claimed goals of “No Child Left Behind” are laudable -- focusing attention on students who were not always well served in the past. Unfortunately many states – Minnesota included – cannot fit well into the top-down, $10 billion bureaucratic structure imposed by the federal government. Working closely with other states that make a strong commitment to academic success for all students, Minnesota will press for an alternative, wavered process to achieve goals and receive its fair share of federal funding. Our focus should address those who need a hand up for success – the disadvantaged, disabled and new residents who need help with their language skills. A key goal of the federal program that Minnesota should retain is proficient reading at an early age. Becky Lourey supports a three-tier approach using progress measures, scientifically based instruction, and problem solving to achieve reading proficiency by the end of the third grade, giving students well-rounded tools for success in the intermediate grades and beyond.
Early Education – Ready to Learn
More than any other public expenditure, investment in Early Education has a proven pay back many times over in long-term dividends for students and society as a whole. Properly preparing all children will require greater investments in child care, training of early care and education professionals, as well as focusing resources on families with children who are at risk of not being ready to enter kindergarten. Better integration between K-12 school systems and Early Education should involve stronger community connections. The Lourey administration will further encourage foundations and business groups that express a willingness to step up in partnership with community groups and schools.
Classroom essentials for 21st-century successAll Minnesotans gain when every student achieves his or her full potential. Students who fail to master the basics not only create a drag on the school system, but they almost certainly will become a burden for our society. Becky Lourey believes maximum academic achievement requires at least a minimum class time requirement. No fewer than 32 states require 180 days of classroom instruction each year. In this global economy, it is noteworthy that most industrialized nations require at least 200 days of instruction. Schools in Minnesota average 174 days of instruction – a deficit of more than five weeks compared to the global competition. Becky Lourey will return Minnesota to a base requirement of 175 days next year, and add the equivalent of one day a year for the following three years. Schools will be given flexibility to add class time by lengthening school hours or by increasing calendar days – or a combination of both.
Administrative efficiency in schools can be best achieved through understanding and cooperation, not by simple-minded publicity campaigns setting an artificial classroom spending standard. The Lourey administration will streamline the state’s education waiver process, encouraging individual schools, districts and groups of school districts to seek exceptions to paperwork rules, mandates and regulations that drive up school administration costs. As Minnesota strives for energy independence and lower fuel costs, a state and local school partnership is needed to achieve more energy-efficient buildings and lower-cost school transportation options.
The Lourey administration is committed to enhancing the full span of curriculum offerings and co-curricular activities to achieve a well-rounded, healthy educational experience for all students. One area of potential curricular enhancement comes in elementary schools where more students are eager to learn foreign languages and open up their global job opportunities later in life. In smaller school districts, the new elementary foreign language offerings could use distance learning technologies.
Affordable Higher Education for the Common Good
According to State Demographer Tom Stinson and other economic experts, Minnesota achieved its prosperity by investing in brainpower. Common sense -- and any number of studies -- tells us that the more educated a person becomes, the more they earn and the less they are unemployed. College-educated citizens pay more taxes and require fewer government services, creating a more prosperous society. We have great public universities and colleges because we choose to invest public dollars in these institutions and the students who attend them. In Minnesota, our public investment has been waning for many years. Students and their families are paying much higher tuition – up more than 50% over the past four years. The Lourey administration will hold the line on school tuition to no more than the inflation rate. Just as importantly, Minnesota will invest again in our higher education institutions, and will invest in student aid and low-cost loans based on need. Becky Lourey supports the Dream Act – providing equal opportunity to every student who attended high school in Minnesota.
In return for enhancing state investment, our land grant universities must focus once again on basic research to benefit the greater good in pressing areas of public need such as renewable fuels and energy independence. Research for the common good was the basis for land grant colleges, and too much of university research is now simply sold to the highest bidder. Buildings on our college campuses should be retrofitted to high standards for energy efficiency and they should rely more heavily on renewable sources as the state strives for energy independence.