New education laws mean unfunded mandates, more bureaucracy

Democrats are touting this session as the “education session,” claiming that they’re going to somehow reach a 100% graduation rate by 2027, thanks to new spending.
If history is any indicator, simply increasing funding without substantive reforms will do very little to increase graduation rates, let alone assure 100% graduation rates in the future. The status quo just won’t cut it for our students.
When Republicans were in the majority two years ago, we increased funding by over $50 per pupil. In addition, Republicans passed numerous reforms aimed at improving results and accountability for schools and teachers. Unfortunately, some of those reforms were vetoed by Governor Dayton at the direction of the powerful teacher’s union that prefers to uphold the status quo.
Moroever, Democrats inflated Minnesota Department of Education – the  bureaucracy, dumbed down the diploma by eliminating graduation testing in reading and writing and failed to follow through on their promise to repay the school shift.
Democrats funneled millions of dollars to increased Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) bureaucracy that I believe would have been better spent in the classroom. In total MDE receives more than $400,000 in budget increases, and another $2 million to expand “regional centers” that will do little to aid the most important goal of educating our children.
Disappointingly Democrats also voted to eliminate graduation standard requirements, effectively eliminating the need for students to demonstrate proficiency before graduating high school with a diploma. This is the wrong direction; we need to ensure that students are prepared and have learned core knowledge and the necessary skills to succeed before allowing them to graduate.
Most egregiously, Democrats failed to follow through on their number one campaign promise to pay back the school shift. Despite raising $2 billion dollars in taxes and hundreds of millions in fees, they were unable to find the funds necessary to pay back the debt owed to our schools. This is an unacceptable failure to follow through on a promise they so vigorously campaigned for during the last election.
Rather than increasing bureaucracy and rewarding special interest groups, Democrats should focus their efforts on reform in addition to investing dollars in to the classroom.
Without reform, it’s unlikely that we will see the lofty goals they set come to fruition. The status quo is not acceptable, and I’m disappointed that this session was very much the “status quo” session for our students.

Sondra Erickson represents District 15A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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