Proposed amendment aims to close achievement gaps in education

Proposed amendment aims to close achievement gaps in education

FAIRMONT, Minn. (KEYC) — Minnesotans are generally proud when describing the state of education within the state.

According to rankings from U.S. News & World Report, Minnesota has been a fixture in the top 15 to 20 for education.

This doesn't tell the whole story.

For Caucasians and affluent students, the system works well, but for minorities and disadvantaged families... not so much.

To address this issue, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari and retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page have authored an amendment to the State of Minnesota’s Constitution.

“We have the largest academic achievement gap between our children of color and our Caucasians and between our children of poverty and children of middle-class and upper-income students,” Fairmont Area Schools Superintendent Joseph Brown Sr. explained.

The change is to make quality public education a civil right whereas now, adequate education is guaranteed.

This means it's really good for some, but not for others and it's your guess where your child fits in.

“Many other states have already changed their constitutions. We are behind here in Minnesota. Our education provision in our constitution was written in 1857, literally before the Civil War. It states ‘students have the right to an adequate education.’ I don’t know any mom or dad that wants their child to get an ‘adequate education',” Kashkari said.

So, advocates have come to Fairmont, where schools graduate 91% of the students that walk their halls, which is 19% higher than the Minnesota average.

When officials at Fairmont Area Schools look at the demographics of the kids who do drop out, they see a similar pattern that is on par with the rest of the state.

“The issue here in Fairmont is one of poverty, and we have a lot of children that qualify for free and reduced lunch," stated Brown Sr. "Our state needs those kids to be able to get a quality public education, graduate and maybe go into a higher education, get some additional skills and go into the workforce.”

The amendment was introduced both because the achievement gaps are staggering and education is different than it was in 1857.

“We want to raise it up so that all Minnesota children get a quality education. If you can do better than quality, that’s great! At a minimum, we want to make sure every child in Minnesota gets a quality education,” Kashkari added.

Justice Alan Page and Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari toured the impressive vocational wings at Fairmont Area Schools, as their quest for solutions continues.

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