Column: Work to give children a quality educationMany Minnesota students returned to school last month to find important programs cut, school staff reduced, and other effects of the economy’s distress.
By: Al Franken, Minneapolis, The Republican Eagle
Many Minnesota students returned to school last month to find important programs cut, school staff reduced, and other effects of the economy’s distress.
When I was a kid growing up in St. Louis Park, we had a world-class public education for which I am eternally grateful. Now that I represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate, I’m proud to be an advocate for all of Minnesota’s children, who deserve the same access to an affordable, high-quality education from early childhood through college that my generation of Minnesotans had.
That’s why I’m a strong supporter of the Investment in After-School Programs Act and the ASPIRE Act, both bills that would blunt the effect of the current education cuts by providing funding for middle and high school after-school programs, and by providing education grants for school districts and low income students.
I’m also pleased to report that the Recovery Act has brought millions of dollars to Minnesota schools and will bring millions more in the coming months and years. This will allow our schools to not only retain but also to hire teachers and staff who are vital to our students’ success.
As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I have also had the opportunity to be part of the effort to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also referred to as No Child Left Behind Act, which will be up for reauthorization next year. I’ve spent the past year getting input from Minnesotans and questioning experts at committee hearings. And they’ve all made clear they think NCLB focuses on the right goals-closing the achievement gap and improving schools — but needs serious reform if it hopes to achieve those goals. I agree.
We need to recognize progress, give good schools the flexibility to be great schools, and provide struggling schools with the resources and support to be successful, including leadership that will empower them to improve. We also have a responsibility to address the needs of Minnesota’s most vulnerable students.
Our schools need strong leaders for our kids to succeed. Principals don’t just run the building: they’re the backbone of the school. They provide a critical support system for teachers and establish a culture that ensures our kids succeed.
That is why I joined Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, last year to introduce the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act. Our bill would recruit and train effective principals for high-need schools. It would create a pipeline of effective principals by providing high-quality training programs and mentorships from successful principals at high-needs schools to aspiring and current principals.
Over 1,000 schools in Minnesota qualify to benefit from our plan — that’s hundreds of thousands of Minnesota students who will have a more effective environment to learn in and a better chance to succeed.
As students return to school, it is important to remember that the choices we make now will affect the future of our children, our communities, and our country. I am committed to fighting for Minnesota’s children and giving them the quality education they deserve, and I ask that you join me in returning our country’s education system to its full potential.