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ALERT: MN Is Dead Last In Education Support Services

Category: Education
Posted: 03/08/16 02:10

by Dave Mindeman

There is this Republican talking point that comes up every election year. It goes something like this....

We spend too much on education. You can't just keep throwing money at the problem and expect to get better results. It's not working.

MPR put together a study and this is one of the conclusions:

Many schools here and elsewhere have improved their graduation rates in part by following a simple formula of early intervention. They identify students who are at risk of dropping out, then match them with the support they need. But the effort requires staff power, and Minnesota as a whole lags in that support, especially for at-risk students. Schools here spend 2.6 percent of their education dollars on pupil support, a smaller portion than every other state. And it has been that way for a decade, according to an MPR News analysis.

We talk about the embarrassing achievement gap regarding students of color in Minnesota. We have talked and studied and commissioned to just about every possible angle, and still the problem remains unchanged.

We discuss the general needs of more revenue for the schools, but we don't get specific enough on the need for student support services. We need to identify and focus on students that need that extra help....that can help them overcome the barriers that leave them trapped without opportunity.

Here are some of the problems that this study identified....

1. Schools would need to spend $75 million a year more to get back to 2002 levels of student support.

2. To match the national average rate of 5.5 percent, they would have to add about $260 million, doubling what they spend now.

3. Today Minnesota has one of the most severe counselor crunches in the country, particularly in elementary schools.

4. State education officials say it would cost about $7 million to hire the number of high school counselors needed to bring Minnesota's ratio up to the national average.

5. The fastest-growing segment of the future workforce is students of color...the students least likely to earn diplomas.

6. If you're Hispanic, black, Asian-American or Native American, your chances of completing high school are worse in Minnesota than in almost any other state.

These are sobering facts. And Republican assertions that we are just throwing too much money around is just plain wrong. In 2006, Gov. Pawlenty proposed a plan that would require all districts to spend at least 70 percent of their budgets on classroom instruction. A noble undertaking, but in order to do that, support services had to be sacrificed....and we have never recovered. Identifying students at risk is the key to solving that achievement gap....and once they are identified, it is imperative that they have the student support services to help them.

Gov. Dayton has been repeatedly calling for more investment into early education. That is another key to solving this issue. Early learning can reduce the need for support services...it will not solve the problem alone, but it is a key component.

We need to look deeper into the achievement gap. We still need more investments, but they also must be smarter and more targeted investments.

One thing is certain though - do not buy the argument that we are spending too much on Minnesota education. Yes, it is a large portion of our budget, but that goes for almost all other states as well.

This is Minnesota and we expect better. We are better. Remember that during this legislative session.
comments (6) permalink
03/09/16 17:13
I don't think we are at the same place at all, but I feel better for supporting the best education possible for our kids. Good schools build good communities.
03/09/16 14:58
We agree! You complete my argument that money is not the problem. There are pockets of achievement gap for certain. How much of this is education failure due to lack of funding? How much of this is failure for other reasons? How much of this is a failure to manage expectations?

Community plays a role in this. Parenting plays a SIGNIFICANT role in this. Throwing more money at an ill-defined problem/solution accomplishes exactly what?

I will agree with your argument that we, in more rural communities, have backed away from the assembly-line yellow-pencil approach to education. Smaller is better.

Our communities are riddled with the implications of 'big is better' approach to human existence. How exactly does the WalMart approach to retail benefit the average American? How exactly does does one massive airline industry benefit the traveling public? How exactly does a single source of mortgages benefit the average consumer of housing?

The country was built on massive inefficency. Waste was everywhere! Competition drove industry to innovate or perish. Education was characterized by thousands of autonomous education institutions addressing the needs of their local population and has been the envy of the world for good reason.

Throwing more centralized money into centralized institutional education is not a solution--it appears to be a part of the problem.

Thank you Pete for clarifying the air in your support that more money without a plan is no solution!
03/09/16 09:57
Ford...According to 2013 data from a 2015 Census report Minnesota ranked 20th in per pupil funding our public schools. We get a pretty good bang for the buck. The Pioneer Press today stated we ranked second for our percentage of the population with a two year college degree or higher in 2013. We rate first in our rate of labor participation. I think this reflects well on our investment in education.

Living in North Branch we are well below average in the amount spent to educate a kid. It would be nice to see a uniform system of support.

We have a socio-economic problem that smacks us in the face in the name of academic achievement gap. Solve that and I'll write your Nobel Prize acceptance speech
03/09/16 09:19

I think Ramsey schools get what? $13,500 per student? In return for what? My rural district gets $8500 per student. and they deliver the goods!

This is all about money. Money and politics. ED MN does one thing very well. They purchase their politicians using money extracted from their membership. Then they demand more money so they can extract even more to deliver to democratic politicians who foolishly embrace the notion that money equals education. 98% of the political money spent goes to democrats. If you think wall street buys politicians, then ED needs to buy a clue from the smart money play book and spread it all around to grease the skids willy-nilly and do so without the burden of voting and elections.
03/09/16 00:49
I suppose Ford would have all kids home schooled where they would get perfect instruction and guidance to boot. I wish all our schools were like St. Paul Academy or Breck and received the same per pupil financial support. Instead of bashing the MN public schools you might celebrate the successes. Our graduation rate is very good and the ACT scores rank at or near the top. I get tired of hearing the conservative negatory diatribe on public education and funding.

I remember Cheryl Yekke our one-time Commissioner of Education suggesting some of Ford line of thinking. A couple years later as a Florida Dept. of Education executive she submitted an editorial piece where she made a blanket invitation to MN teachers to come to Florida where she guaranteed those teachers a job...whether certified or not. Ford, I think very little of your rant.

03/08/16 10:21
You are blaming politicians for what is the responsibility of education professionals. Where is Ed MN on this latest gripe?

Minnesotan's assume that the teaching professionals are advocating for what works. If money was the source of our problem, then there should be easy ways to identify and focus on getting that money. There most certainly are examples of school districts swimming in money. There are also examples of school districts desperate for money. If money was the problem, then outcomes should be easily compared and serve to illustrate best practice.

Instead we see the professional association of teachers, ED MN, focused on retaining bad teachers, rewarding education achievement instead of teaching skills, and maintaining status quo. Weak school districts need better talent, not more money. Leadership and basic skills with students will go a long way to making a difference.



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