Pure education policy does not have a cost to the state but many times costs school districts substantial resources. The following policy issues are equity issues to SEE districts that have emerged as critical concerns. Policy must be implemented so SEE’s metro and outstate districts are able to provide the same high quality opportunities to their students no matter the zip code.
SEE understands that quality early learning opportunities prepare children for kindergarten, particularly for at-risk children. Research is mixed on whether universal preschool provides long-lasting benefits in student achievement. However emerging research indicates that in the states where children experience lasting benefits, a very well-resourced, quality-driven program is the top priority. If universal preschool is to be further expanded, the state must address the many challenges including:
Funding – provide an adequate and sustainable funding source where preschoolers are weighted the same as children in kindergarten at 1.0 for full-day programs and 0.6 for half-day programs. Additional funds should provide students with access to necessary classroom equipment and facilities through capital funds. In addition, the mechanics of transporting 4-year-old children may require different types of buses, more buses and additional routes, which will necessitate additional resources.
Space – lack of space will prevent equitable preschool opportunities and can be addressed through a board-approved, fully-equalized facilities levy that gives districts flexibility in leasing versus building decisions.
Classroom teachers – create a plan to ensure the availability of qualified classroom teachers.
- Quality assurance of partnerships – provide financial incentives for school districts to work with and strengthen local child-care providers through shared curriculum and staff development to assure that all children will be kindergarten ready. However, for many districts, building capacity through local partnerships is not an option as quality private early learning alternatives do not exist.
The teacher shortage was once limited to a few specific curricular areas and not widely experienced throughout the state. Over the past decade, that situation has changed dramatically and teacher shortages loom both across the curriculum and around the state. Lower funded districts and districts in outstate Minnesota struggle to recruit and retain quality teachers.
The decision made by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to require high school teachers to have a master degree in the content area if they are to teach concurrent enrollment classes will decimate the successful and popular program in Minnesota. SEE strongly supports legislative efforts to ease this requirement.