A Plan for Educational Excellence

Students, Teachers, Parents

In their first 90 days in office, the Jensen-Birk Administration will work with the Minnesota Legislature to enact important school reforms focused on improving student achievement in reading and math and moving Minnesota back to a nation-leading position in education. We have a Plan for Excellent Education.

The Plan

Minnesota was once a world leader in education. We appreciate our hard working students and teachers, but there’s a disconnect on policy, funding, results and expectations that Tim Walz has done nothing to help with his lack of leadership. HERE IS OUR PLAN:

  • Implement a Minnesota Parents’ Bill of Rights

    Parental involvement and their right to know curriculum is fundamental to accountability and engagement for student success. We will establish a transparent portal system for parents to review curriculum, literature and books used in school districts and classrooms across Minnesota, ensure parents have a mechanism to voice concerns and give feedback to their local school board regarding education policies, curriculum and instructional plans and practices. We will provide greater transparency and information about academic performance by bringing back school-based report cards, connect data systems across secondary, postsecondary and workforce - to track progress and outcomes of services and programs.

  • Raise Achievement for All Students

    Create new academic standards in Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies to reflect greater rigor and higher expectations for all students, with approval by the Minnesota legislature. We will ensure that every child can read by the end of 3rd grade by implementing scientifically proven research in schools, e-train teachers to incorporate scientifically proven research in Reading and Math, and equitably distribute high-performing teachers to work in hard-to-staff and high-need schools by providing financial incentives. We will adopt strategies and provide financial incentives aimed at diversifying the teaching work-force.

  • Implement a Bold Plan for School Quality Choices for Students and Parents

    Minority students suffer more under the status quo than any demographic group under Tim Walz. Minnesota has one of the worst racial disparities for student achievement in the United States, with no leadership to improve. We will level the playing field by providing low and middle income families and students scholarships or an Education Savings Account (ESA) to attend a school of their choice. We will redesign very low performing schools, whether in the Minneapolis Public Schools or elsewhere, creating a new governance structure by converting schools to charters, self-governed schools, nonpublic schools or other models for low-performing schools in their respective district. We will update existing choice programs – Post Secondary Enrollment Options, Open Enrollment, Charter Schools, and Online Learning - to ensure that families and students have flexibility to access to programs. We will expand PSEO into the trades and agribusinesses.

  • Make Minnesota Schools Safer

    Ensure every school has a successful safety plan, tools, a safety team and training to identify students who may have mental health issues or are prone to violence. Minnesota is one of the worst states for school counselors and resources for students suffering from mental health issues. We will provide resources by partnering with state, county, non-profit, law enforcement, churches and others to assist with this crisis. In addition, a student who attacks a teacher or staff member should be immediately removed from class until an investigation can be conducted and remedy implemented. All teachers and staff should be cross-trained to be aware of students suffering from mental health issues. We will create standardized protocols to identify and assist students who may be in need. Allow teachers and key staff to know criminal backgrounds of violent students who may have potential to harm others.

  • Keep Politics and Divisive Curriculums Out of the Classroom

    It is time to ban Critical Race Theory based standards being proposed by the Walz Administration and return input/approval of standards to the parents, teachers and elected officials that can hold bureaucrats accountable (Until 2008, the ten-year review of education standards was subject to approval by the legislature. This is no longer the case). Parents, students, teachers, the public and elected officials must have authority of development and approval of this curriculum restored.

    The Critical Race Theory-based proposed standards from Walz-appointed bureaucrats divides us by race and culture, elevating one-above-all-others in their proposals. The Walz proposals are veering into political correctness, divisive curriculums and single issue topics that don’t respect all cultures (see references in newly proposed Minnesota Math Standards).

  • Be Present

    Enforce truancy laws as students will not learn if they are not in school. This also has an impact on other issues like crime and teen pregnancy. Standardize a minimum amount of student-teacher contact time for instruction. Minnesota has had our school day erode, with students receiving less direct instruction from their educators each year.

  • Protect and Promote Homeschooling

    Minnesota has traditionally been a state to allow parents and teachers to utilize home schooling as an option, with rigor and high performing students that perform extremely high on academic achievement. A Jensen Administration will not undermine this effort with heavy handed regulations and bureaucratic meddling. We will allow Homeschooling families to access some level of funding through Educational Savings Accounts.

  • Teach Subjects With Real-World Application

    Civics should be credit-bearing and taught to high school juniors and seniors. The National Assessment of Education Progress gives a 23% proficiency rate to our graduates. Civics needs to be taught as a course for credit, thus raising its relevancy to ensure it is taught. Personal responsibility in finance should be emphasized in our curriculum. Many of our students graduate without knowing basic personal finance. Character Development should be cultivated utilizing the scientifically-based framework of Positive Psychology. These subjects will prepare our students for ‘real life’ and help put them on a trajectory for successful, productive and fulfilling lives, regardless of path after high school.

  • Implement a Broader Transfer of Credit in Higher Education

    Credits of many students who have completed similar or identical classes are denied transfer and must repeat classes, rewarding a system that increases student debt, family expenses or taxpayer costs. A Jensen Administration will direct the Commissioner of Higher Education to collaborate with the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Col-leges and Universities System and the Minnesota Private College Council to develop a grid for transfer credits to bene-fit all Minnesotans.

  • Transform the Minnesota State Higher Education Grant Program

    We will turn this into a forgivable loan program that incentivizes students to live and work in the state of Minnesota for at least five years after graduation for specific career tracks designed to match workforce needs. Minnesota taxpayers have funded hundreds of millions of dollars of free grants to educate students in higher education and then allows them to immediately leave for other states. Under Tim Walz Minnesota suffers from a lack of workforce, a population exodus and a “brain drain” that threatens our future. Many states have a program similar to this and it makes common sense for tax-payer return on an educated workforce. For any student leaving Minnesota for another state after taking a grant, their grant will convert to a non-forgivable loan.

Key Findings on Minnesotas Education System Under Governor Tim Walz and Democrats Over the Past Decade

There’s an urgent need to enact school reforms immediately, given the state of education in Minnesota. Minnesota’s students have significant underperformed in the past decade with state MCA scores and NAEP results slipping considerably for all students.  Minnesota needs to a create a “no excuses” attitude starting with rigorous expectation for all students, educators and schools.

Unfortunately, this decline in student performance in reading and math was happening before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the policies advanced by Tim Walz and Democrats have made everything worse.

When Governor Walz took office in January 2019, he told reporters that regarding racial disparities in Minnesota schools, he owned the issue once in office. Governor Walz said, “I’ll own this now as of yesterday at noon.” (citation: Brian Bakst tweet on 1/8/19 at 11:52 AM). However, Walz hasn’t taken action to improve racial disparities and the performance gap.

We need to recognize that reading is an education AND an economics issue.  Students who are not reading proficient by the third grade:

  • Are four times more likely not to graduate high school
  • Black and Latino student not reading proficiently in third grade are six times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate high school
  • Low-income minority students not reading proficiently in third grade are eight times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate high school.
  • 7 out of 10 inmates cannot read above a fourth grade level.

For High School Dropouts, the figures are just as bleak.

  • Not eligible for 90% of jobs in the economy
  • Yearly earnings are more than 50% less than someone who earns a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Make-up nearly 50% of all heads-of-household on welfare.

Source:  Annie E. Casey Foundation, Double Jeopardy:  How Third Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduates, 2011; Begin to Read, Literacy Statistics, 2014.

Key Facts on Minnesota Student Performance:

  • Minnesota narrowed the White-Black achievement gap by 5.7 percentage points on the Grade 3 MCA Reading since 2015 but the state did so because of the declining proficiency of White students – this is called bad achievement gap narrowing.
  • Over the last five years, the White-Black Student reading achievement gap has widened by 0.5 percentage point in Grade 4 and narrowed by 0.9 percentage point in Grade 8.
  • Student proficiency on MCAs Math is declining. Over the last five years, the match achievement gap has widened by 2.1 percentage points in grade 4 and 1.4 percentage points in grade 8. This has resulted in students falling behind in math by nearly one grade level in Math when they reach Grade 8, comparing 2011 to 2019.
  • Minnesota NAEP reading performance has been on a downward trend since 2013. From 2013 to 2019, the number of students at or above basic dropped 4.8 points. A drop of 10 points is equivalent to dropping one grade level. In reading, Minnesota students have dropped a half grade level.
  • For Math, the results are even worse. From 2013 to 2019, the number of students at or above basic dropped 7.8 points. In math, Minnesota students have dropped almost one grade level since 2013.
  • Economically disadvantaged students in Minnesota generally under perform their peers nationwide.
  • Pre-pandemic results from the ACT college entrance exam taken by 2019 Minnesota high school graduates show wide disparities in college readiness in all subject areas.

 

Resources and Documentation

Wilder Foundation Report: Truancy and Attendance Strategies that Work: Effective truancy prevention and intervention, A reivew of relevant research for the Hennepin County School Success Project (wilder.org)

Truancy Strategies can be Bipartisan: Amy Klobuchar Once Called School Truancy the ‘Gateway to Crime’ (jezebel.com)

Minnesota Parent’s Bill of Rights legislation: SF 2575 as introduced – 92nd Legislature (2021 – 2022) (mn.gov)

Critical Race Theory in Walz Proposed Math Standards elevating one culture over all others: Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics version two May 2022.pdf

 

Questions and Answers

Question: How much money would you cut from Minnesota Public Education?

Answer: A Jensen Administration will certainly be reducing funding for bureaucracy like the Department of Education, which educates no children.  There will be other reallocations to classroom instruction and will be in the millions of dollars.  We want to spend better and smarter. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pass throughs that can be leveraged for many of the initiatives that we are proposing.

 

Question: What if there is a “Don’t say gay” bill that comes to your desk?

Answer: If there is a bill that literally says you “Can’t say gay” in it, I will veto the bill.  If there is a bill that says you cannot teach sexually explicit material and content to elementary students, I will sign the bill.

 

Question: Are you just proposing school vouchers in this plan?

Answer: We are providing parents choices for their children to leave chronically failing systems if they so choose.  This is a plan that will push everyone to perform better and put the child first.  You can call it whatever you want, but with Minnesota having one of the highest racial disparities for educational outcomes, we must do things differently.

 

Question: How does the truancy initiative work?

Answer: In the resource documents above, you’ll see two different items that we would like to explore.  A report from the Wilder Foundation gives excellent details about partnerships and specific plans to combat chronic truancy. In addition, when Amy Klobuchar was Hennepin County Attorney, she partnered with law enforcement to deal with the situation. There are no shortages of ideas to help solve this problem.

 

Question:  On the literacy proposal, are you saying that if a student cannot read by the end of 4th grade, that they would be held back?

Answer: We would like to see tools like summer school and more in depth focusing on literacy to see improvement, but this would be an expectation, yes.  There obviously have to be some exceptions for special education and other cases, but the expectation needs to set in order to combat the idea that students can progress in Minnesota while illiterate throughout their time to graduation.  It is not fair to them, nor to society.

Get Involved

Join and Get Connected