Our parents did it

When I was growing up, Minnesotans believed in public education and were willing to pay for it. Students from all over Minnesota and every economic background got a good public education—including higher education—without much debt. Like thousands of other Minnesota students, I climbed a ladder provided by our parents and grandparents who believed it would pay off—and it did.

Public education is so central to our state’s identity that the state’s founders put it right in the constitution, which requires a system of public schools that is “general and uniform” as well as “thorough and efficient...throughout the state.” Our founders knew that “the stability” of our democracy depends “mainly upon the intelligence of the people.”

To our state’s great shame, our students no longer enjoy a “uniform” system of public schools and most can’t get through college without a pile of debt. This must change. We need every student to be well educated and productive, fully participating in our economy and civic life. As governor of Minnesota, I will make sure that our public education system has the resources it needs to fulfill its critical mission for our students and our state. Here’s my plan:

Support future students before they get to school. Babies don’t come with a manual and too many families don’t have supportive relatives nearby. Nurse home visiting, family-child education programs, high quality childcare and early education, and adequate financial assistance for struggling families are proven strategies for helping every child get the best possible start. All families with children should be embraced with love and support—never told “you’re on your own.” The economic payoff would be huge but, most important, we can improve the lives of all Minnesota children.

Fully fund our public schools. During the Pawlenty years, 2003-2010, funding fell 8% behind inflation and more was shifted to property taxes. Even with Governor Dayton’s strong commitment to funding schools, we still haven’t caught up. High quality schools need adequate, reliable funding that keeps up with needs from year to year.

Two tuition-free years of public college or technical school, because high school is no longer enough. No Minnesota student who wants higher education should be deterred by the cost. Higher education is a public good that our state can afford to deliver. What we can’t afford is leaving students without a path forward or dooming them to mountains of debt.

Weekly EmailLeo Alfred