|Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson at Global Academy, Oct. 13|
Jeff Johnson needs to steer the focus of the K-12 education conversation away from "cutting funding" to improving outcomes.
The Minneapolis and Saint Paul school districts receive the most money per pupil, thanks to Minnesota's highly political school funding "formula," yet the Gopher State's achievement gap remains among the highest in the country. It doesn't matter much how Representative Johnson voted on this or that education finance bill back in the day. Why? Because Minnesota funds schools, instead of each child.
For decades, the cards at the Capitol have been stacked in favor of the teacher's union and big city school districts. Education Minnesota has the slick TV ads, a huge permanent presence in the Education Building at the State Fair, and a forward operating base across the street from the Capitol. Make no mistake, in spite of the cheerful public relations and your fondness for your child's teacher, the union exists to act in the best interests of its members.
Johnson's visit this week to the Global Academy public charter school in Columbia Heights highlighted how kids can benefit when academics take precedence over politics. Among the school's challenges:
- 98% of students are immigrants themselves or children of immigrants
- 92% of students receive free or reduced-price lunches
- 74% of students are non-white
- 10 different languages are spoken by student body
- In 2008, 88% of students were classified ESL (English as a second language)
- In 2014, just 46% of students are classified ESL, due to its students becoming proficient in English
- Global Academy students score higher than the state average (of all students regardless of race or income) on all three subjects tested (reading, math and science)
- On average, Global Academy students score 30-40 points higher on state standardized tests than peer students in traditional district public schools
- In 2014, Global Academy students ranked #1 in reading on the Star Tribune “Beating the Odds” list (highest proficiency among metro-area schools with at least 85% poverty)
- Global Academy ranked #6 in math in the Star Tribune list
When Republicans focus on excellent education outcomes (or lack thereof in the case of those who put the "L" in the DFL), they can win. In a contest over who can outspend the other on cradle-to-grave government education programs, Republicans don't have a school prayer.