A commentary on the cover of the Star Tribune's Feb. 11 Opinion-Exchange section makes the case that Gov. Mark Dayton's most important legacy has been moving Minnesota toward racial and economic equity while also improving the quality of our precious natural environment. Growth & Justice Senior Fellow Dane Smith explains in the article that Dayton’s credo of “A Better Minnesota’’ has meant “reducing overall economic inequality and otherwise improving the lives and potential of people of color, women, the variously disabled and middle- and lower-income folks. And he has used his office persistently to accelerate renewable energy conversion and to begin improving air and water quality, in a state actually named for sky and water quality (Minnesota is Dakota for sky-tinted water).’’ Meanwhile, Minnesota’s business and quality-of-life rankings are both trending in the right direction, suggesting that policies aimed at equity and environmental sustainability are good for people AND good for economic competitiveness.
Growth & Justice has long provided a rationale and a strong voice for more and smarter investment in high-quality early childhood care and development. A couple of recent opinion pieces from Greater Minnesota capture how important this investment is for the entire state, and how it works best in rural areas. A St. Cloud Times commentary, by Growth & Justice 2017 summer intern Brendan Klein, notes that in a recent study “Minnesota came in 7th for program quality but 17th for percentage served by pre-K enrollment. Thousands of our youngest people who need support and high-quality intellectual and emotional development still do not receive it, in part because the market is not responding to the demand with sufficient supply, particularly in rural communities and Greater Minnesota.” Meanwhile, an op-ed in the Bemidji Pioneer by veteran child-care provider Barb Fabre makes the case for state early learning scholarships as a preferred vehicle in rural areas, arguing that: “Scholarships prioritize the most vulnerable children, instead of continuing to leave them behind. Scholarships start as early as infancy, to allow us to prevent achievement gaps from opening. Scholarships provide multiple years of full-day, full-year options that vulnerable children and working parents need. Scholarships work in any type of community, because they can be used in centers, nonprofits, Head Start, homes, schools and religious organizations.’’
An optimistic overview of improving student outcomes in Minnesota, along with some sharp advice on how candidates in 2018 can sustain the momentum, was offered in an essay published widely this month by Joe Nathan, veteran leader of the Center for School Change. Growth & Justice has partnered with the Center for School Change on efforts to improve post-secondary attainment, especially through early college credits in high-school programs such as Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and College in the Schools. Nathan notes: “Research shows that dual credit is especially valuable in creating `academic momentum’ leading to high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment among low-income students.”
“A government’s responsibility to its young citizens does not magically begin at the age of six. It makes more sense to extend the free universal school system downward.” – Gloria Steinem, editor and feminist, in April 1974 edition of Ms. magazine.