Walz announces sweeping education plan amid ongoing pandemic

Updated: January 25, 2021 05:08 PM
Created: January 25, 2021 08:04 AM

(ABC 6 News) - Monday,  Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan announced the Due North Education Plan, a sweeping agenda for the future of education in Minnesota. Developed from a robust engagement effort with educators, school leaders, students, and families across the state, the Due North Education Plan is centered on ensuring every child in Minnesota receives a high-quality education, no matter their race or zip code.

“As a former classroom teacher for over 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand how a high-quality education shapes students’ lives for years to come,” said Governor Walz. “The Due North Education Plan guides us toward a future where every child receives a high-quality education, no matter their race or zip code.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disparities in education across Minnesota, especially along racial and geographic lines. The Due North Education Plan will help students recover from learning loss this year while closing the opportunity gap and transforming our education system for years to come.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred us from bold, intentional education reform; it has emphasized its urgency,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “While we’ve seen incredible innovation from teachers and administrators in this moment, we’ve also seen already existing opportunity gaps widen along the lines of race and zip code exacerbated by the pandemic. The time to reimagine what education can look like in Minnesota is now. The Due North Education Plan sets a course so that all of our children can see themselves reflected and valued in their classrooms and curriculum.”

The Due North Education Plan is built from the voices and ideas of Minnesotans whom the Walz-Flanagan Administration engaged in their first two years in office, including the Governor’s Education Roundtable, the School Finance Working Group, the creation of the Minnesota Department of Education’s Strategic Plan, and conversations with educators, school leaders, education organizations, students, and families. The Governor’s Education Roundtable and the School Finance Working group pulled together our state’s top leaders in education policy and school finance reform from all perspectives and corners of our state to examine best practices in the field. The ­Minnesota Department of Education’s Strategic Plan was inspired by countless conversations, research, and visits to schools where innovative programs are successfully moving the needle for our students.

“One of the powers of the Governor’s office is to convene Minnesotans, and that is exactly what we’ve been doing for the past two years,” Governor Walz continued. “Our announcement today is the result of countless conversations with educators, school leaders, education organizations, students and families with diverse viewpoints.

“In order for there to be fundamental change in our education system we must also change the way we fund it,” said Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “The proposals from the School Finance Working Group that are embedded in the Due North Plan will help ensure that students across Minnesota will receive the same educational opportunities not matter where they live in our state.” 

“The Minnesota Department of Education is dedicated to supporting our students and their learning every single day,” said Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller. “The Minnesota Department of Education’s Strategic Plan includes strategies that will accomplish the goals of the Due North Education Plan and create an education system that is student-centered, removes structural barriers, provides the best teacher workforce, and fosters safe and welcoming environments in every school in Minnesota.

The plan includes actions to support students during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, reform school financing, expand opportunities for students in Greater Minnesota, and build the most qualified and diverse teaching workforce in the nation. The plan would ensure academic standards address the modern needs of the workforce, are inclusive of ethnic studies, and reflect students of color and Indigenous students to close opportunity gaps and end disparities.

“For me, this is about justice. Our educational system has systematically failed children of color, Indigenous, disabled, and poor children,” said Justice Alan Page. “It is important that the plan recognizes this failure, and acknowledges that systemic change is needed. It is also important that the plan calls for putting children first, so every child has the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.”

“If Minnesota is to prepare its students for a multicultural, multiracial future, it’s time to change our schools and provide those schools with the resources they need to do the job right,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “The fact that we’re talking about doing so many good things at once speaks to the urgency and complexity of the challenges and the political courage of Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan.”

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