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Imagine a state that adopts a state constitutional amendment that ties student rights to an education to their test scores. Would anyone be so dumb as to imagine that the test scores of students of different races would change because of a constitutional amendment? Remember that Minnesota was the first state to pass a charter law, promising to close the academic gaps. That was in 1992. Thirty years later, the state’s Big Thinkers are still grasping at straws.
EDUCATION EXPERTS AND SCHOLARS: PROPOSED MINNESOTA CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT THREATENS STUDENTS’ RIGHTSFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today, prominent experts on constitutional law and education sent a letter to Minnesota legislators voicing significant concerns that a proposal to amend the Minnesota Constitution would undermine and weaken students’ right to public education.
In January 2020, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve proposed to eliminate the current guarantee of a free public education in the Minnesota State Constitution and replace it with language to make education “a fundamental right” to “quality schools” to be “measured against uniform achievement standards set forth by the state.”
Proponents of the change contend that this new language would reduce gaps in achievement between Minnesota’s white students and students of color. A proposed bill to amend the constitution, H.F. 874, was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives on February 8.
In their letter, nationally known constitutional scholars and education law experts outline the negative effects the proposed amendment would have on Minnesota students’ right to public education. The letter explains that while “efforts to strengthen education rights” are welcomed, current Minnesota law already recognizes the rights contained in the amendment.
The letter points out that the proposed amendment adds new language that may well undermine existing constitutional protections. Most notably, the amendment explicitly links the right to education to state achievement standards, a focus that “may encourage courts to measure rights through the narrow lens of tested academic achievement,” according to the scholars and experts.
In addition, the proposed amendment would eliminate core obligations imposed by the Minnesota Constitution on the state legislature to establish and maintain a statewide system of public schools. These include the requirement that the school system be “general and uniform” and “thorough and efficient.” The letter notes that, in 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court interpreted this language as prohibiting schools segregated by race, a ruling that is considered “one of the most unqualified restrictions on school segregation that can be found in American law.” The scholars and experts underscore that the proposed amendment could endanger this crucial decision advancing racial justice.
The letter concludes that “the Federal Reserve’s proposed amendment to the Minnesota education clause threatens to reduce, rather than increase, the rights of Minnesota students.”
Signatories include professors from Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, Rutgers, the University of the District of Columbia, University of Colorado, University of North Carolina, University of South Carolina, Michigan State University, West Virginia University, Loyola University New Orleans, and the directors of several national civil rights organizations.
Press Contact:Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place,
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
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