Column: After years of bad GOP policy, a plan to fix Minnesota schoolsDULUTH — When I was a skinny kid in Worthington, from a family without much money and searching for a future, education gave me a chance. It gave me a chance to go to college, build a career prosecuting white-collar criminals, and begin a lifetime in public service.
By: Matt Entenza, DFL candidate for governor, Worthington Daily Globe
DULUTH — When I was a skinny kid in Worthington, from a family without much money and searching for a future, education gave me a chance. It gave me a chance to go to college, build a career prosecuting white-collar criminals, and begin a lifetime in public service. But for our kids, those kinds of chances have started drifting out of reach. It’s long past time we were honest about why.
The simple truth is that Republicans like Tim Pawlenty and Tom Emmer think it’s more important to give a tax cut to someone living on Lake Minnetonka than it is to give our kids a five-day school week.
You don’t have to take my word for it; all you have to do is look around. The Lake Superior school district is trying to shift to a four-day week to avoid cutting teachers and programs. Our leaders just wrote our schools a $2 billion IOU. And under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation, we’re still wasting countless hours putting kids through standardized tests that don’t actually measure their progress. These failures are Pawlenty’s legacy and now Emmer is calling him “fabulous.” I think our kids would disagree.
What I know about the Pawlenty-Emmer agenda I know from experience. In 2005, when I was the leader of the DFL in the House, Pawlenty wanted to throw thousands of Minnesotans off MinnesotaCare. I said “no.” Pawlenty dug in his heels and shut down the government. But, along with Dean Johnson, I stood face-to-face with him, and stood up for Minnesota families. I didn’t blink, even when some in my own party thought we should give in.
Just like any bully on the playground, when someone really stood up to him, Pawlenty flinched. He gave in, and thousands of Minnesotans kept their health care. Pawlenty lost and Minnesotans won.
Now, after four years of seeing Pawlenty win and Minnesotans lose, Minnesota families need a governor who will stand up for them.
As governor, I will stand up for our kids, and rebuild our education system.
My first act as governor will be to get rid of No Child Left Behind once and for all. It has shamed and blamed our public schools based on tests that don’t help our kids. If No Child Left Behind had dictated Thomas Edison’s education, he probably never would have invented the light bulb; he would have been too busy taking tests about the best ways to make candles.
I will replace No Child Left Behind with accountability measures that work. With fewer and better tests, we’ll ensure our kids are learning with measurements that make sense. When schools continually struggle, we’ll work together toward solutions that account for the unique circumstances of every community.
I also will expand teacher mentoring programs that both save money and make teachers more effective, using a proven program pioneered in Mankato. I will encourage collaboration and innovation by creating a statewide clearinghouse of best practices so teachers throughout Minnesota can share lesson plans and good ideas. And I will recognize the great returns achieved through smart investments in early-childhood education.
All of our children have dreams, and much of what they achieve is up to them. But we owe them a fighting chance. When I walk through Worthington someday and see another skinny kid who hasn’t had all the breaks, I want to be able to look him in the eye and know I did everything I could to give him the opportunity Minnesota gave me. That’s the Minnesota I want to lead.
Matt Entenza of St. Paul is a DFL candidate for Minnesota governor in the Aug. 10 primary election. He wrote this exclusively for the Duluth News Tribune, which like the Daily Globe is owned by Forum Communications Co.