Sunday, July 9, 2017

Minnesota's Adequate Education Laws

What is an Adequate Education under Minnesota Law (Part I)

Jvonkorff on Education has been on vacation, but recent developments has encouraged its return.  In two cases, Governor Dayton and Commissioner Cassellius have taken the position that litigants seeking to enforce Minnesota's constitutional education clause cannot rely upon a claim that children are not receiving an adequate education, because it is the legislature's responsibility to define adequate education, not the courts.  This contention seems strange, because the Minnesota legislature has passed a  series of robust and comprehensive laws designed to tell the public and school districts what a Minnesota adequate education is.  

The dispute over who defines a Minnesota adequate education arises in the following context.   In the Cruz-Guzman case, plaintiffs  from urban districts alleged that de facto segregation of Minnesota school districts prevents disadvantaged students from receiving an adequate education.    There is, they claim, a direct connection between integration and educational quality, and they urged that Minnesota's constitutional education clause requires the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the legislature to fix that problem.   In the Forslund case, plaintiffs from urban districts alleged that tenure and seniority laws had the effect of allocating incompetent teachers to students and classrooms who desperately need outstanding teachers.  They contended that those students were not receiving an adequate education as a result.

For some reason, the State of Minnesota defended these litigations, in part, by contending that the legislature, not the courts, must define what an adequate education is.    This defense seems to JvonKorff on Education to be passing strange, especially coming from Governor Dayton and Commissioner Cassellius, because Minnesota has a robust and demanding definition of educational adequacy.  This is a first in a series of posts examining each of the laws  that prescribe Minnesota's school districts educational responsibilities.  


Minnesota's World's Best Workforce Law (WBWF)
The MDE World’s Best Workforce webpage explains that:
The World’s Best Workforce1 bill was passed in 2013 to ensure every school district in the state is making strides to increase student performance. Each district must develop a plan that addresses the following five goals:
  • All children are ready for school. 
  • All third-graders can read at grade level. 
  • All racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed. 
  • All students are ready for career and college. 
  • All students graduate from high school.
This requirement is found at Minnesota statutes § 120B.11(c), and you can click on the link here to read this important statute.  The WBWF statute is not mere puffery.   It requires every school district to incorporate efforts to achieve these goals into its strategic plan.   The statute provides:
A school board, at a public meeting, shall adopt a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan to support and improve teaching and learning that is aligned with creating the world's best workforce and includes:

(1) clearly defined district and school site goals and benchmarks for instruction and student achievement for all student subgroups identified in section 120B.35, subdivision 3, paragraph (b), clause (2);

(2) a process to assess and evaluate each student's progress toward meeting state and local academic standards, assess and identify students to participate in gifted and talented programs and accelerate their instruction, and adopt early-admission procedures consistent with section 120B.15, and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of instruction in pursuit of student and school success and curriculum affecting students' progress and growth toward career and college readiness and leading to the world's best workforce;

(3) a system to periodically review and evaluate the effectiveness of all instruction and curriculum, taking into account strategies and best practices, student outcomes, school principal evaluations under section 123B.147, subdivision 3, students' access to effective teachers who are members of populations underrepresented among the licensed teachers in the district or school and who reflect the diversity of enrolled students under section 120B.35, subdivision 3, paragraph (b), clause (2), and teacher evaluations under section 122A.40, subdivision 8, or 122A.41, subdivision 5;

(4) strategies for improving instruction, curriculum, and student achievement, including the English and, where practicable, the native language development and the academic achievement of English learners;

(5) a process to examine the equitable distribution of teachers and strategies to ensure low-income and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, ineffective, or out-of-field teachers;

(6) education effectiveness practices that integrate high-quality instruction, rigorous curriculum, technology, and a collaborative professional culture that develops and supports teacher quality, performance, and effectiveness; and

(7) an annual budget for continuing to implement the district plan.
Ironically, the WBWF demands that school districts include in their strategic plan a strategy equitably to distribute quality teachers, thus supporting the goal, if not the means to reach that goal, propounded by the plaintiffs in Forslund.   In the next posts, Jvonkorff on education will discuss other rigorous requirements in Minnesota law defining the Minnesota legislature's vision of an adequate education.  

Next Post:  Minnesota's Special Education law is part of Minnesota's adequate education framework.

Past Series on Education and Constitutional Law
McCleary v. State, Part I   McCleary v State Requires Legislature to Base Funding on Actual Cost
Jvonkorff on Education McCleary v. State, Part II
McCleary v State and Determining the Cost of Education
Jvonkorff on Education McCleary v. State, Part III
 McCleary v. State: what level of scrutiny is appropriate for legislative funding decisions
Jvonkorff on Education McCleary v. State, Part IV
Correlating the cost of education: fund the child.
Jvonkorff on Education  McCleary V. State Part V
Summary of Decision Network for Excellence
Washington Supreme Court Blog  
JvonKorff on Education, The Rose Decision 
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part I
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part II
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part III
Minnesota's School Finance System is Unconstitutional, Part IV

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