Educators for Excellence-Minnesota Members Gathered to Advocate for Ending Racial Discipline Disparities and to Ensure School Funding is More Equitable
Teachers Release Policy Paper With Recommendations to Ensure Students Have Equitable Access to an Excellent Education
March 6 (St. Paul, Minnesota) — Educators for Excellence-Minnesota (E4E-Minnesota), a teacher-led organization, hosted its annual summit on March 3, “I Teach Love,” bringing together over 100 local educators to advocate for students who have been historically disadvantaged and continue to receive less in terms of resources and access to school as a result of exclusionary discipline practices. At the event, E4E-Minnesota teachers debuted their newest policy paper, Our students can’t wait: Ensuring equitable access to funding and resources, which addresses how to provide students with more equitable access to educational funding and resources. DeRay McKesson, a noted civil rights activist and Catherine Lahmon, Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, appointed by President Obama in 2016, spoke with teachers about how to take action on these issues in the face of adversity.
“The speakers were incredible and I’ve learned so much from the educators at this conference as well,” said E4E-Minnesota member Alex Grosz, English Teacher, Augsburg Fairview Academy. “There is nothing we can’t accomplish when we come together. Particularly in times like this as we discuss gun violence, it’s critical that we empower students and teachers to lead on critical issues regarding positive school climate and additional resources for students who most need them.”
Teachers enthusiastically greeted the keynote speakers, McKesson and Lahmon, who spoke to the role educators can play in defending the civil rights of students on issues including funding equity and discipline disparities.
After noting repeated retreat from federal civil rights protection in the Trump Administration, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights chair Catherine E. Lhamon noted that "Local control matters more than ever. There is nothing more hyperlocal than your classrooms and what you will do for the children in front of you every day. I'm asking you to exercise your local control in a way that communicates equity and belief in students, a belief that every single student is valuable, valued by you and can achieve his or her dreams."
During the all-day summit, teacher and advocate-led sessions inspired educators to continue their transformative work as teachers and to go beyond their classrooms to advocate for meaningful policy change. To that end, the summit offered self-care sessions for teachers and opportunities for reflection on the relationships they build with their students. Teachers deepened their knowledge and took actions on equitable school funding and discipline disparities which they selected as key advocacy issues as members of E4E-Minnesota.
Minnesota is home to some of the worst opportunity gaps in nation. Despite using a state funding formula designed to send more money to high-needs schools, teachers know that for too many students, Minnesota’s education funding system is not equitable. This created urgency for a team of 10 teachers from Educators for Excellence-Minnesota Policy Action Team to tackle the issue. At the summit, they presented the policy paper Our students can’t wait: Ensuring equitable access to funding and resources calling for the following recommendations:
- Increase financial transparency by reporting what funds and expenses are given to individual students, and include teacher salaries. This helps advocates determine to what extent state funds go directly to students with greater needs. There is information to suggest that in some districts, monies allocated from the state to students with greater needs are not actually reaching them directly;
- Ensure equitable access to high-quality teachers by investing in programs or policies that seek to attract and retain effective and experienced teachers to work in high-poverty schools, and empower principals to support these teacher leaders. There is little now within Minnesota’s salary structures that places the best teachers in front of the students that need them most. In the state, students from schools with higher concentrations of students of color or from low-income households, are twice as likely to be taught by inexperienced or out-of-field teachers; and
- Incentivize collaboration and ensure equity across schools by evaluating how resources can be distributed equitably regardless of school type and explore opportunities to collaborate and engage in strategic partnerships between public charter and traditional district schools. While limited in the past, there is tremendous opportunity to share best practices from both charter schools and traditional schools with the right supports.
The scope of recommendations can be found in the full report at www.e4e.org/ourstudentscantwait.
“As our teachers face the challenges ahead to ensure students of students of color are not disproportionately punished and that our school funding does not deprive our most vulnerable students from having an excellent education, now more than ever, our communities call on us to have brave vision, huge hearts, open eyes and a clear commitment to justice,” said Madaline Edison, Executive Director of E4E-Minnesota. “Our annual member summit provided an opportunity for educators and community members to come together to strengthen their relationships, care for themselves and be emboldened to use their powerful voices to fight these inequities.”