Alright – so, Minnesota State Legislatures ended this year’s session with lots of hoopla and hapla but nothing significant. First, they (the house, senate and the governor’s office) could not agree on their budget items as well as policies which meant they had to go into special session and basically whatever the Senate wanted – it got in my humble little opinion. That is for reducing racial disparities in the schools. Where can I start? First, this was my first-year advocating in education committees. The Senate had only one committee where it combined policy and finance for all education – K to 12th. The house had three committees. One for early education, one for policy and one for finance.
After my son was suspended by an autism teacher Kelly Morris and Principal Jaysen Anderson in Bloomington Public Schools last year on May 3rd at 5:18pm, I have been trying to understand how children are suspended and why Minnesota has a horrible and shameful racial discipline record. I am a firm believer in changing policies if we want to change the trajectory of anything so I went back to the Capitol and I must say it was just as I remembered. I had to take an Advil before I went there and took an Aleve after I left. This building is not designed to be parent friendly. I don’t even think it is human friendly. It certainly is not welcoming to minorities by any measure. It is filled with cocky and elite lobbyists, out of touch legislators and over-rated staff. Ok, not all of them but most.
The governor put a non-exclusionary language in his proposal through the state education department (MDE). Then the House adopted the same language, but the senate did not. So, I thought – ok 2/3 isn’t bad and I tried to convince, kiss butt, brown-nose in the senate to no success. Sen. Nelson who represents Rochester (a city with a horrible racial school discipline record) would not blink. Nelson refused to even have a hearing on anything school suspension at all including not suspending 3 and 4-year old’s. I know who the heck in their right mind suspends toddlers? Oh – yeah principals and teachers who are protected by the unions and lobbyists. The principals assoc lobbyist worked really in the senate and in a nutshell killed any hope we had with Nelson. She listened to him and not to one single family. Sad.
I have tried numerous times to convince Nelson the importance of this issue but for some reason, she simply seemed oblivious to it. One line I will never forget is when she said, “I just can’t believe kids are suspended for no reason or disproportionately”. Of course, there is data and research that tells us otherwise, but Nelson just could not comprehend this idea. Don’t get me wrong, I personally like Sen. Nelson but I have to say I was extremely disappointed in her this session.
You know they say – when you lose be gracious. Well, I lost to the big lobbyist for the principals association. They also say – lose the battle but not the war. I am even more determined to keep coming back every session until children are kept in the classroom. We cannot suspend children like mine who do not even understand what the heck suspension is while the teacher (Kelly) and the principal (Jaysen) who did it are in school getting paid with public funds. This is not right, and I will not rest until Kelly and Jaysen are no longer able to kick kids out of school. My two cents in this issue is that the Republicans simply did not understand the need to hold principals and teachers accountable, and the Democrats who understand this issue or at least pretend did not fight hard enough to make a meaningful difference. It was comical to hear the DFLers blame the GOP when they were in charge of the House, Senate and the Governor’s office but failed to pass any good legislation. It was equally comical to hear the GOP say it is the DFLers protecting the teacher’s unions. I do not think either party cared enough to make a change this year. While the DFLers protected the teacher’s unions, the GOP protected the principals and administrators. No one protected the children and that is the saddest component in this. I always heard from both sides what the teachers and/or the principals and administrator’s priorities were. I never heard any legislator say the student’s priorities. I also heard like it was holy water – unfunded mandate. This was the arrogant and elite lobbyist for the principal’s favorite word and it worked like a charm. The truth is schools are FUNDED to keep and teach kids.
I am grateful to Josh from EdAllies and Susan – a mom whose child was also suspended. I thank you both and we will come back next year stronger. Josh wrote a detailed blog on his work.
Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil – Autism Mom