Minnesota must treat education as a human right essential to the exercise of an effective democracy.
At all levels of education the teaching of critical thinking is paramount. Without the moral values of truth, fairness and objectivity, in a question driven society trained in critical thinking, a democratic government cannot endure nor be reformed.
In 1927, author Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Today’s ignorant anti-intellectuals insist on alternative facts and dismiss verifiable facts as “fake news.” You know education has sunken to the Stygian depths that are bottomless when the public cannot accept the facts.
Minnesota deserves a high-quality education system with similar teaching standards like that found in Finland. The Grassroots Party proposes a minimum of a Master’s degree or greater to be a licensed teacher in Minnesota except for Kindergarten.
Minnesota should create a research-based tuition-free Master’s teaching program that only admits the top ten-percent of enrollees. It must be based on and supported by scientific knowledge and must be focused on the thinking processes and cognitive skills needed to design and conduct educational research.
Special Education for All
Every child should have a right to have personalized support provided early on by trained professionals as a normal part of schooling. Special education should be based on the assumption that at times all of us need support and help to move forward.
- Special education should be defined as addressing difficulties related to learning reading, writing, mathematics or other subjects and NOT identified as possessing special education needs that meets a certain criteria that refers to a variety of disabling conditions, such as sensory, speech-language impairments, intellectual disabilities, or behavioral difficulties.
- Special education needs should be identified and addressed as early as possible. PREVENTION, not REPAIR,” should be the common strategy within special education. We should concentrate special education on the early years of schooling (K-9) regardless of the numbers.
- All special education students should be increasingly integrated into regular classrooms
Special Education Categories
- General Support – Includes actions by the regular classroom teacher to differentiate student’s needs and deal with issues related to diversity.
- Intensified Support – Consists of remedial support by the teacher, co-teaching with a special education teacher, and individual or small-group learning with a part-time special education teacher.
- Special Support – Includes a wide range of special education services, from full-time general education to a placement in a special institution. Students in this category are assigned an individual learning plan that takes into account the characteristics of each learner and personalizes learning to meet each learner’s abilities.
Education must provide all students with opportunities to develop all aspects of their mind with a balanced curriculum that blends academic subjects and civics with art, music, crafts, and physical education, but, moreover, sufficient time for self-directed activities.
Tuition-Free Higher Education
Thomas Jefferson believed that education should be provided, “at the common expense of all.”
Robert Samuels, author of, “Why Public Higher Education Should be Free,” wrote, “According to Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons, there were five major components to Finland’s success: (1) all education became public and free; (2) teachers became well compensated and highly trained; (3) education became interactive and experienced-based; (4) students at an early age received individual attention; and (5) in high school, students were able to choose a vocational track or an academic track. It is my contention that we can apply to higher education in America many of the same educational reforms that were used in elementary and secondary education in Finland.”
Robert Samuels added up the average cost of tuition, room and board for 4-year and 2-year undergraduates in 2010. The total came to $128 billion dollars. When he added up the money spent by federal and state governments on Pell Grants; tax losses due to IRS Section 529 college savings programs that only help the upper class; student loans; financial aid for universities and colleges; tax breaks; and deductions for tuition, he realized that it would be possible to make all higher education free by just using current resources in a more efficient manner.
Rather than directly paying for public higher-education institutions, state and federal governments have often relied on tax deductions and credits to support individual students. But what this system has achieved is a tremendous subsidy for upper-middle-class and wealthy families, while lower-income students are forced to take out huge loans to pay for their education.
Despite rising tuition costs, the shocking truth is that only 10% of University budgets are spent on directly educating students.
A big contributor to high tuition costs has been state funding cuts. As a result undergraduates pay more in tuition and receive less instruction. To reduce costs universities increasingly rely on large class sizes, part-time teachers, and graduate student instructors. In fact, undergraduates end up subsidizing the other functions of the university that are unrelated to undergraduate instruction.
Twenty-five years ago, 75% of the faculty had secure jobs and now 75% of teachers have part-time jobs often without benefits. Not only do institutions rely on the exploitation of part-time labor, but they rely on interns, students, student getting internships or students working at the colleges for very low rates; sometimes without pay.
This labor model has transformed not only faculty, but other types of jobs at our colleges. It exploits graduate students who often train to be professors, but act as part-time teachers to afford their doctoral degrees. Afterwards, graduate students often can’t find jobs, only to end up as part-time labor. In fact, the whole system of labor at universities ends up producing insecure part-time jobs with no benefits and no academic freedom or control of their work.
These low-wage jobs have an impact on student learning. Part-time teachers can’t teach effectively, can’t meet students after class or write letters of recommendation. Because they’re running between jobs, they have little time to spend grading papers.
Meanwhile, as administrative bloat keeps expanding, undergraduate instruction is short-changed. More administrators and staff are needed to run graduate education, law schools, medical schools, professional education, gigantic research facilities, large athletic programs, overseeing venture capital enterprises, and community service programs. You need administrators to watch over the other administrators and computer staff to compile the data to give to the staff, to allow them to give the first group of administrators the information they need to watch over the second group and a whole set of people to see that everyone is following state and federal guidelines until it spirals our to control.
In the not-so-distant past, faculty professors performed administrative duties. Today the administrative foxes are guarding the henhouse and they ignore the expert knowledge of the powerless faculty. Administrators have no motivation to rein in themselves, the only ones who could, because they profit from maintaining the status quo. This has to change.
So, how can we change this downward spiral, rein in the administrative class, empower the faculty, and return to the core mission of instruction and research?
The Grassroots Party proposes the following:
Two-Year Tuition-Free Higher Education
Minnesota can and should provide two-year tuition-free higher education which includes trade school.
Let’s replace the current mix of financial aid lost to tax credits, tax subsidies, grants, institutional aid, tax deductions, and tax shelters with direct “conditional funding” for public institutions. It is the obligation of the State to impose rules and conditions upon how its money is spent; not the colleges.
State funding should only be provided on the condition that:
- Public colleges shall maintain 75% of their faculty as full-time
- 50% of capital shall be spent on direct instructional costs
- No more than 25% of classes shall have more than 25 students.
Full-Time Faculty Empowerment
A 75% full-time faculty would cut down on turnover and the need to hire and manage part-time teachers. Let’s allow full-time faculty members to participate in faculty senates and serve on departmental committees; which would reduce the workload on professors. At that point, faculty would have the time to take on tasks such as student advising, reducing the need for an army of expensive administrators.
End Creative Accounting
Let’s end the charade of creative accounting and let’s get an audit of our educational institutions. Instead of publishing disaggregate calculations on actual undergraduate costs colleges use false and misleading methods of calculation, like lumping together graduate instruction, research, facilities, services, administration, etc. We should calculate direct instructional costs separately from non-instructional costs; like the cost of classrooms, buildings, heating, staff, equipment, and central administration. The GRP proposes that the legislative auditor investigate the true cost of undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota and our State Colleges. The legislature should demand transparent accounting that allows the state to better calculate its spending per student.
Rein In Administrative Bloat
To rein in administrative bloat, we should determine the optimum ratio of Administration to students and the reasonable compensation for those services. We do it for faculty, why not administers?
End the Privatization of a Public Function
Instead of getting government off our backs, privatization adds another layer of control. There was a time when college administration was the job of the faculty. Today, public universities have been privatized and no longer serve a public mission; instead, they often operate like large corporations. Administrators with little or no training in education run schools as if the goal was to increase compensation for administrators at the top, while the vast majority of the teachers and workers are paid poverty-level wages. The move to online classes is a privatizing factor and public universities are adopting many of these rote learning educational strategies that for-profit schools use. The only way to stop this privatization of a public function is to make public higher education free.