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Ready to fight for full funding

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Education Minnesota President, Denise Specht

Recently, a MinnPost reporter published the worst kept secret when she quoted my tweet about our union’s plans for the spring of 2021.

In an article about the upcoming session of the Legislature, she wrote, “Then there’s this bit of foreshadowing, from Denise Specht, …. ‘Education Minnesota plans to be walk-out ready by March 1, 2021. No matter what the outcome of Election 2020, we WILL be demanding full funding for public education.’”

She was right. Our union is coming together, building our strength and preparing for a mass action that will finally win the funding the students in our schools and campuses deserve.

Educators are ready. Last year, Education Minnesota hired pollsters to ask union members what they wanted and what they were willing to do to get it.

More than 70 percent of educator-members said they were ready to do more to advocate for public schools. Nearly the same percentage said they believed a statewide walkout would make a difference.

It’s no wonder. As I talk to Minnesota educators, I hear the same stories: exhausted teachers leaving in the middle of the year, a mental health crisis among students and colleagues, open jobs no one will take.

All the problems go back to funding. Minnesota educators work in buildings without counselors, nurses or media specialists. In some places, the roof leaks. In others, it’s so overcrowded the students sit in hallways.

Educators everywhere struggle to support their families, pay their education debts and afford health insurance. It’s tough for teachers and higher education faculty, and especially our education support professionals.

Our state can’t go on like this.

Our educators need relief. The educational and socioeconomic disparities among our students and their families are unacceptable. Every student—from different places and from different races—deserves access to high-quality public schools and postsecondary education. Many aren’t getting it.

The only way our students will get those educational opportunities is if enough elected leaders in the state and federal governments decide to raise and spend the money to fully fund public education.

Our problem isn’t scarcity. We live in one of the wealthiest states in the richest nation in the world. Our problem is simply a lack of political will.

That’s why I’ve said publicly that organized educators will turn out for the 2020 elections in record numbers. We will restore a pro-education majority in the Minnesota Senate to join supportive leaders in the state House and Gov. Tim Walz, a former teacher who already understands the needs.

Winning the Senate will not be enough, though. When educators talk about fully funding public education, we’re talking about raising billions of dollars from the wealthiest Minnesotans and largest corporations, the same groups that benefited from President Trump’s massive tax cuts two year ago.

We plan to reshape the political landscape in a way that hasn’t happened before—even when one party controlled both the legislative and executive branches. Fully funding public education will require redefining what’s possible in the minds of state leaders. Even our friends might need a nudge.

So our union is working toward being “walkout ready” in March 2021, just in case. That doesn’t necessarily mean that tens of thousands of Minnesota educators will hit the streets, as our colleagues did in Arizona, Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Los Angeles, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia—but it might.

In the next few months, our members will hear more about our plans and about what they can contribute. I hope everyone will bring their voice to this effort.

Twitter: @DeniseSpecht

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