As advocates of education and legislative leaders, we want to address the impact of the Governor’s vetoes that struck out all of the communities of color provisions in this year’s bonding bill. This executive action reflects poor leadership and even hostile policy given that Minnesota has one of the nation’s largest academic achievement gaps. Minnesotans deserve, and want, better for our communities, and for our young.
Bonding bills are very telling about who we are as a state and a society – we tend to put our money towards those investments we value most. Bonding, because of its long-term reach, affords us a unique view of what direction our investments are taking Minnesota’s future.
The vetoed communities of color provisions would have helped raise achievement levels in our schools and close gaps in student performance. All of these projects involved education and cultural promotion to help these communities to do better in Minnesota and to create ways to connect other Minnesotans with them:
Ø American Indian Learning Resource Center: Would co-locate seventeen academic and service programs along with classrooms, labs and offices currently scattered throughout the Duluth campus into a single facility. American Indians comprise the largest minority population at UMD. UMD is a state and national leader in Native American education and its medical school ranks second in the nation in the training of American Indians.
Ø Red Lake Middle School and High School Complex: Would provide a Maximum Effort School Loan Fund for a capital loan to the Red Lake school district to complete additions and renovations to the Middle School and High School complex. Some districts find it difficult or impossible to finance construction projects through conventional bond sales because the district property tax base is too small. These districts can qualify for state assistance under the Maximum Effort School Aid Law.
Ø Hennepin County/Minnesota African American History Museum: Would rehabilitate an old historic mansion that would become Minnesota’s first African American History Museum and Cultural Center. Sharing Minnesota’s African American legacy presents a tremendous opportunity toward creating an inclusive society while promoting cross cultural understanding. Currently Minnesota is one of only six states in the U.S. without a museum dedicated to preserve and present African American history and culture.
Ø Asian Pacific Cultural Center: Would complete the construction of the Center in St. Paul. The city anticipated various non-profit organizations (Mu Performing Arts, AdopSource, and Japan America Society of Minnesota) to occupy the Center. This Center expected to bring an estimated $2.5 million in annual revenue to the area.
These vetoes do not reflect Minnesota values given that education has long been a cornerstone or our quality of life and that our historical identity is wrapped around a shared ideal that all children should have an opportunity to grow and flourish, unconstrained by one’s social circumstances. With this in mind, State Representative Alice Hausman, Chair of the Capital Investment Committee, introduced HF3777, a bill which re-introduces these four vetoed projects only – we each intend to sign on to this bill.
We should all be concerned about the persistent achievement gap and accompanying disparities in opportunity, access and outcomes between white Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color. The achievement gap in education is part of a far-reaching and deep-rooted racial opportunity gap that will require us to equalize access to structures of opportunity. Where better to start then to address educational disparities in our schools and create ways for all citizens to learn about one another’s culture?