April 9, 2021

Will Stancil: Minnesota’s education constitutional amendment would turn schools over to economists and lawyers

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Will Stancil is a research fellow at the University of Minnesota Law School Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity. In a recent post at Minnesota Reformer, he takes a look at a proposed constitutional amendment that will change the state’s commitment to education . On the surface, it looks pretty good. But Stancil looks closer.

At first glance, the constitutional amendment proposed by Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari and former Supreme Court Justice Alan Page to give every Minnesota student a right to a “quality public education” seems like a great idea. Who could argue with a right to an education?

But education law and policy is complex, and the devil is in the details. In the Kashkari/Page proposed amendment, the details include a raft of defects and concerns — problems so severe that a national group of civil rights professors and lawyers recently warned that the amendment “threatens students’ rights.”

The most fundamental problems with the proposal are contained in the exact wording of the amendment. Most of its provisions already exist in Minnesota law. Other parts don’t have any established legal meaning. One clause seems to base school policy around standardized achievement tests. And worst of all, by deleting the existing education language in the state constitution, the proposed amendment risks removing important student protections that currently exist.

Stancil takes a look at the language that the amendment would remove and the language that replaces it, and beyond some serious issues such as creating a system “in which Minnesota students were guaranteed standardized testing and little else,” he sees an opening to future destructive lawsuits.

Here’s how such a lawsuit is likely to occur: A group of families would identify something about the school system that they believed was lowering test scores. They’d file suit against the state, arguing that it was constitutionally required to change the offending policy. Groups of economists would argue back and forth in court about which policy has better research data supporting it. Eventually, the judge — a total novice on these matters — would have to choose the better policy, based on which one would create higher test scores.

It’s a scary future for Minnesota. Read the complete post here.

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