The Potluck

‘Page Amendment’ education bill likely dead for the third year

By: - April 5, 2022 4:35 pm

The Minnesota Capitol. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

A controversial proposal to amend the education clause of Minnesota’s Constitution is likely dead for the third consecutive year after an influential lawmaker said she won’t hold a hearing on it.

The “Page Amendment” — championed by former state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari — won’t receive a hearing in the House Education Policy Committee this session, Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, told reporters Monday. 

Page and Kashkari pitched the amendment as a plan to improve Minnesota’s worst-in-the-nation racial disparities in education. It would replace language in the Minnesota Constitution requiring the Legislature “establish a general and uniform system of public schools” with a clause stating that “all children have a fundamental right to a quality public education” and that it is the “paramount duty of the state” to fulfill this right.

To amend the state constitution, legislators first need to approve the language, and then it appears on the ballot during a general election. Ratification would require a “yes” from a majority of voters.

Page and Kashkari launched the campaign in 2020, but it was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, bills to send the amendment to voters stalled in both the House and Senate.

Richardson didn’t elaborate, saying only that the committee already held a hearing last session and wouldn’t have another before lawmakers adjourn in May. The hearing in 2021 was informational, and no vote was taken.

A spokesperson for Our Children MN, the organization lobbying for the amendment, said in a statement to the Reformer that it is “unfortunate to watch the Legislature continue to cater to special interests.”

“We continue to pursue various paths in both the House and the Senate,” the statement says. “The voters should have a say in November.” 

The campaign has attracted a wide bloc of supporters, from business executives to nonprofit leaders and politicians across the political spectrum. Rep. Hodan Hassan, a Democrat, is lead author of the House bill. Sen. Michelle Benson, a Republican and candidate for governor, introduced the bill in the Senate.

It has also drawn an equally diverse range of opponents, including the teachers union Education Minnesota. Skeptics say they support the amendment’s goal but worry the language could affect the state’s public school funding structure or lead to a greater emphasis on standardized testing, which supporters deny. Other critics have called it a “trojan horse” that would deliberately weaken public schools in an effort at privatization. 

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.