Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius talked about issues that affect Greater Minnesota schools with the MREA Board of Directors on Thursday. Commissioner Cassellius shared her hopes for the session and the challenges still ahead.

During the morning discussion, the Commissioner and MREA Board members reviewed a variety of issues ranging from teacher shortages and the restrictive Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam (MTLE) to universal preschool and a need for a fix to the facilities fallout. She advocates for dumping the MTLE all together because it lacks a proven track record.

The Commissioner shared her passion around the need to support American Indian students and provide resources to help schools close the achievement gap for those students.

“We are not ending session without something for American Indian students,” Cassellius said.

MREA Board members suggested an investment in school readiness as a first step to enhancing preschool opportunities in the state. The Commissioner shared the Governor’s universal preschool plan and her desire to see it passed this session. “You will be better able to prepare kids if you add a grade,” she said.

But facility limitations remain. One MREA Board member shared that half of the school districts in his area do not have the space for universal preschool.

It was during that board meeting that MREA board member and Southwest Minnesota State University Professor of Education Rhonda Bonnstetter shared her challenges finding funding for an education program that would turn 50 paraprofessionals into licensed special education teachers. The Commissioner saw a way and encouraged MREA to take steps after the meeting to ask for an amendment after the meeting. Later that day,  an amendment to provide the needed $195,000 passed the Senate Finance Committee. Learn more.

“We are so thankful for the Commissioner’s time, attention and action on the issues that matter to Greater Minnesota schools,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said.

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