Pelican Rapids was one stop on an unusual tour for several state officials, which included former pro football player and State Supreme Court Justice Alan Page.
The thrust of the visits, which also included stops in Fergus Falls and Moorhead, were community conversations on education disparities, and in general, building a child-centered education system for the future.
The so called “Page Ammendment,” in effect, would seek to make a quality public education a “civil right.”
The Page Ammendment is expected to be discussed during the upcoming 2022 Minnesota State Legislature session.
Visiting Pelican Rapids Viking Elementary School classrooms Nov. 18 was Federal Reserve Bank official Alene Tchourumoff; Minnesota Humanities Center executive Kevin Lindsey; and Alan Page.
Playing a role in the Pelican stop was State House Rep. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls. Rasmusson recommended a stop in Pelican, in part because of its unusual position in rural Minnesota.
“Pelican is unique for a lot of reasons. It is a sizeable school for a small town, and it is diverse,” said Rasmusson. “Pelican has worked with diversity to make it an asset.”
As Superintendent Brian Korf commented to members of the entourage when they arrived, the ethnic diversity of Pelican is a reflection of “the real world, and it is right here in our community.”
Rasmusson accompanied Page and entourage downtown, where they had coffee with Mayor Brent Frazier.
The Page Ammendment is “drafted so pretty much everybody understands it…there is nothing hidden,” said Page in a coffee table discussion at the Muddy Moose.
The aim of the Page Ammendment, in large part, is to close the academic performance gap. Reading proficiency, based on statewide tests is as low as 50 percent, and as low as only 25 percent for students of color. Closing the gap has created an interesting collaboration between Page and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Other allies have come on board, and the campaign for the Page Ammendment is building steam statewide as the legislative session nears.
“Our ammendment will not only go after the gap, but elevate everybody,” said Page at the roundtable discussion.
The Federal Reserve has become an ally in the campaign, based on the premise that education is fundamental to economic growth and success, and educating students to be engaged citizens and participants in society.
“The Federal Reserve has a dual mandate. One is to manage inflation, which we’re hearing a lot about now,” said Rasmusson, in comments following the Pelican tour. “The second is full employment…and the Fed is considering how education plays into that.”
Rasmusson himself is “in a learning phase” on the Page Ammendment, and plans to educate himself as legislators prepare for the upcoming session.
“It’s an interesting political makeup,” said Rasmusson. “There is some bi-partisan support for the ammendment, but there are bi-partisan concerns as well,” he acknowledged.
With widely publicized accounts of controversial school board meetings, including a number of heated debates over curriculum in schools around Minnesota and across the nation, the Page Ammendment may face more scrutiny than anticipated.
But the overarching goal is a noble one, said Rasmusson: “To evaluate what we can do to close the disparities we see in educational outcomes.”
All in all, the excitement was high in Pelican Rapids—especially for Baby Boomers from across the Boom spectrum, who watched Alan page play four Super Bowls with the Vikings.
Pelican schools rolled out the red carpet. The entourage was greeted by school board members Brittany Dokken and Anne Peterson; and administrators Brian Korf and Derrick Nelson—both sports enthusiasts.
“It really was an honor to have Justice Page in Pelican Rapids and Otter Tail County,” said Rasmusson. “I was really inspired by his passion for kids and education. It’s clear that he is devoting his life to education.”
What is Page Amendment and its goal for education?
“The Page Amendment will be a catalyst for transformative changes that will improve educational and economic outcomes for all Minnesotans.”
That’s how the amendment is outlined in background materials. Depending on discussion at the 2022 legislative session in St. Paul, the Constitutional Amendment could be on the statewide, general election ballot in 2022.
Justice Alan Page and the Minneapolis Federal Reserve partnered after a recent study uncovered the state of Minnesota leads the nation in education gaps by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The education gaps are present in all 87 Minnesota counties and persist over many years. To fight generational poverty and racial inequity in adulthood, we need to close the demonstrated education gaps we see in children. The initiative is named for the former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page.
The state constitution currently guarantees children access to an adequate system of public education. The Page amendment, named for its chief architect former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, will make quality public education a paramount duty of the state. Public schools will be expected to fully prepare every child with the skills necessary to participate in the economy, our democracy, and society.