A Day Without Immigrants Showcases the Power of Activism
This past Thursday was A Day Without Immigrants, a national event to highlight the importance of immigrants in our society. The capitol building was packed with people expressing their first amendment rights, letting lawmakers know how essential diversity is to our society.
I was awestruck by how many young people attend this rally, including a former Eden Prairie High School student that I ran into. Civic engagement is an essential part of our society, and that is why I introduced a bill this week to require all high school students to take a civics class before they graduate. If we can instill a sense of political efficacy and civic virtue in all of Minnesota’s youth, we will truly be leaving our world a better place than we found it. You can check out a short video I recorded on the subject by clicking HERE.
School counselors are essential to the pursuit of happiness
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These three well-known words were written down by our county’s founders as examples of “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration also states that governments are created to help protect these rights. I bring up this brief history lesson because lately I think we as a society have dropped the ball when it comes to allowing our children the pursuit of their own happiness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five children in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder. That means that in an average class, five of them could be struggling with some very grown-up issues – anxiety, depression or even substance abuse. Our kids are in crisis, and our schools simply aren’t equipped to handle all of their problems adequately. They’re not equipped because the average student-to-counselor ratio in Minnesota is 748 students to 1 counselor. That’s outrageous.
I had a meeting with a group of school counselors from Minnetonka recently and a story they told me has really stuck with me. A student confided to his counselor, “The only thing that makes me truly happy is when I’m on my cellphone.” A long-time counselor in my meeting also noted, “Kids seem lonelier now than they did 30 years ago.” This breaks my heart. Our counselors are rarely even counseling these days, too often these trusted professionals are dealing with one crisis after another.
But there is something we can do at the legislature. We must make more funding available on a permanent basis for schools to hire more counselors. Minnesota’s student-to-counselor ratio makes us the second worst state in the nation. The average ratio in the United States is 450-to-1; but the American School Counselor Association recommends an even lower ratio: just 250-to-1. And while the Eden Prairie School District is doing much better than the average Minnesota school – kids there still need more opportunities to sit down with counselors.
All of this leads me to the bill I’ve recently co-authored with my colleague and school counselors champion, Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury). The bill would take the $13 million in one-time money the legislature invested last year, and make it a recurring, annual state investment. This money can be used in the form of matching grant money for schools who hire additional school counselors or other student support staff. If we can get this bill passed, it could make a real difference in the lives of thousands of Minnesota kids.
As I used to teach my students in American history class, when asked about that pursuit of happiness clause in the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin replied: we do not guarantee Americans happiness, but merely its pursuit. If Minnesota students have better access to the help they need while in school, they will be better prepared to pursue their own happiness.
Events in the District
Friday, February 24 from 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Eden Prairie Community Center, 16700 Valley View Road
Bring your own floatie, swim and watch “Frozen” with friends in the recreation pool!
Cost: Community Center Members – Free, Non-member Children – $6.50, Non-member Adults – $7
The cost for a delicious breakfast is only $5 for all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage. All proceeds will be used to fund trips to competitions throughout the year. Contact Officer Larissa Johnson at 952-939-8500 for more information.
Visiting with Constituents
Glen Lake Elementary school stopped by Thursday to tour the capitol. I had a great time hearing from the students about what they had learned.
The west meto YMCA came in to visit on Wednesday with their Youth in Government program. One of whom was Maddy Burke, a constituent of mine and student at Eden Prairie High School.
Later on Wednesday, constituent Neil Dahmer visited along with Eric Wilson a friend of his and volunteer helping him live with dignity. We had a great discussion about how transit can be improved to help those with the greatest need.
Tuesday was Nurse Day at the Capitol, and I was fortunate enough to meet with four constituents of mine who work tirelessly to serve their patients.
Adarsh Ravishankar, a constituent of mine and medical student at the U of M also visited this week for the Minnesota Medical Association’s day on the hill.
Another group with white coats also visited this week. Pharmacists and pharmacy students stopped by to tell me about some important legislation they are working on to better prevent drug overdoses.
While not at the capitol, this past weekend the India Association of Minnesota hosted its annual Connect India event. Big thanks to Shanti Shah, a constituent of mine, for reaching out to me with an invitation.
Have a great weekend!