Thank you. I am very proud to represent the Minnesota State College Faculty, Education Minnesota local #4901, as its president-elect and be here today with all of you.
Since 1963, the faculty of Minnesota’s public 2-year colleges have organized around a clear vision of higher education in our state: We believe high-quality education should be available to all who seek it, not just for the wealthy few who can afford it.
What a year we have had. It was around this time last summer that we all started watching and waiting for the Janus ruling to come from the Supreme Court. It was supposed to be the end. It wasn't.
Instead, we got to work. Recognizing that elections have consequences, we endeavored to have the tough conversations about politics. We talked about what we saw in our classrooms. We talked about the struggles our students faced. We talked about our own struggles--student debt, managing healthcare, the high cost of housing, and just struggling to get by in a world that cares less.
We also talked with politicians on the campaign trail about what we need.
For us in higher-ed, that is a pretty specific number: $246 million in new, direct funding for our campuses.
Let me be crystal clear here: $246 million is not an aspirational number. It is the bare minimum we need to hold the line on tuition and maintain the quality of higher education students depend on and that Minnesotans have asked for.
Let me say something right here about our peculiar relationship with expectations in this country.
Why is it when we say things like fully funded, tuition-free, cradle to grave public education is an essential part of human flourishing that we are told to lower our expectations.
It’s not that easy, they say.
Things are complicated, they say.
It will never happen, they say.
But here is the truth we have to all remember: they will say change is impossible right up until the moment when we make change happen.
Look at West Virginia. Our colleagues in that state realized that no politician was coming to save them, and so they took matters into their own hands. They dared to intervene in the conversation about how nothing could change, and in doing so made history.
This is not unknown to us here in Minnesota. Forty years ago community college faculty in this state went on an 11-day strike, seeking to preserve the integrity of our contract from legislative meddling. Nothing like this had ever happened in higher-ed before, and at the time they said it couldn't be done.
Well, we did it. And we won.
So here we are. Waiting. And the question I have is this: have any of the needs we discussed with the politicians last fall changed?
Have we decided students just don't deserve fully funded schools?
Have we come to realize that the struggles our students face in making ends meet aren't as severe as we thought?
No! The only thing that has changed is that change isn't convenient for those in power.
How much longer can our students wait to get the education they deserve?
How much longer are we willing to tolerate lowered expectations?
We started something big this last year, but we're not done. If we don't get every dollar of what we know we need to provide quality education to all of Minnesota, then I urge everyone here to go back to their locals and talk about how we're going to stay in the game. Talk about how we're going to keep showing up. Talk about how we're going to fight like hell to get a better Senate in 2020.
But most importantly, we need to talk about how we can’t keep waiting for someone else to change the world for us.
We have everything we need to make change happen right here in this room — we have each other.
So! Education Minnesota, let me hear you! Are you ready to make history???
Let's do this. Thank you.