Words from Wiger: Back to school in Minnesota

MN State Senator Chuck Wiger, District 43

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela


A new school year is upon us  — and with it brings exciting new opportunities, new challenges and fresh faces in the classroom. 

Whether it’s your very first day of kindergarten, your first day of high school or college  — or perhaps you’re learning a new skill and you’ve found your way back to the classroom after years of work  — I wish you all a great first day. 

Going forward, my priorities for public education in Minnesota include: 

• Increasing general education per-pupil aid.

• Supporting early-education programs for our youngest learners.

• Increasing funding for school safety.

• Supporting school-linked mental health services.

The bonding bill that passed last session appropriates a modest $25 million in school safety grants for facility upgrades. Grant recipients are prohibited from using the money to hire personnel, such as school counselors or resource officers. I know the schools need these additional staff members and mental health resources to improve school safety. I will support measures to make this happen. 

To get things done at the Legislature, people have to work together. I have a reputation for making every effort to work across the aisle. Three bright moments this past session involved the approval of bipartisan plans to stabilize the state pension fund, approve public employee contracts and finance public construction projects to maintain state assets like college campuses. 

As a result, Century College received $6.3 million to create an Engineering and Applied Technology Center on East Campus, and an estimated $5 million to fix roofs, replace windows, restore masonry and upgrade heating and cooling systems. 

In the legislative session that begins Jan. 8, lawmakers will likely debate significant education policy changes and school funding issues. Please stay engaged! Now is a critical time to get involved with your schools. Public education needs your support. Local control is the best strategy for achieving effective schools and creating the ‘World’s Best Workforce.’ 

For students who are interested in vocational training, we have several excellent resources in the local area. Intermediate School District 916’s Career and Technical program is located on the Century College Campus, and offers high school students a diverse array of vocational classes including home construction, engineering, digital fabrication and more. To learn more about these opportunities, visit www.nemetro.k12.mn.us/career. 

The new school year also calls for some reminder tips that will help kids and parents get back into the swing of things. The following tips are provided by leaders in Minnesota’s teaching profession. 

Get to know your child’s teachers and support staff at the beginning of the year.

Let them know that you want feedback on your child’s progress during the school year, as well as how you want to receive it  — email, text message, phone or even in person.

Meet with other school staff members who interact with your child every day.

Set a regular place and time for your child to work on homework.

Establish a “learning zone” away from the TV, tablet or other distractions.

While you’re at it, set a bedtime, too. Research shows that the quality and quantity of sleep has a profound impact on learning.

Establish high expectations.

Offer encouragement and praise for the effort your child puts into projects.

Read as much as possible.

Research proves that reading to young children and reading with older children leads to better academic performance.

Prepare for your parent-teacher conferences.

Conferences can begin in October. 

Find more back-to-school tips at www.edmoments.com. 

Even if you’ve long since graduated or if you’ve retired  — community education plays a big role in our continued education and lifelong learning. If you’re interested in starting a new community ed class this fall, visit www.whitebear.ce.feepay.com/courses/enrichment-adult

 The academic calendars are available online for North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, White Bear Lake and Mahtomedi School Districts. The activities calendar should be mailed to your homes.

North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale academic calendar www.isd622.org/Page/2.

To view the White Bear Lake academic calendar, visit www.whitebear.k12.mn.us/pdfs/academiccalendar201617approved.pdf. To view the Mahtomedi academic calendar, visit www.mahtomedi.k12.mn.us/page/2475. For the Roseville academic calendar, check out www.isd623.org. And, for the Century College academic calendar, visit www.century.edu/home/college-calendar. 

I wish your kids well as they embark on a new grade level full of fresh beginnings. I hope you introduce yourself to their teachers, read many books together, and help instill a thirst for learning.


– As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment.  I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.

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