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Minnesotans know that no investment pays a better return than education—and Al is a champion for improved access to good education from pre-kindergarten through college, as well as job training programs to provide workers with the skills they need in the 21st century economy.

The cost of a college education continues to rise, and the burden of student loan debt is holding college graduates back. Al is fighting to make it easier for Minnesota families to afford post-secondary education in an era when good jobs increasingly require it. He worked with former Minnesota Republican Senator David Durenberger on student loan reform, ensuring that the dollars we spend to help kids go to college don’t instead end up padding the profits of banks. And just this year, Al reached across the aisle to work with Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley on a plan that would help students and families better estimate the cost of college.

And because the next generation of manufacturing in Minnesota will require workers with special skills—workers whom Al has been told by local business leaders are in short supply—he championed and helped pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bipartisan workforce bill that includes provisions he worked hard to get into the legislation. Those provisions will bolster partnerships between manufacturers and community and technical colleges to train people with the right skills for the more than 3 million jobs that sit open in Minnesota and across the country.

No Child Left Behind had good intentions—but it has failed our kids. The jobs our children will compete for in the global economy will require critical thinking and teamwork, skills that aren’t measured on standardized tests—and any test that doesn’t measure these things must itself be improved to be effective. And while Al knows that teachers welcome accountability, he also knows that the current system doesn’t accurately measure a teacher’s contribution—we must move to a growth model of accountability.

That’s why Al, whose daughter, Thomasin, taught third grade in the Bronx for several years, is committed to fixing the system—and he’s beginning at the top. Working with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, Al has focused attention on principals, fighting to make it easier for schools to recruit and retain great school leaders in high-risk areas. And with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education so important in emerging industries, Al has taken the lead in fighting to attract and retain great teachers in those subject areas.

Meanwhile, Al agrees with Art Rolnick, former senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, that investments in early childhood education pay off hugely—up to $16 for every dollar we spend. Kids who have had quality early childhood education are less likely to need special education, repeat grades, get pregnant, or end up in prison—and they’re more likely to be healthy, graduate from high school, and get good jobs.