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Meet the candidate: Erica Valliant

School Board candidate 

What are your three biggest priorities if you are elected? 

  • Working to make sure our students are graduating with strong financial literacy skills while exploring wealth justice
  • Investing in ensuring access to quality early learning education and pre-k for all children
  • Addressing critical thinking skills and practice in the age of  artificial Intelligence and addressing school culture and safety

The School Board recently passed a $1 billion budget for St. Paul Public Schools for the 2024 fiscal year, the first budget of that size for any district in the state, with a plan to increase the number of teacher and support staff in the district. The increased budget includes an increase in state funding, a substantial portion of general reserve funds and federal COVID relief funds that will sunset at the end of next year. Do you approve of the plan for this budget? How will you prioritize budget items in future years as funding sources reduce, sunset or become otherwise unavailable?

Generally, yes. As with many budgets funding sources can change and as you are aware of those funding timelines there should be planning for sustainability, pivoting and/or securing new funding sources if necessary. As immediate priorities may change, the goal is to collaborate with stakeholders to make funding adjustments as necessary to meet those priorities.

As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, test scores are continuing to show students tracking behind pre-pandemic levels. While test scores aren’t the only measure of academic success, what are your thoughts on the district’s response to the learning loss experienced by students during the pandemic? 

The district is trying to address the learning loss experienced by students during the pandemic through multiple means including adding more teachers, counselors, and social workers.

This is important because due to the social, psychological and emotional challenges that many students, families and staff experienced, throughout the pandemic and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and others, we have to address all of these impacts in addition to the academics. This won’t be easy, quick or simple.

Student’s need to feel safe to learn their best, yet St. Paul Public Schools has had a number of high profile violent incidents in recent years. In fact, a recent survey by SPPS found that about a quarter of families reported one or more of their children being involved in a violent incident. What is your position on how the district is addressing violence in St. Paul’s schools and ensuring student safety?

This is deeply personal to me as I have  sons at  Maxfield Elementary, Benjamin E Mays IB World School and Hidden River Middle School as well as nieces and nephews in SPPS. It is heartbreaking that students are being harmed and are afraid in our schools. It is unacceptable that our places of learning are not being supported enough to create a space that is welcoming to all of the dimensions of well-being for our kids.

Schools cannot be a place where kids are scared nor a place where they are policed. I do not support efforts that would only further facilitate the school-to-prison pipeline and the over-policing of black and brown students. We also know that these efforts have been tried, and they did not and will not work.

What has been proven to work are community-driven solutions such as restorative justice practices. I am committed to advocating for full funding of restorative justice practices programming and needed supports for all of our schools.

Additionally, we must invest in the critical student and educator supports so that we can provide a quality education in a safe working and learning environment. We cannot forget that our students’ learning environments are our educators’ working environments.  We must also ensure adequate staffing levels so that the professionals serving our kids can do safely and can focus on instruction and connecting with young people.

We need to collectively help foster a culture of school pride, respect, & belonging with staff, students, and families.

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