MSSWA was proud to honor the accomplishments of Governor Mark Dayton as our 2018 Legislator of the Year. As a former public school teacher and lifelong politician, Governor Dayton’s passion for ensuring equitable access of opportunities for all Minnesotans has been the cornerstone of his commitment to public service. As his 2nd term as Governor comes to a close we felt it was only fitting to recognize the legacy he leaves as an agent of change. Governor Dayton understands that Minnesotans value fairness and the necessity of providing every Minnesotan with the opportunity to succeed. Furthermore, his passion for treating every human with dignity and worth aligns with our social work values. For example, he has dedicated his service to reducing overall economic inequality and educational disparities especially for people of color, women, the disabled and middle- and lower-income individuals. Within our Social Work Code of Ethics, we are reminded of necessity for school social workers to be sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and that it is our duty to strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. As school social workers this has taken on a greater meaning in how we can utilize our knowledge and expertise to address equity issues within our school buildings, districts as well as our communities.
As many of us know, one of his greatest successes has been is commitment to education. He has continually advocated for increased funding for E-12 education, increased mental health supports in schools, early childhood education, affordable housing, etc. In addition, his insight, experience and understanding of the barriers facing students and their families propelled him to collect data to effectively address a variety of social issues impacting Minnesota communities. In order to make informed decisions he established a variety of task forces to research and provide new solutions to address these barriers. For example he created the Prevention of School Bullying Task Force in 2012 and in 2016 a Task Force on Mental Health was established to Improving Mental Health Service Delivery in Minnesota. These two Task Forces were crucial to not only bringing awareness to school safety and mental health issues facing our students and families but also initiated important dialogue for creating systemic change to better meet the needs of children, families, schools and communities. Leaders of the Minnesota School Social Work Association provided information from a school social work lens to assist each Task Force in the creation of recommendations but also provided testimony at the Legislature in support of the recommendations made. We appreciated having the opportunity to not only share our unique expertise and perspective to ensure the safety and equitable access to supports and resources for all Minnesota students but Governor Dayton’s office has always respected and valued our role in the educational community as mental health professionals and practitioners.
Although Governor Dayton was unable to attend our awards ceremony during the Fall Conference, we were delighted to have Commissioner Emily Piper, Department of Human Services to accept the award on his behalf. Emily Piper has served as Commissioner of the Department of Human Services since 2015. Please join MSSWA in thanking Governor Dayton for being a true champion and supporter of school social work services and values.