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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Republicans Don't Hate Public Schools - It's Worse

Category: Education
Posted: 05/27/15 22:48

by Dave Mindeman

In the run up to the end of the last session and during the back and forth getting ready for the special session, the Republicans made a big deal about Governor Dayton's remarks that "some Republicans hate public schools."

Speaker Daudt and GOP leadership wanted an apology. They felt disrespected and the terminology couldn't be further from the truth. They do NOT hate public education.

Well, I guess I am going to agree with them somewhat. They don't HATE public education. They have a much bigger problem with it. They don't respect it.

Republicans give their support to private schools. They will stand with homeschooling. They even go to bat for some charter schools. But when it comes to public schools - they do not have the respect that should be given to our biggest public asset - public education.

The MN GOP doesn't respect the teachers. They don't respect the funding. They don't respect the value to our future. They don't respect the Constitutional mandate we have been given to educate every child.

And that is why it is hard for Governor Dayton to take them seriously when they negotiate on funding public schools. The House GOP prefers to define problems rather than look for solutions. Governor Dayton's promotion of Pre-K is not just a publicity stunt or a funding boondoggle. It is an honest attempt to add another tool to make Minnesota's kids the best educated in the country. To give Minnesota another edge for businesses looking for the best educated workforce. To give educators another means of fixing the achievement gap and tapping future potential.

So Republicans don't hate public schools. But when you are responsible for finding ways to educate every child in the state - not just most of them, but every one of them- utilizing every tool available....and yet do not respect the process that comes from funding that responsibility, you prove that you have failed your Constitutional duty for maintaining a public school system that works for all of us.

It is very simple. You cannot hate what you don't respect. And therein lies a very basic problem. A problem that will make a special session all the more difficult.
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This Session Was A Sausage Factory - And It Stinks

Category: Education
Posted: 05/19/15 09:13, Edited: 05/19/15 09:17

by Dave Mindeman

Yeah, the 2015 session is kind of over. And yeah, a lot of those last minute dealings and bill pushings were somewhat annoying. Happens all the time. But this session really had a bad feel to it. It was slimy. Everybody came out of this feeling dirty.

And this was in a year of budget surplus.

Too often, the months in session are wasted on constant posturing and maneuvering for advantage. This session was worse than most. And this end of session was particularly gauling - and non-transparent.

Here is what I could see, barely, through the smoke and mirrors.

1. Dayton's Pre-K ideas were up front all through the session. But the House and Senate seemed to act as though they didn't need to put it on the agenda. The Governor probably could have been more hands on in pushing what he is saying is his signature item - but the legislature made no attempt to include it. And then the leaders feign surprise that Dayton had to draw a line in the sand. I particularly blame the Senate leadership for this fiasco. Bakk clearly moved into session as if HE was the one in control.

2. The Agriculture and Environment bill was a stand out travesty. A last minute insertion gave a gift to Polymet and allows sulfide mining waste to be exempt from solid waste environmental rules. What is particularly irritating about this amendment is that it was never voted on in either the House and the Senate. It was noted that it was brought before the Senate, but withdrawn (which I suppose, in theory, means it was examined by the members). Again, I sense the manipulations of Leader Bakk in the background on this. In addition, a last minute insertion also does away with the citizen board of the MPCA. These are major steps backward in environmental protection and the Senate let it through. The bill gives a token measure on Dayton's 50 foot farm barrier, but I hope the Governor vetoes the measure and they start over on this one.

3. In the final minutes of the session, the jobs bill was rammed through both Houses. And, quite frankly, nobody, not even the legislators themselves, know what is in there. Senator John Marty made a valiant effort to correct some of the mistakes that targeted individual citizens at the expense of the utility companies. He is the only person in the Senate who understood the bill and tried to point out its flaws and offer amendments but was given literally, seconds to explain his position. Sen. Tomassoni wouldn't even consider additions because he needed a clean bill to send back to the House. There were some close votes, but all of Sen. Marty's efforts were cast aside. And then to make matters worse, when the House got the finished bill back just before midnight, it was rammed through on voice votes - with none of the members even allowed to read the final language. Who knows how many corporate giveaways were buried in that piece of trash.

4. And then there is the fiasco that seems to be meant to target our State Auditor, Rebecca Otto. Another last minute provision - pushed by the House leadership - would allow local governments to opt for outside accounting firms to do the audits normally reserved to be done by the State Auditor. It opens the process up to cronyism. Under the table deals. Favoritism. I mean really, this process doesn't even require competitive bidding. If the House is going to defend this based on cost savings, then they failed miserably in that regard. The legislature, in essence, is disrespecting a constitutionally mandated and elected office. And again, the Senate did nothing to stop it or even debate it much. Sen. Sandy Pappas, a member of the conference committee, would not even sign the bill because she did not know that this had been inserted in this manner. The House conferees seem to have made a deal of some sort - and it would be nice if Senator Bakk would explain how this all came about.

It's a sausage factory. This is how laws are made. And it's not pretty.

If Governor Dayton vetoed the whole damn lot, it wouldn't bother me one iota. Sink the whole session and start over. That would be preferable after watching this mess.
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The Force Of Will Of The Education Governor

Category: Education
Posted: 05/17/15 11:38

by Dave Mindeman

Governor Dayton proclaimed long ago that he wanted to be the education governor...and he has proved that to be true over and over again.

In this budget standoff on the education bill, the governor is once again showing us how deeply he believes that education is the key to Minnesota's economic success.

And, doggone it, he is right.

If you want to know why Pre-K education is important, I suggest you read the personal analysis of Aaron Brown - blogger at Minnesota Brown. You can't give a more direct example and better explanation of why Pre-K can be a life changing opportunity.

I had a similar situation with my own son. My wife decided to be a stay at home mom when we had our son 18 years ago. She took him to ECFE classes whenever possible and found a pre-school at a church, when he was 4, that was highly rated.

Those early years found us dealing with a social anxiety problem for which we were able to acquire some early intervention and school programs which met our needs.

Today, our son is about to set forth on an education and engineering career as a UMD Bulldog. He is prepared and he is ready. And as I look back, those early education opportunities seemed to make all the difference.

But as Aaron Brown similarly pointed out in regards to his own family, we were lucky to have the options that we had, with some financial stability and time for involvement.

So many parents do not have those luxuries. With both working to make ends meet - childcare expenses that overwhelm - and no chance to get their kids to early educational opportunities, young parents need a helping hand and an expansion of educational opportunity.

Governor Dayton has spent his entire political tenure working toward those ends. To find those educational benefits for Minnesotans and make them a reality.

We can't begin to fully understand how well this will serve Minnesota's future. After all, it will take a generation for these benefits to come to fruition. But Dayton has looked at the studies - heard the experts - and examined the possibilities. He has committed himself to move this state into an educational future that other states have not fully conceived or even understand.

Governor Dayton is taking a stand for education. That has been the mark of his governorship. That has been the mark of the man. The legislature is fighting him on this, but I'm not sure they fully understand the determination that awaits them.

The Education Governor won't be running for reelection again, but he is taking a stand that assures his legacy goes far beyond 2018.
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