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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

A Modest Proposal

Posted: 03/24/16 16:17

by Alan Anderson

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says he will block President Obama from nominating a Supreme Court justice this year. He said we should wait until a new president is elected so we can "let the people decide" on the next justice. He said that since the president is going to leave office, the responsibility for choosing a new justice should be left to the newly elected president. As he stated, "let the people decide". He basically suggested that a "lame duck" president shouldn't choose a new justice....the next president should do that.

Well, perhaps we should apply his reasoning to our government, too. Since one-third of the Senate is up for elections, we shouldn't allow those senators to vote on legislation since they may not be in office next year. So, let's let the people decide and have "lame duck" senators withhold their votes until next year.

And, of course, all the members of the House of Representatives are up for election next year. So they, too, are "lame ducks." So, let's apply Mitch McConnell's requirement and "let the people decide." Let's bar all the members of the House from voting on anything....until they have been reelected.

Of course, such a modest proposal is preposterous. It would shut down the government and bar anything from being done in the House. But, Republicans have shut down the government before. So, for them, no big deal.

But wait, there may be a solution. Where there is a tie vote in the Senate, the Vice President can cast the deciding vote to break the tie. Perhaps, where there is a tie vote on the Supreme Court, the President should cast the deciding vote. There, we just solved the problem. That should make Mr. McConnell happy!!!!
comments (3) permalink

Why Hold The Ed Budget Hostage Over Pre-K?

Posted: 05/18/15 10:01

by Dave Mindeman

Why would an education bill get vetoed over Pre-K? Why would a governor be so insistent on one program? What is the reason.

Well, there are several reasons and recent studies on Pre-K education show some very compelling arguments.

First, Pre-K early learning benefits are very evident...

One of the most far-reaching recent studies found marked increases in children's skills across five states: Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Overall, children in state pre-k posted vocabulary scores that were 31 percent higher and math gains that were 44 percent higher than those of non-participants. These gains placed pre-k children three to four months ahead of non-participants, largely due to participation in the state program. The greatest gains occurred in print awareness, where participants had an 85 percent increase, which suggests these outcomes strongly predict later reading success.

Second, there is the benefit in regards to the achievement gap. Minnesota has struggled for years with this obvious blemish on our record - the achievement gap. One of the reasons that Governor Dayton is standing so firm on Pre-K is that it can be a great benefit to that long standing achievement gap issue....

In the High/Scope study, low-income black children randomly selected to receive the comprehensive preschool program showed impressive long-term results regarding educational progress, delinquency, and earnings. Seventy-seven percent of these youngsters eventually graduated from high school, compared with 60 percent from the control group. In adulthood pre-k participants were also less likely to be arrested for violent crimes, more likely to be employed, and more likely to earn higher wages than those in the comparison group.

But there is a third major benefit and this is where the House GOP argument crashes and burns....there is a huge benefit in cost savings...

High-quality pre-k programs also provide substantial cost savings to federal, state, and local governments. Numerous studies have shown a reduced use of special education services and lower grade retention among pre-k participants. In the Abecedarian study, for example, 24 percent of pre-k children received special education services, versus 48 percent of the control group. Given the high cost of these interventions pre-k can produce significant financial benefits for school districts.

Numerous studies have proven this cost benefit analysis. For every $1 spent on Pre-K the cost savings benefit ranges from $4 up to a $10 return. That is not throwing money at the problem - that is investing in the issue for a guaranteed return.

These are the reasons that Pre-K has become the core issue in this year's budget. That is why this Governor has drawn his line in the sand. This is not just about money, this is about taking a stand on Minnesota's future.

Looking ahead to our next generation, what we do now on Pre-K could put Minnesota into the nation's top tier for education, economic growth, and stability in our budgets.

That's worth fighting for...and worth standing alongside Governor Dayton to achieve.
comments (1) permalink

MN Legislature Focuses On Wrong Teacher Personnel Problem

Posted: 02/21/15 23:59

by Dave Mindeman

The legislature continues to fill this balloon that critiques LIFO as a method of teachers getting laid off. The proponents of changing this (which affects only 40% of school districts), are citing a report from the Minnesota Department of Education. This is what they find troubling.....

Between 2008 and 2013, nearly 2,200 Minnesota teachers were laid off under the so-called "last in, first out" provision in state law, according to a recent analysis by the Minnesota Department of Education.

If you just glance at that you think, wow, 2200 teachers that's a lot. But then you see that it is over a 5 year period. Which means the number is actually an average of 440 teachers per year - in an education teacher workforce of over 50,000.

I took a look at the broader report and it seems to me that our legislature has missed the boat here. That report deals more with teacher shortage issues than labor layoff problems.

Let's look at some of the other facts in the report.

We are losing teachers at an average rate of 8% per year - it has increased to 10.2% over the last 2 cycles.

Teacher retention is 86% meaning teachers stick with their job into the next year. Only 4.5% of hires are new licensees. Another 3.5% of hires are from teachers who are "unretiring" - coming back to the profession after leaving.

Another troubling fact is that 16.4% of teachers leave the profession after 1 year....and almost a third (32.3%) leave before they have taught 5 years.

A survey question asked school districts as to how many of them were "forced to reduce staff due to funding restraints"? Only 14% answered yes while 86% said no. But 20% of the districts could not find anyone to hire for some special ed programs....and a full 50% found the positions difficult to fill. Even in core curriculum like Chemistry and Math, 9% of districts had positions that could not be filled and 38% said they had difficulty finding teachers to hire.

The main positive in the report is that over the last 5 years we have managed to hold the student/teacher ratio average at 14.7 students.

But want to hear more disturbing trends?

96% of the teacher workforce in Minnesota is white. But minority students are rapidly increasing. In 2008, 23.5% of students were minority. In 2014, that number was 28.5%.....projections show us that in 2019, we will have a student body which is at 30.6% and by 2014 a full third of our students (33.5%) will be made up of minority kids.

And then there is special permissions. This means the district hired a teacher who doesn't meet the description criteria (but gets a waiver to do so) for the position they fill. This happens 6% of the time overall, but over 20% in special education. In fact, one statistic states that 11% of districts could not fill a position dedicated to Emotional/Behavior Disorders. An area that takes up a big portion of school budgets these days.

After looking at that report, I think the legislature needs to change their priorities....and fast. We have a teacher shortage problem and the incidental layoffs that occur in various districts are not the problem we need to deal with.

Instead of this GOP war on teacher's unions (helped along by some key Democrats), the legislature needs to tackle the minority learning disparity and teacher shortages (especially in rural areas, right House GOP?)

I would hope that those citing this report as some kind of proof of a LIFO (Last In-First Out) problem, at least read the rest of the report.

Because that information said a lot more.
comments (0) permalink
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