Friday, October 17, 2014
Thursday, October 16, 2014
|Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson at Global Academy, Oct. 13|
Jeff Johnson needs to steer the focus of the K-12 education conversation away from "cutting funding" to improving outcomes.
The Minneapolis and Saint Paul school districts receive the most money per pupil, thanks to Minnesota's highly political school funding "formula," yet the Gopher State's achievement gap remains among the highest in the country. It doesn't matter much how Representative Johnson voted on this or that education finance bill back in the day. Why? Because Minnesota funds schools, instead of each child.
For decades, the cards at the Capitol have been stacked in favor of the teacher's union and big city school districts. Education Minnesota has the slick TV ads, a huge permanent presence in the Education Building at the State Fair, and a forward operating base across the street from the Capitol. Make no mistake, in spite of the cheerful public relations and your fondness for your child's teacher, the union exists to act in the best interests of its members.
Johnson's visit this week to the Global Academy public charter school in Columbia Heights highlighted how kids can benefit when academics take precedence over politics. Among the school's challenges:
- 98% of students are immigrants themselves or children of immigrants
- 92% of students receive free or reduced-price lunches
- 74% of students are non-white
- 10 different languages are spoken by student body
- In 2008, 88% of students were classified ESL (English as a second language)
- In 2014, just 46% of students are classified ESL, due to its students becoming proficient in English
- Global Academy students score higher than the state average (of all students regardless of race or income) on all three subjects tested (reading, math and science)
- On average, Global Academy students score 30-40 points higher on state standardized tests than peer students in traditional district public schools
- In 2014, Global Academy students ranked #1 in reading on the Star Tribune “Beating the Odds” list (highest proficiency among metro-area schools with at least 85% poverty)
- Global Academy ranked #6 in math in the Star Tribune list
When Republicans focus on excellent education outcomes (or lack thereof in the case of those who put the "L" in the DFL), they can win. In a contest over who can outspend the other on cradle-to-grave government education programs, Republicans don't have a school prayer.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Lowering standards for teachers and academics will not close the nation's widest achievement gap and give Minnesota and our kids a bright future. Put Minnesota's students first, not the teachers' union. Vote Jeff Johnson for Governor and Ryan Rutzick for Representative in Minnesota House District 44B.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
“The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools.” —Constitution of the State of Minnesota, Article XIII, Sec. 1
When the DFL puts the interests of the teachers' union above the needs of Minnesota's public school students, we get headlines like this, year after year:
- State standardized test scores show little change; achievement gap persists (Star Tribune)
- Minnesota student performance on proficiency tests holds steady, with some modest gains (Pioneer Press)
- Achievement gap persists in statewide MCA test scores; slight improvement overall (Minnesota Public Radio)
By doubling the number of standardized tests that middle and high school students will be required to take, Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature have ensured that “paralysis by analysis” will preserve Minnesota's achievement gap between white and minority students for another generation.
In contrast, union interests are being well-served by the majority party in Saint Paul:
- Democrats prioritize seniority over teaching ability (one doesn't guarantee the other) when they oppose ending the state's last-in/first-out teacher layoff law.
- Democrats protect union members when they oppose introducing innovative programs like Teach for America into low-performing public schools.
- Gov. Dayton put union interests above high teaching standards when he vetoed a bill that would have required new teachers to pass a basic skills test before teaching in a classroom.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
|Figures of Soviet soldiers at the base of a Soviet Army monument transformed into superheroes in Sofia, Bulgaria.|
“Well, Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.” —Benjamin Franklin (attributed)
On this thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States — on United Airlines Flight 93, the World Trade Center in New York City, and The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. — we remember those who were murdered by those who hated America. We should also understand that there are still those with a deadly hatred for this country and all for which it stands (see the documentary America: Imagine a World Without Her, and its companion book by Dinesh D'Souza).
But we should also remind ourselves that there are so many of us in the United States and around the world who still believe in and want to preserve all that is good about the U.S.A.
This startling and oddly reassuring image showed up recently in a newsfeed from, of all places, the Moscow Times. I tweeted it almost right away.
Bulgarians believe in American exceptionalism, even if Obama does not. http://t.co/zYabbFiHzK #tcot pic.twitter.com/iSyORc9bDmPresident Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” With all due respect, Mr. President, if every country is exceptional, no country is exceptional. Perhaps that was your point.
— Matt Abe (@mattabe) September 4, 2014
That Bulgarian graffiti artists would transform a Soviet military monument into a monument to American superheroes (and Santa Claus and is that Ronald McDonald??) is remarkable on multiple levels. People from other countries often understand American exceptionalism better than U.S. citizens who take their country's freedoms and opportunities for granted.
|Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Oakland, California, 3/13/42, for the War Relocation Authority. University of California collection.|
Why? Around the turn of the twentieth century, their parents immigrated to this country, with no hope for a better future in Japan, many homeless, rising to the middle class in a generation. They believed in American ideals, some dying on the battlefield defending those ideals, even when America sometimes did not live up to them. In short, they were Americans.
Family friends of ours fled Castro's Cuba during the 1960s. They often wonder what would happen if the United States fundamentally changes from its founding principles of freedom. “Where would we go?” they ask.
Fly the flag, petition the government with your grievances, thank a military veteran, say the Pledge of Allegiance, write a letter to the editor, teach your children why they should know the Constitution. Their future, and our country's future, depends on it. It's our country — if we can keep it.
Friday, August 08, 2014
The Republicans of Minnesota SD44 put on their annual picnic in the park Thursday evening, complete with barbecue, catching up with old friends, and candidates, candidates, candidates — more great candidates than I can remember at a single SD44 picnic. The candidates who will face a primary election next Tuesday asked for the full support of the party faithful in attendance, who endorsed them at the state convention earlier this year in Rochester.
Republican-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate Mike McFadden was relaxed and smiling after meeting voters at Farmfest this week in Morgan, Minn. McFadden talked about his farm family roots and listening to farmers talk about government over-regulation and high taxes. Unfortunately, I didn't notice McFadden's colorful campaign-graphic decorated pickup truck until it was leaving the parking lot, so I wasn't able to take a photo of it for the blog.
No doubt in spite of trying, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Governor, SD44's own Jeff Johnson, failed to be in two places at once. So his top campaign surrogate, Johnson's wife Sondi, conveyed Jeff's greetings and heartfelt thanks for SD44's loyal support of his campaign. (There was no sign of the family bulldog and Jeff's political alter ego, Chester.)
Randy Gilbert, the Republican-endorsed candidate for state auditor and the only candidate who is actually an auditor, was very happy to report receiving positive press and support from regular folks on the Iron Range (including Gilbert, Minn.!), a traditional DFL stronghold.
HD44A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) and candidate for House District 44B Ryan Rutzick stressed the need to win back control of the state House (the Senate is not up for reelection this cycle), and how close Republicans are to do just that (a few thousand more votes than in 2012 to flip a handful of seats from DFL to R).
Currently in her fourth term in the House, Anderson among friends is as approachable and humble as any mom in Plymouth, but in off-the-cuff remarks about, well, pick the issue, it's soon clear that she is a principled legislator and formidable adversary on the floor of the House or the campaign trail. Rutzick is an energetic (Anderson called him "Type-A") businessman with early fundraising success (including money in the bank and no debt). Unlike Rutzick, the three unendorsed DFL candidates for HD44B are fighting to survive next week's primary election.
Patti Meier, GOP Senate District 44 chair, urged the well-fed activists at the picnic to sign any one or all of the several sign-up sheets for various campaign activities and fundraisers, including parades, the peripatetic tasks of literature dropping and door knocking, and phone calling. (I described the last of these in my previous post.)
Gala co-chairs Sheri Auclair and Jennifer Rowe were pleased to announce that the SD44 event of the season on October 10 at the Medina Country Club will be hosted by talk radio hosts Jack Tomczack and Benjamin Kruze.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
This week, I worked a shift at a GOP phone bank to remind folks to vote in next Tuesday's primary election for our endorsed candidates. I am happy to say that Reagan wouldn't have recognized it.
The volunteers still do the smiling, but the computers do the dialing. The software can even leave a voice mail message while the volunteer moves to the next call. These two simple innovations should significantly increase the number of voters reached per hour and make the volunteer's job much easier and less error-prone.
This year, it's easier and more convenient than ever to plow through a couple hours of phone bank calls, and more productive to boot. Contact the Minnesota GOP or your local BPOU (Senate District or county) to sign up. (Paper lists, pencils, and push-button telephones are still available if you would prefer them!)
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
|Photo by Kalikkio, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/|
In a one-sided story, “Medtronic deal could sting for long-time shareholders,” the Strib again plays the big, bad corporation against the innocent “little guy” — but the real villain (hero?) is left unnamed.
“The thing that bothers me the most is that this is a Minneapolis-based company that depended on the Minnesota investment community for its initial financing, that attracted investment from Minnesota investors first,” Cohen said. “The ones that were there in the beginning are the ones that are going to get screwed.”...Medtronic shareholders, who will be required to sell all of their shares (some at large gains over the purchase price) when the Covidien deal closes, should be thanking Congressional Democrats, Governor Dayton, and state DFL lawmakers for Obamacare, bailouts, MNCare, light rail trains that unite Minneapolis and Saint Paul, a new Senate Legislative Office Building, statues, fountains, civic centers, stadiums, the arts, regulatory burdens, and the overall quality of life that taxes make possible.
Howard Richards, a certified financial planner at Securus Wealth Management in Plymouth, offers a worst-case scenario: a taxpayer subject to the top federal capital gains rate of 20 percent, an Obamacare tax of 3.8 percent and Minnesota’s top marginal rate of 9.85 percent.
If we didn't tax capital gains at these confiscatory rates, it would only encourage large and small investors alike to invest more in the private enterprises of their choice. That would leave less wealth for redistribution by federal, state, and regional agencies, for the greater good. Ditto for ever-higher taxes on corporate profits.
Besides that, how fair is it to those less fortunate when you risk your own money in a small startup like Medtronic, and the stock increases in value over time as the company provides innovative goods or services that people want? You shareholders didn't actually do anything to deserve your windfall. How could anything that you would buy with that “free money” possibly be better than increasing the size and scope of government?
Quit whining about your first-world problems, Medtronic shareholders: you're rich. You'll still have well over half of your obscene profit even after taxes. For the greater good, share the wealth. Medtronic should be proud to pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world. You should be asking to be taxed more, not less. You should be voting Democrat.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
|Photo: Mike McFadden for U.S. Senate campaign|
It was perfect weather for a parade, which attracted thousands of spectators along 50th Street. Outfitted in our McFadden for Senate shirts, all we had to do was wave McFadden campaign signs and hand out campaign stickers to mostly eager tots ten years or more before they will cast their first votes for public office. It was a fun walk and great exercise to boot. We also got lots of smiles and verbal encouragement from the voting-age adults in the crowd.
The candidate himself was appearing in the parade in Delano, scheduled at the same time as the Edina Parade. The two campaign teams were to reunite later that day in Brainerd to walk in that town's Independence Day parade.
In front of us in line was Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, waving from a Hennepin County Water Patrol boat in tow.
It was also fun to greet Jeff Johnson and his family, and various members of team Johnson, on their way to the Johnson for Governor spot in the parade lineup.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Republicans have been having a field day over the proposed $90 million Senate Legislative Office Building (or SLOB, even better than the acronym for the current State Office Building, SOB). The edifice was, apparently legally, slipped into a tax bill at the very end of the 2013 session without a single hearing in the House. The SLOB was not funded in the tax bill just signed by Gov. Dayton, but that funding could still come with a vote by the House Rules Committee. Meanwhile, HF 2800 and SF 2808 have been introduced to repeal the construction authority for the building.
With some DFL legislators and even Gov. Dayton expressing concerns over the price tag and some of the proposed building's amenities, the building and the way it was rushed through the process has been red meat for partisan Republicans.
All six Republican gubernatorial endorsement candidates publicly expressed their opposition to the building, instead advocating for the Capitol Preservation Commission proposal for temporary facilities during the restoration and then moving the senators back into the Capitol.
The House GOP Caucus has focused attention on Gov. Dayton, pointing out that the Governor's office would receive a 62% more office space than their current Capitol digs. (Seriously??)
Yet the Legislature is pressed for enough office and hearing room space to conduct business and enable citizen participation, even before renovations soon require some senators to vacate their Capitol offices. According to former state Rep. Jim Knoblach in a StarTribune op ed, sensible solutions could exist in unused or rearranged spaces in the SOB. So why buy new when slightly used will do?
The "extravagant" amenities and architecture of the current SLOB proposal are only part of the problem. Let's hope that the building's critics will be part of the solution.