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Dan Burns

Myths about schools and testing

by Dan Burns on May 27, 2015 · 0 comments

schoolSeveral items.

However, advocating that all students must read at grade level—often defined as reading proficiency—rarely acknowledges the foundational problems with those goals: identifying text by a formula claiming “grade level” and then identifying children as readers by association with those readability formulas.
This text, some claim, is a fifth-grade text, and thus children who can “read” that text independently are at the fifth-grade reading level.
While all this seems quite scientific and manageable, I must call hokum—the sort of technocratic hokum that daily ruins children as readers, under-prepares children as literate and autonomous humans, and further erodes literacy as mostly testable literacy.
(The Becoming Radical)



kline2Coming off a holiday weekend things generally are not very active. But it so happens that I can, with remarkable ease, quite literally always find items to pass along, about how Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has done, and continues to do, a very bad job in Congress, and why he needs to be replaced in the next election.

(In May 2014) John Kline, Minnesota’s Most Reprehensible Congressman (TM), hosted a job fair at the Eagan Community Center “to assist Minnesotans with an uncertain job market.”
Among the Kline invitees looking to “assist” people trying to better their lot was a disproportionate number of for-profit colleges, including DeVry University, Crown College, and ITT Tech, the Carmel, Indiana-based company whose two executives were indicted on federal fraud charges earlier this week…
Kline hosts job fairs where for-profit schools land new students. Their tuition dollars from federal student loans and grants make the companies rich. These companies and their execs bankroll Kline’s campaign committee.
As the powerful chairman of the House Committee of Education and the Workforce, the congressman plays devout obstructionist to any meaningful reform that would turn off the spigot of taxpayer dollars amounting to $32 billion annually.
(City Pages)

The proposed budget does not provide any FY16 funding for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers nor for any vouchers to restore the remaining 67,000 vouchers lost due to the 2013 sequester cuts. The bill does not increase funding for voucher administrative fees, as HUD requested, but flat funds voucher administrative fees…
And it isn’t just ignoring the homeless veterans issue, voters need to be aware of some of the other cuts which are being pushed to satisfy John Kline’s “realistic balanced budget that reflects the needs of the American people.”
(MN Political Roundtable)

Of course spending levels on Kline’s own congressional operations are sacrosanct.
Comment below fold.

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Dayton vetoes multiple right-wing bills

by Dan Burns on May 23, 2015 · 3 comments

capitolsculptureGood deal. The link has video of his news conference. Actually, as these bills contain way too much from the ALEC wish-list, none should have made it through the DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate to begin with.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton made an expected special session of the legislature even more complicated by vetoing two more bills on Saturday. He has vetoed the omnibus agricultural, environment and natural resources bill and the omnibus jobs and energy bill.
Dayton said the first bill undermined decades of environmental protections and the second one fell short in funding several critical areas.
The governor did say he signed the omnibus state government finance bill despite a section that outsources some duties of the State Auditor to private auditors. Dayton said he would make fixing that section a part of any special session he calls.
(The Uptake)

Comments below fold.


TPP fast-track moves in Senate

by Dan Burns on May 22, 2015 · 0 comments


A free trade initiative that is pitting President Barack Obama against his own party cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday.
The 62-38 vote to end debate on the bill, moving it toward a final vote, was a victory for Obama, who had linked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to push the bill despite opposition from Senate Democratic leaders…
The Senate is now set to vote on changes to the bill, including one that would force the Obama administration to use trade deals to crack down on countries that manipulate the value of their currencies to give their exports a price advantage in the United States — an amendment the White House opposes because it would add a huge new complication into trade negotiations.

We’ve seen this before during the Obama presidency, especially early on. The obsession with getting a deal causes him to give away far too much. Perhaps there’s such a thing as “conciliatory personality disorder.“ Maybe the following will change during the amendment process. But, with the way things have been going, I wouldn’t count on it.



Iron mines, electric utilities and the biofuel industry came out winners in energy-related measures passed at the close of the Legislature.
But people with rooftop solar panels now face fees from municipal and cooperative electric companies, which convinced lawmakers that homegrown generators don’t pay their fair share of the power grid.
The energy measures, contained in agriculture and energy-jobs bills, are now before Gov. Mark Dayton, who said Tuesday he was still studying them.
(Star Tribune)

From Bluestem Prairie, here’s information on how this was railroaded at the very end. Also, regarding the energy/environment legislation from this session, there is a Keep Minnesota Clean event planned for Thursday at the governor’s mansion.


A few related notes:
– Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated that he may use line-item vetoes in budget bills. I’m generally against the line-item veto in principal. I think it gives governors too much power, and for evidence of that I can certainly cite the atrociously partisan ways in which it was abused by Dayton’s predecessor, the worst governor in the state’s history, Tim Pawlenty. But, all things considered, I support Dayton doing what he’s gotta do, here and now, with the tools he has to hand.


amd_300(Update 2: Thrilled to have been wrong! We got the veto.)
(Update: Looks like we won’t get that veto. Damn. Governor Dayton’s explanation, and I suppose that it does make some sense, is included in this MPR article.)
This passed the DFL-controlled Senate 35-30. What a load.

“No one should be under the impression that this buffer law will clean up our waters,” said (MEP Executive Director Steve) Morse. “It is significantly weakened from the Governor’s proposal. While it will have a modest positive impact, the waters of Southwestern Minnesota will remain unswimable and undrinkable. We have a long way to go to making the transformative change that the Governor envisions.”
…Raiding Dedicated Environmental Funds: Even with $1 billion on the bottom line, this bill raids funds that are to prevent old landfills from contaminating our groundwater and surface water and clean up the pollution where it occurs…
Surprise Sulfide Mining Amendment: The bill exempts sulfide mining waste from solid waste rules. This amendment was never introduced as a bill or heard in any committee, and its future effect is unknown. Exempting as-of-yet unknown waste streams from potential sulfide mines is an unnecessary risk to water quality and public health…
Polluter Amnesty: A polluter amnesty provision delays enforcement and waives penalties for regulated parties that self-report violations of environmental regulations. This provision needlessly strips the MPCA of its powers to hold polluters accountable for protecting our natural resources.
(Minnesota Environmental Partnership)

I’m not suggesting that online petitions suffice to change the world. But they certainly don’t hurt (just to cite one example, a lot of sane and rational federal judges were able to be confirmed, last year, largely because of online activism), and you can let Governor Mark Dayton know, here, that you’re with him, should he choose to veto this contemptible travesty.

In a related move – MN Auditor Rebecca Otto dared to suggest that Big Mining be required to put down some sort of legitimate surety, before poisoning Minnesota’s water – we had this.

DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto is hoping Gov. Mark Dayton vetoes the state government finance bill that House and Senate leaders negotiated in the closing hours of the 2015 session.
Otto objects to language in the bill from House Republicans that would allow county officials to bypass her office and get audits from the private sector…
Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said the privatization of audits would be “like the fox guarding the chicken coop.”


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abandonedschool(Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 here, here, here, and here.)

This one’s about education. It’s not really about the current standoff, in which I of course wish Gov. Mark Dayton the best. It’s about what led to this, which is why some of the linked articles may reference conservative plans that have since been dropped or at least diminished in negotiations.

In outstate Minnesota, they have a lot of schools, too. And a lot of kids, and parents, and other interested parties, who profoundly desire access to higher education. Just like in the metro.

The center of the Republican budget plan is $2 billion in tax breaks. They have not specified exactly who would get them, but it bears mentioning that HF1 – their top priority – was largely tax cuts for big corporate interests. It is safe to say that corporate special interests will cash in with hundreds of millions of new tax breaks in the Republican budget supported by Rep. (Dave) Hancock (R-Bemidji).
Putting all of the eggs in the “tax breaks bucket” means that kids and students are getting a raw deal. Most striking to me is the fact that Republicans plan to give away $15 in tax cuts for every $1 they invest in Minnesota’s school kids. That’s less than a 1% increase in funding for education. This likely means our schools will face budget cuts. Our college students will see tuition increases again as well. The Republican plan stunts the progress we made over the last two years in education, from funding all-day kindergarten to freezing tuition for Minnesota college students.
(Rep. Paul Thissen, in Red Lake Nation News)


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Grasslands-menggu(Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here.)


Today it’s about energy and the environment. One doesn’t have to see much of farm country to realize how well solar could work, with panels not only on the roofs of the main house but also the barn and outbuildings. A family could even make a few extra bucks selling electricity to the utilities. But if you’re politically dependent on the Kochtopus and their ilk, who owe most of their fortune to Big Filthy Fossil Fuels, that sets your perspective. Period.

In summary, Rep. (Pat) Garofalo’s (R-Farmington) bill would dismantle most of Minnesota’s efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by repealing the laws that support these efforts. He totally sabotages solar…
Six, the last thing to highlight is by no means the least. The bill comes down hard on all things solar. It would allow the solar energy standard to be met “through the use of solar energy or any other more affordable eligible energy technology” which, of course, is intended to gut the solar standard. The bill would also end the solar energy incentive program and change net metering.
The argument used by utilities and its fossil fuel friends against net metering is that it shifts costs to other rate payers. The anti-solar folks brought a witness from Boston to Rep. Garofalo’s committee who made that argument. However, he was very selective in the data he used and excluded the solar benefits of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases. Our Pollution Control Agency estimates that air pollution costs Minnesota $30 billion a year. The “b” is not a typo.
(Rep. Jean Wagenius)

It looks like Governor Mark Dayton’s buffer zone proposal won’t happen, this session, except maybe in a substantially weakened version, despite:


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imagesqtbnANd9GcRhlLTHok0fDiQpsx_IVQRQg-lVMpygkf1rEyJsns1mZT-bzjRX(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)


Talking fiscal policy. Like proposed handouts for out-of-state billionaires, while rural Minnesotans apparently continue to be regarded as gullible, irrelevant rubes, after they’ve voted that is, by the House GOP majority.

But Democrats keyed in on carve-outs for businesses. They questioned whether the state could afford a phase-out of the business property tax that has been in place for a dozen years. At first, businesses would get an exemption on the first $500,000 in value and the tax would go away entirely in six years, a cut worth about $1.5 billion in the first four years.
“We don’t need to break the state budget in tax cuts in order to build a stronger Minnesota,” said Rep. Ben Lien, a Moorhead Democrat.
Democrats charged that big corporations would benefit most, criticizing the move to give out-of-state operators of downtown Minneapolis skyscrapers and the Mall of America, among others, millions of dollars per year in property tax savings…
(Governor Mark) Dayton said he won’t support $2 billion in tax cuts, saying it would be a repeat of the late-1990s givebacks that preceded nearly a decade of running budget deficits.
“We’ve been cleaning that up since I arrived,” the governor said. “Why they want us to walk that plank again is just beyond me.”
(St. Cloud Times)

Cutting corporate taxes is a poor tool to spur economic growth. Not only is it extremely costly to our state, it provides absolutely no guarantee it will create jobs or help Minnesota’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. Small businesses are responsible for 65 percent of the new jobs created over the past 17 years, and very few will benefit from lower corporate taxes. In fact, according to the most recent data from the Department of Revenue, 96 percent of small businesses were not subject to Minnesota’s corporate income tax.
(Sen. David Tomassoni)


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A hypothesis about Kurt Daudt

by Dan Burns on May 13, 2015 · 1 comment

daudtPer Webster’s, a hypothesis is “an unproved theory, etc. tentatively accepted to explain certain facts.” The “certain facts” include:
A. As a successful example of left/progressive governance (well, somewhat left/progressive, compared to most, but the righties don’t make those qualifications), Minnesota is the bane of right-wingers, including very rich ones given to buying political power, everywhere. Especially when compared to its immediate neighbor to the east.
B. At least some GOPers came into this legislative session – in the wake of an especially low-turnout election where they managed some wins there, in the MN House, but nowhere else – talking about “working across the aisle” and spending money to help rural Minnesota. Such talk has been steamrollered by what has turned out to be the standard (and failed) conservative agenda, for a long time now, of handouts to the rich, and screw everyone else. And the primary mover of that agenda has clearly been House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).
C. Daudt is a pretty clear example of what the right-wing power brokers are looking for these days. Relatively young, vigorous, and comely, the likes of him will supposedly draw millenials by the millions to the glorious conservative cause. (Sorry if you just snorted coffee out of your nostrils; they really do believe that.) Yet, as a mildly to moderately stupid man (you can tell by his socio-political views, notable egocentrism, and general disconnect from reality), he’s easy to manipulate and will do what he’s told.
So, ergo, could it be that the Kochs have promised to make Kurt Daudt the next Scott Walker – that is, bring him to national prominence – if he shows what he’s got by doing all that he can to undermine Minnesota’s success?
Like I said, I have no proof. Not even close. Just idle musing, really.
Comment below fold.

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