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Bill Maher, John Kline, Mike Obermueller and student debt

by Eric Ferguson on September 16, 2014 · 2 comments

As interesting as it is that Bill Maher picked one of our congressmen, Rep. John Kline, CD2, for his #FlipADistrict contest, the reasoning is interesting. He explained it on his Sept. 12 Real Time with Bill Maher. The bit I refer to starts around 2:40, where Maher said the issue of student debt inspired most of the votes for Kline, and then he tore into Kline’s record:

Student debt is a huge issue for young adults. If Democrats want young adults to vote, something they’re less inclined to do than older age groups in any sort of election, then we can only help our cause by addressing their biggest issue. Judging from Holly’s post yesterday, Kline’s opponent, Mike Obermueller, has already taken that advice. However, this doesn’t apply just to Democrats running specifically against the representative sometimes described as “Rep. John Kline, (R – for-profit education industry)” (and with pretty good reason). It applies to all Democrats, obviously more so those with more more young adults, but are there any Democrats with no young adults whose likelihood of turning out is concerning? GOP outreach has been a joke, if it’s been there, even though I gave the GOP some friendly advice. I don’t normally care to help the opposition, preferring to let them continue when making mistakes, but I told them to reach young voters on student debt in hopes of making some progress on the issue. Partisan opportunity is just the consolation prize. For now, looks like a consolation prize will have to be enough. However, that consolation prize is just an opportunity, not a win.


sadelephantI found out about this from an article in MinnPost. It was conducted by the Morris Leatherman Company, for the Association of Metropolitan School Districts. I’m not familiar with the polling outfit. Apparently it’s new, though it incorporated an established firm. Mostly the poll is about schools, and like other polls that ask a broad range of questions it has both pleasing and displeasing numbers for supporters of public schools and the educators therein. Many of those questions are in the category of “difficult to poll” (by which I mean that small differences in how questions are presented can, and often do, lead to big swings in responses). But in the general context of this website, note that they also asked a few questions about the election. The solid leads for Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Gov. Mark Dayton are consistent with other polling, and that leads to the eyebrow-raiser, on page 19 (PDF), which shows D+8 for the MN House of Representatives.


If that’s for real, DFLers will win a lot of seats. I’m not buying in with abandon, or anything like it, unless I see plenty of independent confirmation in other polling. But I obviously do think it’s worth noting. (I also didn’t see whether any kind of voter screen, “Registered,” “Likely,” whatever, was applied. Though given Minnesota’s turnout, that matters less than in most other places.)
We know that the electorate is drifting leftward, in most of the country, and that there’s nothing that anyone (especially conservatives, and their corporate media allies) can do about it (not that any politically rational person wants to). We don’t know how fast. What with having experienced my share of the frustration that is probably inevitable for anyone serious about left politics in the contemporary U.S., I’ve been refusing to let myself believe that it’s happening at anything other than an agonizingly slow and fitful rate. But I could be wrong. The next two elections, I suppose, will tell the tale.


Minnesota primary election liveblog

by Dan Burns on August 12, 2014 · 15 comments

11:10 – Hagedorn will win his race, Whelan romped in Otto-esque fashion in hers, and I’m headed for seven hours or so of the dreamless. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.
10:49 – Don’t mean to flip anyone out, Steve Simon will win, but something strange went down in the DFL Secretary of State primary.
10:43 – With 75% reporting it looks like Jeff Johnson will be the GOP gubernatorial candidate in November. He’s ahead of Kurt Zellers 30 to 24.5. But it’s a dismal showing for the party’s endorsed candidate.
10:10 – About 37,000 votes were cast Since I’m pretty sure one could vote for multiple candidates in the Minneapolis School Board race, I don’t know how many voters actually showed up, and Ira Jourdain beat Doug Mann for the fourth and final spot in November by 50 votes. I don’t know whether Mann can get a recount or not. Also, Applebaum did win 44B, but only by 37 votes over Tony Wagner.
10:00 – With almost 50% reporting the GOP governor thing is not over. Johnson 31, Zellers 24, Honour 22, Seifert 20.
9:50 – With almost 40% reporting in MN-01 Jim Hagedorn has about a 60-40 lead over the endorsed candidate, Aaron Miller.
9:41 – Matt Entenza has conceded the auditor’s race. I’m quite interested, though, to see whether that 70% spread continues to hold. If so, it will be, among a lot of other things, an indicator that the “sulfide mining uber alles!” crowd doesn’t have anything like the political heft that they (and corporate media) claim that they have.
9:37 – With all but one precinct reporting Rebecca Gagnon, Don Samuels, and Iris Altamirano will advance to the Minneapolis School Board general. It will be determined when that last precinct reports, whether Ira Jourdain or Doug Mann will as well.

9:30 – With almost 30% reporting Johnson is holding steady at about 1/3, with Zellers next at 24% and Honour in the low 20s. Also, it looks like Jon Applebaum will triumph in 44B.
9:15 – With all precincts in those districts reporting Phyllis Kahn and Jenifer Loon have won.
9:03 – 83-17, with almost 12% in. Jeff Johnson leads the GOP governor race, with almost precisely one-third of the vote.
8:21 – Only 1 % reporting, but it may be worth noting that Rebecca Otto is off to an 85%-15% lead.
Races of particular interest for me include:
- Otto/Entenza
- GOP governor
- Kahn/Noor (DFL60B – Minneapolis)
- An “embarrassment of riches” tripartite DFL primary in the west metro (Wagner/Tollefson/Applebaum – 44B – Minnetonka, etc.)
- Loon/Kihne (R48B – Eden Prairie)
- Minneapolis School Board at-large
- Hagedorn/Miller (R-MN01)
- And, mostly for perverse amusement, a Republican primary in the north metro featuring two real pieces of work, Abby Whelan and Justin Boals (R35A – Anoka, etc.)
I usually go to the SoS website for the latest. If that gets balky, as has been known to happen, CBS Minnesota has been prompt and reliable.

I’ll be back starting around 8:30, give or take.


Aerial_photo_of_downtown_Minneapolis(Update: I was wrong about this. School board elections are non-partisan, and both candidates will be on the general ballot in November. There is no primary.)
Three Minneapolis school board districts have elections this year. Districts 1 and 3 are uncontested. District 5 has two candidates, and since both are DFLers, next Tuesday’s primary is for the prize. Nelson Inz beat Jay Larson for DFL endorsement, with 73% on the first ballot.

- Nelson Inz.


Inz believes he has an understanding of the issues facing public schools “from being on the ground and in being in the classrooms,” he said, “and being in daily contact with students.” Trained in adolescent Montessori education with an IB in three different disciplines, he currently teaches at Great River Montessori High School, a charter school in Saint Paul. There he has served on the board and has acted as chair of the personnel committee.
Because Inz has worked in both public schools and charter schools, he said he believes he understands the ongoing debate between which types of schools are best for students and the state. And in his campaign, he said he wants to highlight student-centered education.
With holistic student-centered education, the education needs to be more of a priority than the testing, he said. That doesn’t mean that testing isn’t important, but kids need a mix of tools to keep them engaged in learning, he said. In addition, Inz said he feels that the district needs to focus on lowering class sizes and reducing the reliance on testing and narrowing curriculum. “You have to have some testing, obviously,” he said, “but you can’t base your entire educational philosophy on limited results.”

- Jay Larson.


Larson said he’s very supportive of teachers and their unions and that he believes in organizing and giving others a voice. Growing up in the North St. Paul, he said teachers really helped him through his parents’ divorce, and became heroes to him.
These days, as a parent, Larson has an impressive track record as a volunteer and organizer. When Larson and his wife, Sara, first moved into District 5, in the far southeastern portion of Minneapolis, Larson said that no one sent their kids to the surrounding public schools. It was just assumed, he said, that the schools in their area, such as Keewaydin and Wenonah, were not any good; instead, many kids in District 5 were going to charter schools or other nearby school districts. There was even talk, Larson added, that Keewaydin Elementary School would soon be closed.
But Larson has been committed to sending his own kids to public schools, he said, especially after Wenonah and Keewaydin merged into Lake Nokomis Community School in his neighborhood.
He began attending community meetings about the need to expand the Keewaydin building, he said, and was “amazed by other parents’ passion and unwavering support” for Lake Nokomis Community School. This reinforced his idea that “community schools are the backbone of a neighborhood,” he said.


Minneapolis skyline
Update: Andrew Minck has suspended his campaign.
(Continued from yesterday, or you can just scroll down if you’re on the MPP front page.)

- Don Samuels is plenty familiar to readers of this blog. On education, he’s all deformer, and it would be good to see him not even get past this primary.

As a school board member, Samuels plans to take a similar approach. Believing Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson “is on the right track,” she needs the school board to “be the wind beneath her wings,” to achieve success, he said.
To provide the kind of strategic help the superintendent needs, Samuels plans to call on his strong relationships across the city and state, in addition to using a “bully pulpit” approach. “I understand the importance of communicating, of being vocal, of staking out a position on things and repeating it frequently, and I think I also have a reputation of putting myself out there if no one else will call it that, meaning not shrinking from the most difficult questions and the most difficult actions that need to be taken.”
Finally, Samuels hopes to take an active role in teacher contract negotiations. Though he he’s not mad at the teacher’s union, which does a “great job of taking care of its people,” Samuels said there needs to be a “kid union” that is currently absent. “Me? I believe I am the kid union,” he said. “The school board is the children’s union, it is the parent’s union, it is the community’s union. There’s absolutely no other way to look at it.”

- Doug Mann is the Green Party candidate.



minneapolisIn November, Minneapolis voters will elect five candidates to their school board. (Note that if the corporate school deformer movement was ever to succeed in its entirety, voters would have no opportunity for this kind of democratic input into how schools are run. But I digress.) Three of those elected will be district seats, and two at-large. I’m talking about the at-large seats, here, because in the August 12 primary the seven candidates currently running for those will be culled to four for November.

I’m providing brief remarks on each of the seven, three today and four tomorrow, mostly in their own words. Don Samuels and Andrew Minck are the two with big deformer backing. You may note that I’m linking to a lot of material from Twin Cities Daily Planet (TCDP). Because it’s excellent stuff, that’s why. I’ve ordered the names at random.
- Ira Jourdain.

Jourdain feels that teachers need more support. “When you look at teachers- we’re throwing them into the fire without even base line support,” he said. “Teachers need more respect for their profession and the time and the effort they put into schools.”
…He sees families that are “directly affected by the district policies,” he said. “I think the education system turns a blind eye to students outside of the classroom. It’s a very different world for some students after three o’clock or whenever their school gets out, and I work directly with those affected families. I see unemployment problems that do affect children’s lives… the whole gamut of socio-economic problems that affect our kids that I think are not taken into consideration when we have things like Common Core and rigid mandating and testing.” The challenges that struggling families face mixed with high stakes testing create a “perfect storm,” he said, which disproportionately affects students of color.

- Rebecca Gagnon is a DFL-endorsed, incumbent board member.


Tom Emmer is Still an Angry White Guy

by Invenium Viam on August 1, 2014 · 4 comments


Tom Emmer is an Angry White Guy. He just doesn’t want you to know that he’s an Angry White Guy.


The reason he doesn’t want you to know it is because Tom Emmer wants to be the next US Congressman in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District (Rep. Michele Bachmann’s current seat). He wants to represent a district chock-full of Angry White Guys like himself, but to do that he needs more votes in the General Election than the Party of Angry White Guys can provide. To win, he’ll need the votes of some moderates.


To get them, he decided he needed to re-make himself into someone new.


Back in 2010, Emmer, then a member of the Minnesota House, wanted to be the Governor of Minnesota. Because … he did. But that campaign collapsed around him like a bad metaphor with inept and baseless declarations that restaurant workers can earn $100,000 a year in tips (which would justify minimum-wage exemptions) and that government workers make 30-40% more than their private sector counterparts (because they get expensive government giveaways like health insurance, paid time off and pensions). He lost to Mark Dayton in a close election of some 7,000 votes.


Now it’s 2014, and Tom Emmer wants to be a US Congressman. Because … he does. And in all likelihood, he’ll get his wish.


The reasons are simple.




Cooper-Union-We-are-Students-Not-Customers-e1373664073701Political battle lines have been drawn on the issue of appropriate regulation/accountability for for-profit colleges for some time now. It seems unlikely that Minnesota’s AG would be jumping in if she wasn’t pretty sure of herself in this matter.

Minnesota’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota School of Business and Globe University—two for-profit schools that operate under the Globe Education Network umbrella—alleging that they misled some students, leaving them burdened with debt but without the means to repay it.
The schools counter that the allegations “could not be further from the truth.”
The schools operate campuses in Blaine, Brooklyn Center, Elk River, Lakeville, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Plymouth, Richfield, Rochester, Shakopee, and Woodbury, which is also home to their headquarters. Globe also has several locations in Wisconsin and one in South Dakota.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said Tuesday that her lawsuit, which was filed in Hennepin County District Court, seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, and restitution. It describes a sales-focused culture among the schools’ admissions representatives, and Swanson likened the practices to “sales boiler rooms.”
(Twin Cities Business)

The primary champion of for-profits in Congress has been House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Rep. John Kline (R-MN). (The linked article is titled “The John Kline For-Profit College Donor List Hall of Shame,” and it’s from mnpACT!, and it’s great.) From what I’ve seen, he’s been mum on Swanson’s lawsuit, and I’m sure he’ll stay that way.



fireworksI missed this, a few weeks ago. It’s particularly significant with school board elections coming up, especially in Minneapolis, which will be ground zero for deformer efforts to take control.

StudentsFirst, a controversial nationwide school reform group that has frequently clashed with teachers’ unions, is shutting down its Minnesota office.
Kathy Saltzman, state director of StudentsFirst Minnesota, confirmed (July 9) that the group has decided not to maintain a paid staff in Minnesota, where it has about 29,000 members. She is currently the group’s only Minnesota-based employee.
The national group, headed by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, has been part of a movement aimed at improving education in ways that many teachers think unfairly target them. It has pushed for greater accountability among teachers, fought to overturn laws that protect teacher tenure and supported standardized testing. It has frequently aligned itself with Republican lawmakers who support charter schools and school vouchers.
“The decision was made based on the continually changing legislative climate,” Saltzman said of the move to close Minnesota’s branch. “We will, however, continue to have a presence here through our members.”
(Star Tribune)

The vast majority of StudentsWorstNightmare’s “29,000 members” in Minnesota are likely people that did nothing more than casually sign an innocent-looking online petition. In fact, I believe I did that myself, at, but then asked to have my name removed when Rhee’s emails started showing up in my inbox. This was several years ago, I think. Who knows if they really dropped my name from their “member” roll.

This great article from Salon has the goods on what’s currently happening at the “top” of the deformer movement. Short version: So long Michelle, hello Campbell.


{ 1 comment }

abanschoolAnd it should start with this.

Whether President Obama realizes it or not, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is now “damaged goods,” a leader whose credibility has been sharply diminished on both sides of the aisle and is widely despised by teachers and parents around the nation. As a result, any initiative he launches will generate skepticism and opposition and will go exactly nowhere. Whether the President can cut loose his long time friend and basketball buddy is an open question, but the die is cast. Arne Duncan is now a liability more than an asset and someone whose presence may cost Democrats votes in the 2014 elections.
(Mark Naison – Dump Duncan Facebook, 7/17/14)

What all has precipitated commentary like the above, which is spot-on if you ask me, is that Duncan is essentially pimping a conservative Republican approach to American education. Full corporatization (“Walmartization,” if you prefer) of schools is the odious goal.

The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution July 13 calling on President Barack Obama to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on an “improvement plan,” and demand his resignation if he doesn’t change positions the union deems harmful.
This is a very interesting development, notably because it’s arguable whether this resolution is stronger than the National Education Association’s similarly themed resolution, or weaker.
On the one hand, unlike the NEA resolution, it stops short of calling for Duncan’s immediate resignation. But on the other hand, the AFT makes it explicit that the buck for the education secretary ultimately stops with the person who appointed him — President Obama.
Delegates noted Duncan’s support for the Race to the Top competition, which gave incentives to states to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores; for the recent Vergara v. California equity-lawsuit ruling, which declared certain teacher protections unconstitutional in California; and for supporting planned teacher firings in Central Falls, R.I., as well as for saying that Hurricane Katrina’s reshaping of New Orleans’ school system was beneficial.
(Education Week)

Every indication is that President Obama is with the deformer crowd, and I wish I knew why. This is easily my biggest disappointment with his presidency. According to a big long survey (PDF), a largely uninformed public both strongly supports public schools (as it should), and more charters (as it most certainly shouldn‘t). Grounds for some measure of optimism, or at least determination in the face of difficult odds, is that the President has shown himself open to learned, rational persuasion in the past, on gay marriage for example.

Duncan is one of those professional suck-ups that infest DC like mold spores. And he displays a smug arrogance that is truly obnoxious and repellent. Some of his recent, combative comments are likely subconsciously grounded in fear that he’ll be exposed before all for the wretched fake that he is. Just…he needs to go (preferably replaced by Diane Ravitch, though that would seem too-good-to-be-true unlikely).