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Minnesota schools

Opting out of the testing regime in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on March 15, 2017 · 0 comments

school2I don’t have a good handle yet on what I think Trump, DeVos, and their minions will be able to do to public education, other than that it won’t be good. Meanwhile, I’m noting some relevant items for this state.

In 2016, 2,227 high school juniors opted out of the MCA tests statewide. That’s just a drop in the bucket, compared to the 55,975 students who did take it. But it is more than three times the number of eleventh grade students–694–who opted out of the MCAs in 2015.

This is a startling jump, taking place in schools and cities as diverse as suburban St. Louis Park, rural Pine City and Minneapolis.
(Bright Light Small City)

And for pretty good reasons.


A state audit is highlighting several major flaws connected to Minnesota’s standardized testing landscape, and educators are calling for change.
“One thing is obvious after reading this report. The taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth from this sprawling system of state and local standardized testing,” said Denise Specht, a fourth-generation teacher who heads up Education Minnesota, which represents 80,000 educators from across the state.
The Office of the Legislative Auditor released its findings earlier this week. Educators have zeroed in on what they call four major flaws.
(Education Votes)


Minnesota teachers dis DeVos

by Dan Burns on January 22, 2017 · 0 comments


Public school teachers scared s*itless by the prospect of Betsy DeVos becoming Secretary of Education filled the Internet with bear memes and rallied in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park, and Eyota on Thursday as part of the national “Reclaim our Schools” protests.
DeVos is seen as a threat to public education because she’s a billionaire lobbyist whose career was built on expanding charter schools (typically underachieving and union busting) and routing taxpayer money to private schools (not subject to uniform standards of student performance). She has never attended or worked in a public school.
(City Pages)

Two significant points:
– The committee vote on DeVos has been postponed.

– Much more often than not, voters rejected the deformer agenda last November. Even in Georgia.


What Minnesota schools need is not deform

by Dan Burns on April 6, 2016 · 0 comments

thosewhocanbutton400This first blockquote is from a succinct, yet definitive, summation of what’s been happening nationwide.

Education is in crisis because of the calculated effort to turn it into a business with a bottom line. Schools are closed and opened as though they were chain stores, not community institutions. Teachers are fired based on flawed measures. Disruption is considered a strategy rather than misguided and inhumane policy. Children and educators alike are simply data points, to be manipulated by economists, statisticians, entrepreneurs, and dabblers in policy.
Education has lost its way, lost its purpose, lost its definition. Where once it was about enlightening and empowering young minds with knowledge, exploring new worlds, learning about science and history, and unleashing the imagination of each child, it has become a scripted process of producing test scores that can supply data.
Education is in crisis. And we must organize to resist, to push back, to fight the mechanization of learning, and the standardization of children.
(Diane Ravitch/AlterNet)

Here’s what that’s led to in Minneapolis:


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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Now this is what I call a governor

by Dan Burns on March 10, 2015 · 0 comments

schoolThis proposal would be a good step forward, and it certainly sends an important message in any case.

Gov. Mark Dayton wants to reduce the number of standardized tests Minnesota students take.
In a letter to leaders of education committees in the state House and Senate, Dayton said he wants to cut the number of state tests by a third. Under the governor’s proposal, seven of 21 standardized tests would be dropped…
Any changes in state testing would need approval from Minnesota lawmakers and the federal government.

President Obama has questioned the testing regimen, himself, so approval from the feds may not be an impossible undertaking. Getting it through the current legislature, on the other hand, could well be another matter, given its agenda:


Repaying the Minnesota school shift

by Dan Burns on January 18, 2013 · 0 comments

An effort to get going on that started some days ago. Righting this GOP-created wrong is going to take some heavy lifting, in the matter of paying for it.

The biennium’s first bill, which often highlights a priority of the majority party, would give schools about $550 million in funding that was delayed by lawmakers in an accounting shift. The payment would represent about half of the $1.1 billion in shifted aid that schools are still owed.

Care to talk hypocrisy?

The bill is “a good start,” said Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine), Republican lead on the House Education Finance Committee. “We should pay the entire shift back right now.”

By savaging the Health and Human Services budget, no doubt, in the minds of Woodard and other Republicans.  In fact, the school shift happened in order to fund government handouts for the rich man, and it’s time the rich man was made to pay it back.  Every penny.  Some sort of short-term tax surcharge on high personal/corporate incomes, is the first thing that I’d look at. I’d even suggest that plenty of Minnesota’s privileged realize that it would be better to keep the whimpering and blubbering to a minimum, and just take their lumps, on this.


ALEC Snouts are into Minnesota Schools

by Dan Burns on February 13, 2012 · 1 comment

This is a very good article about what Minnesota’s Republican legislators, directed as they are by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), will likely be pushing when it comes to public education.  (Remember when our public schools were the unquestioned pride of Minnesota, before the extreme right got a chunk of political power in the state?  If you’re under thirty or so, you may not, but the rest of you likely do.)

So what’s in the corporate-funded council’s 2012 playbook? For Minnesota, the safe money is on teacher hiring and firing laws. Yep, tenure reform, which won’t surprise you at all if you clicked through a few of the links above and discovered ALEC’s right-to-work legislation campaign, now playing out at a statehouse near you.

Note that two of the legislators that have been making the most noise about education policy during the past year – Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington)  are listed as ALEC members.

That “teacher hiring and firing laws” are the problem with public schools is preposterous.  This is primarily another flagrant attempt to try to shift blame away from the real problems, which include issues like bad federal legislation, conservative anti-intellectualism, and (most of all) inadequate school funding, due to the contemptible idiocy of GOP prioritization of tax cut welfare government handouts for the wealthy.

I can’t wait to run these clowns into political oblivion.

(Regarding the title, ALEC snouts have actually been into Minnesota schools, and a whole lot else, for a while.  I just wanted something “catchy.”)

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The Minnesota state budget forecast showed a rather startling projected $876 million surplus.  GOPers, not known for reality-based thought, rushed to take credit. That’s preposterous:

–  One big factor, was higher-than expected corporate tax collections.  Conservatives wanted to cut corporate taxes.

–  The other, was because of federal health care legislation, that the righties have relentlessly opposed and tried to block.

Like many others on the left, my first thought was that it’s time to start paying back the schools.  That, however, may not be a legal option, even if it was politically feasible.

By law, surpluses are supposed to go into two state funds: a budget reserve and a cash-flow account. It’s the first state forecast to cough up a surplus since 2007, as the state reeled from the national recession.


…the forecast wasn’t all sunny. It projected a deficit of $1.3 billion for fiscal years 2014-15.

In other words, it’s very likely to just be banked, for the foreseeable future, no matter what pro-public education progressives think.


This was expected.

This year, 1,056 of Minnesota’s 2,255 schools were not on track to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, a basis for measuring school performance in meeting requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

More than half of Minnesota’s high schools, and two-thirds of middle schools and junior highs did not make adequate progress. Forty-five percent of elementary schools did not make adequate progress.

The report details which Minnesota schools did and did not meet the AYP measurement. State officials are trying to be freed from several mandates from No Child Left Behind, including the announcement of failing schools.

If you like, you can download the list of all the state’s schools by going here and clicking on “2011 Adequate Yearly Progress Results – All Schools & Districts” (Excel).

Minnesota will likely be granted a waiver, as will many states, but it’s unclear as to when, and what the terms of said waiver might involve.  In any case, taking a longer view, no federal legislation, or abolition thereof, can quickly undo the damage wrought by the anti-intellectualism spread throughout society by conservatism.  We’ll have to deal with that, probably for decades to come.


Timmy’s Happy Trails 4/21/10

by Dan Burns on April 21, 2010 · 0 comments

MN Governor Tim Pawlenty doesn’t have out-of-state political travel scheduled for the immediate future, that I know of.  I think there’s something this weekend, out west, that I’ll detail when it happens.

Most rational Minnesotans are well aware that MN schools have faced mounting problems since TBag slashed state funding for education early in his governorship.  And they know all about his stinking hypocrisy and political opportunism in trying to blame it all on the teachers’ union, in the context of ‘Race To The Top’ grant applications.  Many even know that MN would likely be better off without that funding source, as long as the current strings are attached.  Unfortunately, in MN as everywhere, irrational people tend to vote in higher percentages, which is the only reason conservatism, in all its odious manifestations, remains a political player at all.

This analysis, from Doug Grow at MinnPost, is more about Mark Dayton than Tim Pawlenty, but raises important issues.  To what extent should the DFL seek to overtly tie the GOP gubernatorial candidate (and legislative candidates, for that matter) to Gutshot’s horrific performance?  Would it work?

MPR/Polinaut has the stuff on TBag’s deep-pocketed donors, here and here.

The Atlantic on Timmy and evangelicals.