Archive for the ‘Education Minnesota’ Category
The first thing I noticed about the St. Cloud Times’ endorsed school board candidates is that they’re ideologues. They’ve drank the School Board’s Kool-Aid. They each agree that voters must approve the $143,250,000 bonding referendum. These endorsed candidates don’t care that property taxes will skyrocket because of this vote. These endorsed candidates don’t care about the people living in St. Cloud who are living on modest fixed incomes and what those property tax increases will do to their family budgets.
They certainly don’t care that building the new Tech HS isn’t necessary. They don’t care that building the new Tech HS is foolish. They’ve gotten their marching orders and they’re going to do their best to carry those marching orders out.
It’s been reported that the ISD 742 School Board has held listening sessions. That isn’t true. They held gatherings that started with a professionally-produced presentation. It’s indisputable fact that it’s impossible to listen when you’re talking.
The Times’ Editorial Board did their best to spin these candidates’ qualifications but it won’t work. Here’s what they wrote:
Yes, on the surface all four might not seem to offer much diversity. But their answers to written questions from this board, campaign materials, experiences and news coverage about all eight candidacies show they are the best qualified to help lead the district in addressing its many challenges.
It isn’t just the surface that makes it seem like they “might not seem to offer much diversity.” It’s that they’re cookie-cutter DFL/Education Minnesota ideologues who won’t hesitate to raise taxes and rubberstamp Willie Jett’s agenda.
Frankly, the decisions that this board has made have been questionable at best. That’s especially true with the purchase of the land where the proposed new Tech HS is supposed to be located. When they first purchased it, they didn’t bother to determine whether it was fit for building on. It wasn’t. That’s why they had to do a land swap with the City of St. Cloud.
Now these ideologues want us to write them a blank check in the amount of $143,000,000? It isn’t just that I don’t think so. It’s that I’m saying ‘Hell no!‘ to these ideologues. I’ll say that emphatically by voting for just one candidate, John Palmer. Unlike these ideologues, Dr. Palmer won’t hesitate to ask the difficult questions. Unlike these ideologues, Dr. Palmer won’t hesitate in saying no to Education Minnesota’s agenda. Unlike these ideologues, Dr. Palmer will be the taxpayers’ and the students’ watchdog. Unlike these 4 ideologues, Dr. Palmer has earned my vote with his ideas, intelligence and his independence.
Finally, it’s time to tell the School Board that a) they work for us, b) they don’t work for Education Minnesota and/or Willie Jett and c) we aren’t their ATMs.
For years, the Twin Cities drew high marks as two of the best cities in America to live in. They rate high in “their green spaces, culinary scene and jobs. High median incomes, low unemployment and poverty rates and affordable housing” contribute to the Twin Cities’ high ratings. Apparently, there’s a secret for the Twin Cities’ high ratings. According to this article, the secret is “you have to be white.”
Politico Magazine then adds that “Twin Cities, it turns out, are also home to some of the worst racial disparities in the country. In metrics across the board—household income, unemployment rates, poverty rates and education attainment—the gap between white people and people of color is significantly larger in Minnesota than it is most everywhere else. Earlier this year, WalletHub used government data to measure financial inequality among racial groups in each state and found that in 2015, Minnesota ranked dead last overall.”
It’s wise to take this article with a grain of salt because the article is written with a definite lefty perspective:
It seems illogical that inequality could thrive in one of the country’s most liberal states, home to past progressive icons like Paul Wellstone and Hubert Humphrey.
Academics, activists and researchers offer different conjectures as to how Minnesota achieved the ignominious title of “Worst in the Country,” for racial differences in wealth, status and education. Their analyses told a story of misguided attempts at desegregation, ignorance surrounding the state’s racist history and a systemic negligence that prevents communities of color from partaking in the state’s prosperity.
Actually, it isn’t difficult to imagine that there’s income inequality in the Twin Cities. Education Minnesota is a powerful lobbyist that essentially intimidates DFL politicians into following Education Minnesota’s agenda to a T. That includes DFL politicians voting against meaningful school reforms. Education Minnesota prides itself in opposing school reforms.
I wrote this post to highlight the Board of Teaching’s corruption:
Ramsey County Judge Shawn Bartsh “blasted the state’s Board of Teaching for suddenly stopping a program that allowed experienced teachers, often from out of state, to get teaching licenses through an alternate method called ‘licensure via portfolio.’ The judge ordered the agency to resume the program, as required by law.”
Many of these teachers want to teach in the inner city, where their help would help shrink the achievement gap significantly. Instead, the EdMinn-influenced Board of Teaching ignores laws it doesn’t like.
With corruption like that, it isn’t difficult to see why income inequality is so prominent in the Twin Cities. It would surprising not to find income inequality in a place like that.
Zach Dorholt’s op-ed in this morning’s St. Cloud Times is a reminder of why he should be a one-term wonder. The Times asked what the legislature’s top priorities were. According to Dorholt, the answer is ” a constitutional one. The Minnesota Constitution obligates the Legislature to fund transportation and education.”
While it’s true that Minnesota’s constitution talks about transportation and education, it’s equally true that education was fully funded in last year’s budget. The budget that was adopted last year was a bipartisan budget that reflected both parties’ priorities. In short, neither party got everything they wanted but the people got a budget that funded everyone’s needs. What they didn’t get was everything on the special interests’ wish lists.
That’s why it isn’t worth paying attention to some of Dorholt’s drivel. In Dorholt’s op-ed, he brags about the fantastic job they did. Q: If you did such a magnificent job, why were you fired after your first term? Q2: If your education funding was so positive and so historic, why have school boards increased their operating levies? They’ve done that all across Minnesota. They’ve raised property taxes in both St. Cloud and in Princeton.
Simply put, Dorholt’s rhetoric doesn’t match Dorholt’s record.
The last Legislature — of which I was a member — left this Legislature a budget surplus for a reason: the next generation of Minnesotans deserves the same quality-funded education their predecessors got.
However, these legislators have let college and university tuition go up again, forcing students to foot another large bill, or take out more loans, or even forgo college altogether. We still have a lot of catching up to do for our schools and colleges.
Let’s talk about Dorholt’s time in the legislature. Specifically, let’s discuss his time as vice-chair of the House Higher Education Committee. During his time as vice-chair, Dorholt ignored St. Cloud State’s financial and enrollment problems. There’s a reason why Dorholt only talks about tuitions going up. It’s because his time on the House Higher Education Committee was a disaster.
St. Cloud State is pretty much the poster child for financial dysfunctionality. Dorholt’s solution was to throw more money at the problem without fixing the underlying problem. In fact, there’s little evidence that he was interested in finding out what the underlying problems were.
It’s just more proof that you can’t find what you refuse to look for. Dorholt’s ostrich strategy (burying his head in the sand) didn’t work the last time he was in the legislature. That’s why he shouldn’t be returned to the legislature. He was a failure then. Nothing he’s said suggests that he won’t be a failure again.
What’s happening in Prior Lake-Savage school district needs to be highlighted to the rest of Minnesota. This article asks 3 important questions, each of which deserve answers. The first question in Hannah Jones’ article asks “Is the district trying to influence students to vote ‘yes’ by giving referendum presentations during the school day?”
What’s appalling is that the answer is “During the senior meeting, much of the time was devoted to issues like prom safety and graduation ceremony preparation, but during the last six minutes or so of the program, Superintendent Teri Staloch introduced herself to the students, congratulated them on their impending graduation and showed them the district’s four-minute video presentation on the upcoming election. She also asked how many students in the audience were 18 and old enough to vote. It may not be typical for the school to show informational material on a referendum election during a student meeting, but that, Lund said, is because it’s not typical to have a referendum question on the ballot during springtime.”
Then there’s this tasty tidbit:
If they happen to meet during a fall election season, Lund said, he will encourage students to vote.
This sounds like the school district’s attempt to railroad high school students into voting for the bonding referendum. The bond is for $129,000,000. If that sounds like it’ll lead to a huge property tax increase, that’s because it’ll lead to a huge property tax increase. Here’s an additional question that the school district hasn’t answered: has the district looked into whether this could be done less expensively? Here’s another question: Has the district just accepted Nexus Solutions’ influence into this project? They’ve got an interest in this, a very big interest in this:
Nexus Solutions will be compensated at 2.25 percent of the total cost of program management, 7.95 percent of the cost of architectural services, 8.95 percent of the cost of engineering services, 2.5 percent of the cost of commissioning services and 5.75 percent of construction management services.
The reason why this question is important is because of how the school board reacted when their contract with Nexus was questioned:
When “Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board, Member Melissa Enger asked to re-examine the Nexus contracts,” the board “tensely shut down the conversation by taking a quorum on the subject. A majority voted to go with the day’s agenda rather than getting into the contract.”
Prior Lake-Savage voters should reject the referendum just on the basis that their school board is attempting to hide important details from making their way into the discussion. Why else would they shut this line of questioning down that quickly?
Another reason to reject this referendum is highlighted by this question in Hannah Jones’ article: Why is the referendum in May? The spin from Superintendent Staloch is insulting:
Spring is a less expected time to hold an election, which some residents have questioned. Staloch said district officials chose May 24 for the date to expedite the construction process, given that the referendum passes.
“Due to the current and projected rise in student enrollment, coupled with the fact that building construction for a new elementary school would take two years, the school board made the decision to place the referendum question before voters as early as possible,” she said. “If voters approve the referendum, a new elementary school would open for the 2018-2019 school year. If we waited until November to place the question before voters, we would not be able to open the new school until 2019-2020.”
Simply put, that’s rubbish. The reason the school board opted for a May 24th vote is to keep turnout as low as possible. They don’t want the vote to happen in November because that means they’d have to deal with lots more voters. They’d prefer keeping turnout low so that those in the ‘education industry’ will outnumber citizens.
Anyone who’s read LFR the last 5 years knows I don’t have any respect for Paul Thissen. He’s one of the most partisan political hacks in Minnesota. His contact with the truth is tangential on his best days, nonexistent on most days. For years, Thissen has insisted that Republicans are interested in providing “special treatment to big Twin Cities and multinational corporations.” That’s an outright lie. It isn’t inaccurate. It isn’t a matter open for discussion.
It’s an outright lie. Rep. Thissen knows that it’s a lie. Worst, Rep. Thissen doesn’t mind telling that outright lie. Last May, I wrote this article about Gov. Dayton’s shutdown notice announcement. At the time, Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Bakk had worked out a compromise budget. Gov. Dayton and Rep. Thissen objected to the bill in an attempt to kill the bipartisan bill.
Gov. Dayton and Rep. Thissen both complained that the Tax Bill would “provide tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.” I contacted Greg Davids, the Chairman of the House Taxes Committee, for a statement on those statements. Here’s what he said:
My bill does not do that. Eighty percent goes to individuals. Tax relief is for the middle class…My tax bill is tax relief for the poor and middle class.
I read Davids’ tax bill. His characterization of the bill is accurate. Rep. Thissen’s characterization isn’t. Unfortunately for Minnesotans thirsting for the truth, Rep. Thissen’s lies don’t stop there:
Thissen said the 2015 session was a “monumental flop for Greater Minnesota” after the House Republican majority failed to tackle important issues for greater Minnesota such as transportation, broadband infrastructure, and rural property tax relief. He said the “Greater Minnesota for All” agenda is focused on completing the unfinished business of the 2015 session.
First, the DFL played obstructionist with transportation. They said no to the Republicans’ transportation bill that would’ve directed sales tax revenues from rental cars, auto repairs and vehicle leases to a stability fund. That fund would’ve been used to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The DFL didn’t want that because they wanted a gas tax increase and additional funding for transit in outstate Minnesota. The need for transit in outstate Minnesota is less than important. It’s virtually nonexistent.
Next, the DFL’s ‘investments’ in LGA and education from the 2013 budget when there was a DFL governor and DFL majorities in the House and Senate sent property taxes through the roof. Rep. Thissen bragged about the DFL’s “historic investment in education.” Despite that historic investment and the paying off of school shifts, school districts across the state enacted huge property tax increases. The most modest increase was St. Cloud’s increase of 14.75%. The biggest property tax increase that I heard about was Princeton’s 25.16% increase. That’s relatively modest considering the fact that Princeton initially wanted to raise property taxes 33.87%.
The truth is that Dayton, Thissen and the DFL love raising taxes. Dayton, Thissen and the DFL love spending those tax increases on education because they know that the vast majority of that money will go to Education Minnesota, then into DFL campaign coffers.
Rep. Thissen, keep your grubby little fingers off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Robbing the taxpayers to pay off Education Minnesota isn’t ok. It’s disgusting and it’s gotta stop ASAP.
Yesterday, the ISD School Board put its best happy face on during their interviews. Whether they believed that they were going to win or whether they knew a defeat was in the cards, the indisputable truth from Tuesday night was that taxpayers rejected the School Board’s proposal by a pretty significant margin.
Tuesday afternoon, School Board Chairman Dennis Whipple told KNSI’s Dan Ochsner that most referenda and special elections attract approximately 4,000-6,000 voters in St. Cloud. When all the ballots were counted, ISD742 residents cast 15,853 votes; 7,393 (46.6%) were yes votes while 8,460 (53.4%) were no votes.
It’s one thing to lose a tight race. It’s another to lose by 1,000+ votes.
Tuesday afternoon, I told Dan Ochsner that we would look at the Times’ Our View Editorial as the turning point if this bonding referendum lost. At the time, I wrote in this post that it’s “foolish to think that this group of “experienced leaders” is running an under-the-radar campaign because this is a terrific deal for St. Cloud. If this deal was that important and that well thought out, these “experienced leaders” would’ve canvassed St. Cloud at least 3-4 times.”
The fact that only 3 mailers were sent out and that few Vote Yes signs were put up around town indicates that the School Board didn’t put much effort into this campaign. In hindsight, I never saw anyone from EdMinn dropping lit or knocking on doors.
Whipple said that the School Board would “return to” listening to the people. Hint for Chairman Whipple: it’s time for the School Board to start listening rather than talking amongst the education community, then telling the taxpayers what their bill will be for the School Board’s plans.
This afternoon, Dennis Whipple, the chairman of the Independent School District (ISD) 742 said “We are having record, historic turnout. All of our polling places — it’s really exciting to see the community engaged around this vote.” Later, Chairman Whipple said “Historically, we were told to expect for a special election or a referendum to expect between 4,000 and 6,000 votes to be cast. As we understand it, that happened before 11:00 am this morning.
This afternoon, I followed Chairman Whipple on Dan Ochsner’s Ox in the Afternoon show. (Click on this link to listen to those interviews.) One thing I highlighted is that I didn’t see EdMinn people pounding the pavement this cycle. I didn’t see many yard signs out, from either side really, either. This was a low-profile campaign on a high-profile issue.
Though there wasn’t much advertising run on the issue, interest in this issue ran high. When you break the turnout record before noon, that’s exceptionally high turnout.
Check back after 8:00 pm for updates and election results.
20:15 — Chairman Whipple was just on a local radio station from ISD 742 headquarters. He was asked what the next step would be if the bond was approved or rejected. Whipple said that it’s the same either way, adding that if it’s rejected that “we’d go back to listening to the concerns of the district.”
20:45 — The absentee ballots are being counted as this is being written. We might have those results at the top of the 9:00 o’clock hour.
21:00 — St. John’s University vote is in: Yes 74. No 45
21:45 — Ballots have arrived from Colts Academy, Tech High School, Talahi Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School. They’re counting the absentee ballots and the ballots from Apollo High School. Thus far, the SJU ballots are the only ones counted and announced.
- Tech High School 473 yes, 635 NO
- Colts Academy 695 yes, 784 NO
- Talahi 695 yes, 861 NO
- Lincoln 132 yes, 171 NO
- Apollo 621 yes, 777 NO
- Discovery totals: 468 yes, 515 NO
With 7 of 13 precincts in, 3,148 yes ballots, 3,788 NO ballots. Oak Hill ballots just arrived. Summary thus far: Yes: 45.4%, NO 54.6%
22:30 — Oak Hill totals: 1,379 YES, 1,146 no
With 8 of 13 precincts reporting, 4,527 yes (47.8%), 4.934 no (52.2%)
23:00 — St. Augusta totals: 435 yes, 835 NO. Westwood ballots just arrived. (H/T Kevin Allenspach) With 9 of 13 precincts reporting: 4,962 yes votes (46.2%), 5,769 NO votes (53.8%) total votes cast: 10,731
23:10 — Westwood results: 588 yes, 560 no. Unofficial totals with 10 of 13 precincts reporting: 5,550 yes (46.7%), 6,329 NO (53.3%). (H/T Kevin Allenspach) Total votes cast: 11,879
11:30 — SCSU results: 342 yes, 256 no. Absentee results: 435 yes, 487 no. Total votes: 777 yes votes, 742 no votes. Total votes cast: 13,399 With 11 of 13 polling stations reporting, 6,327 yes votes (47.2%), 7,072 no votes (52.8%)
Technically, there’s still 2 polling stations still left to report but the referendum will fail by a pretty substantial margin. School Board Chairman Whipple and Superintendent Jett haven’t officially conceded defeat but they’ve made gloomy-sounding statements before leaving their ‘Victory Party’ headquarters.
Consider that the last update of this post.
I haven’t hidden the fact that I thought from the outset that the ISD742 School Board was corrupt. (I first wrote about it in this post.) This LTE provides proof that either their math skills are deficient or that they’re liars, corrupt to the core. I don’t think that their math skills are deficient, which means that they’re probably deceitful and corrupt.
The part of Colleen Donovan’s LTE that caught my attention is “The Dec. 19 Times report “St. Cloud schools hike tax levy 14.75%” reported the district stating an owner of a home valued at $150,000 — if their home value did not increase — would pay an $49 more in taxes due to the 2015 levy increase. My 2015 tax statement showed that levy increased my taxes by 54.5 percent, or an increase of $79.59. And my house is valued under $100,000. This is far from the $49 on a $150,000 the district reported in December. The district did not need voter approval to do this.”
I wrote about that property tax increase in this post. I quoted Mark Sommerhauser’s article where he wrote “St. Cloud school district has imposed its largest tax levy increase in six years for 2015. The district’s property-tax levy will increase by $3.3 million, or 14.75 percent, to nearly $26 million. The school board voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the 2015 levy.”
Let’s do some quick math on this. Ms. Donovan’s property tax increase was $49 on a property valued at less than $100,000. That’s on a tax increase of $3,300,000. This bonding referendum is for $167,000,000.
The mailers that the School Board sent out said that they’re asking for permission to issue $167,000,000 to pay for renovating Apollo High School ($46,500,000), a new Tech High School ($113,800,000), technology ($4,200,000) and security ($2,500,000). The ballot question just asks for bonding authority for $167,000,000 without describing where the money will go. The ballot question is the only thing that’s legally binding.
The School Board might or might not keep their promise. The School Board might or might not have published an accurate estimate of how much property taxes will increase, though I’d bet the proverbial ranch that they didn’t.
The ISD742 School Board has proven that they’re corrupt. They wanted to keep the referendum low profile. That goal died when I wrote my first post about this referendum. They worded the ballot question so that people had to approve the entire $167,000,000 or reject the entire $167,000,000 intentionally.
It’s time to vote no on this bonding referendum. Then it’s time to vote out the corrupt school board members the next time they’re up for re-election. This school board is comprised of mostly hardline progressive machine DFL politicians. They need to go ASAP before they bankrupt us.
Earlier this morning, I wrote this post urging people to vote no on the school board’s attempt to railroad a major tax increase down our throats. Since I wrote that note, loyal readers of LFR asked me some additional questions that the school district should answer before they get another penny from taxpayers.
For instance, the school district combined the 2 projects (refurbishing Apollo, building a new Tech HS). The way it’s worded, you can’t vote down the Tech proposal and vote for the Apollo refurbishing. That’s a sly way of forcing people who want to refurbish Apollo to vote for the Tech project, too. That’s a sly way of forcing people who want to build a new Tech HS into voting for the Apollo refurbishing.
It’s pretty obvious why it’s set up this way. That isn’t the same as saying the school district should get away with forcing taxpayers to vote for both projects if they only support one of the projects. This is a scam propagated by the school board. This isn’t a mistake. It’s a feature! It’s intentional.
Another question raised by my readers is why the school district is holding the election at a time when literally nothing else is being voted on. As I said in my earlier post, it’s clear that the turnout from the “education community” will be 95% or higher. Those votes have already been factored in. Further, the school board is counting on low turnout from taxpayers. The vote is rigged. The people profiting from these projects passing will turn out in droves. The people who don’t know that there’s an election happening won’t show up, thereby ensuring the referendum passing.
The people running the school board want what they want when they want it. If that means playing dirty, then that’s the path they’ll take. In situations like that, there’s only one way to foil the school board’s plan. That’s to vote no, then insist that the taxpayers vote on 2 separate questions. Then insist that the election be held on Election Day 2016.
It isn’t surprising that the school board hasn’t held a townhall meeting to explain how big the ‘new Tech’ will be or how big the anticipated enrollment will be in the new school. They haven’t said what has to be refurbished at Apollo, either. Considering the fact that St. Cloud’s population of taxpayers is, at best, staying steady, just how many times do these politicians think they can go to the taxpayers’ ATM?
And yes, I meant to say politicians when referring to the school board. They’re as partisan as the legislature.
This morning, the St. Cloud Times’ Our View editorial couldn’t get it more wrong:
Seriously, short of breaking the two-party stranglehold on state government, this session stands as Minnesota’s poster child for reforming a budget-building process that’s come to rely on procrastination as a feeble excuse for letting a handful of 202 elected officials (201 legislators and one governor) make closed-door budget deals as time expires. Or, this year, afterward.
More transparency is the best solution.
This isn’t an argument against transparency. It’s an argument that ideology, not transparency, drove the special session. Time after time, Gov. Dayton pushed items from the DFL’s special interest wish list. While neither party is immune to pushing things too far, it’s indisputable that the DFL pushed it too hard this session. In fact, I’d argue that the DFL got used to pushing things too far in 2013-14, then didn’t adjust to divided government this year.
Gov. Dayton insisted on a trifecta of bad ideas. First, Gov. Dayton insisted on a major gas tax increase that Minnesotans vehemently opposed. Next, Gov. Dayton insisted on universal pre-k. Even after experts said that wasn’t sustainable, Gov. Dayton didn’t relent until a week later. Finally, Gov. Dayton insisted that the legislature repeal the partial privatization of the Auditor’s office a week after Gov. Dayton signed the bill.
The gas tax increase was a disaster waiting to happen. Three-fourths of Minnesotans opposed the tax increase. That didn’t stop Gov. Dayton from harshly criticizing people opposed to his gas tax increase. When he dug in his heels, Gov. Dayton poisoned the well.
Later, Gov. Dayton insisted on universal pre-K. Even after Art Rolnick showed how expensive it was and how many hidden property tax increases and unfunded mandates were hidden in the bill, Gov. Dayton still pushed the bill in his attempt to pay off his allies at Education Minnesota.
Third, Gov. Dayton pushed that the legislature repeal the statute that gave counties the option of hiring a private CPA to audit their county. That was an especially tricky position to defend since 28 counties already have that option.
Ideology, not a lack of transparency, pushed events in the Legislature.