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In 2013, the DFL said that they were raising taxes on “the rich” to pay for property tax relief for the middle class. I wrote here about how that failed…miserably:

The Princeton School Board in a split vote on Dec. 16 increased the school district tax levy by 25.16 percent for taxes payable 2015 to fund the 2015-16 school year.

This was a departure from the board’s originally proposed 33.87 percent hike. The total levy will be a little more than $6.091 million, a $300,000 increase over this year’s levy. The original proposal would have increased the levy $724,000.

A 25% increase in property taxes isn’t property tax relief for the middle class. That’s a gigantic, crippling middle class tax increase. Thank God the Princeton School Board exercised some restraint. If they hadn’t, the property tax increase would’ve been almost 34%.

I wrote this post to question why this historic property tax increase was needed in light of the DFL’s constant reminder that they paid back the school shift and raised per pupil spending. If I had $5 for every time the DFL, ABM or the Dayton campaign ran an ad talking about making an “historic investment in education”, I’d be wealthy. Either the DFL’s “investment in education” isn’t as historic as they’ve repeatedly said or the Princeton School Board is spending money recklessly.

Actually, there is another possibility. It’s quite possible that the DFL’s historic investment in education shafted outstate schools to pay for increased education spending in urban and suburban school districts. It wouldn’t be the first time the DFL shafted outstate school districts. Just ask Rocori if they’ve gotten fair treatment. (Hint: they haven’t.)

This fall, the DFL insisted that it didn’t shortchange rural Minnesota. The DFL insisted that they’d paid off the school shifts while increasing education funding. The DFL insisted that they’d raised taxes on “the rich” so they could cut property taxes for the middle class. The article in the Princeton newspaper is proof that a) the DFL still shortchanged rural Minnesota, b) the DFL’s tax-the-rich policy didn’t lead to middle class property tax relief and c) the DFL’s supposedly historic investment in education is more campaign rhetoric than reality.

Finally and most importantly, the DFL’s spending spree didn’t shrink the achievement gap nor did the DFL increase accountability in education. The DFL eliminated the requirement that teachers pass a basic skills test that the GOP first passed.

Rep. Thissen said that the DFL legislature should be called the education legislature. I’ve got a better idea. Let’s call them the ‘they shafted us again legislature.’ After all, the DFL’s spending did nothing to improve educational outcomes.

When I wrote this post, I forgot something that needs highlighting. Last fall, the DFL constantly reminded us that they’d paid off the school shifts and that they’d increased funding for education.

Apparently, the Princeton School Board didn’t get the memo. That’s odd because the DFL budget went into effect July 1…of 2013. If the DFL increased K-12 funding and paid off the school shifts, Princeton shouldn’t need to raise their property taxes. The Princeton School District especially shouldn’t need to raise their levy by 25.16%.

Then-Speaker Thissen issued this statement about the DFL’s “historic investment” in education:

The House DFL Education Budget invests in what works: fully funding all-day, every day kindergarten and investing $50 million in early learning childhood scholarships. All-day K and early childhood education are proven tools to improve test scores, close the achievement gap, and prepare students for future academic success. The House DFL Education Budget also increases the basic funding formula for K-12 schools by four percent over the biennium, an increase of over $315 million, or $209 per pupil. The school shift payback will be included in the House Taxes bill.

After reading that statement, it’s amazing that the Pope didn’t declare Speaker Thissen a candidate for sainthood.

Seriously, let’s summarize. The DFL raised taxes by $2,100,000,000 initially with the intent of paying for property tax relief for the middle class and to make “historic investments in education.”

What Minnesotans got in return were some middle class tax increases, virtually nothing in terms of property tax relief and big property tax increases to pay for K-12 funding. Minnesotans didn’t see the achievement gap close. Minnesotans didn’t notice a change in school boards’ spending habits, either.

The harsh reality is that Minnesotans got ripped off by the DFL’s tax increases, the DFL’s paying off the K-12 school shifts or from the DFL’s “historic investments in education.”

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The DFL’s insistence that they’d delivered property tax relief is BS. It always has been. This article is additional proof that the DFL was lying about property tax relief:

The Princeton School Board in a split vote on Dec. 16 increased the school district tax levy by 25.16 percent for taxes payable 2015 to fund the 2015-16 school year.

This was a departure from the board’s originally proposed 33.87 percent hike. The total levy will be a little more than $6.091 million, a $300,000 increase over this year’s levy. The original proposal would have increased the levy $724,000.

The disgusting thing about the DFL’s property tax increase is that voters didn’t get to approve the increase. Thanks to some legislative trickery a few years ago, this property tax increase was passed by the Princeton School Board.

What’s especially disgusting is the rate increase hike. The Princeton School Board trimmed down the tax increase from 33.87% to ‘just’ 25.16%. Raising people’s taxes by $300,000, especially in a small community like Princeton, will get noticed. Hopefully, regular people in Princeton will run for the school board to replace these taxaholics:

School board members Deb Ulm (chair), Eric Minks, Chuck Nagle, and Howard Vaillancourt voted yes.

It’s time for Princeton to take control of their schools again.

Darrell Downs’ article is must reading for the House and Senate Higher Ed committees, the MnSCU Board of Trustees, Gov. Dayton, Commissioner Pogemiller and every taxpayer whose son or daughter is attending to thinking about attending a MnSCU university. Here’s the opening of the article:

The icy standoff between campus faculty and the leadership of the Minnesota State College and Universities (MnSCU) needs to end — but let’s first get to the root of the problem.

MnSCU has been leading an experiment to change campuses into quasi-private franchises for years. Producing more degrees more quickly and more cheaply has been its hallmark. Never mind that the quality of the education may suffer when change is put in the hands of political appointees and corporate advisers.

To gild the lily of misguided privatization, MnSCU also pays for multimillion-dollar consultants, such as McKinsey and Co., to manage system planning, regardless of faculty and student objections. And it’s only a matter of time before we learn how much is being spent on consultants to “rebrand” the system.

It’s long past time for MnSCU leadership to step outside of its ivory towers. I’ve followed the higher ed reform beat for the better part of 4 years. I’ve seen documentation that verifies as fact that none of the MnSCU Trustees has ever held a townhall meeting in their congressional district. They certainly haven’t met with faculty members.

It’s foolish to think that an outside consultant is better equipped to suggest improvements and implement changes than are the people within the system. If the people that make up the system aren’t qualified for that initiative, then that’s a management failure to hire high quality administrators.

For the record, I’m positive that some of the universities’ administrators are more than qualified for putting a plan together while working with faculty and listening to students’ concerns. It’s just that Chancellor Rosenstone picked the wrong people for putting the reform package together and implementing that package.

Instead, Chancellor Rosenstone brought an adversarial attitude to the project. That attitude led to him secretly hiring McKinsey’s consultants, which spent $2,000,000 that shouldn’t have been spent. Chancellor Rosenstone decided that Charting the Future was the right initiative without meaningful input. Then he hired expensive consultants to implement his initiative.

Isn’t it a bit ironic that a reform initiative is implemented by doing what past administrators have done for decades? When the CEO of MnSCU puts the ‘reform’ package together, why should I think that he’s on the right path?

Downs is exactly right in highlighting expensive consultant-driven ‘reforms’. Nothing about that process sounds like a process that produces thoughtful, forward-looking reforms. Check back to LFR on Sunday for Part II of this series.

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After watching this video, it’s clear that Jeb Bush doesn’t have a clue about conservatism:

This post shows that Paige Lavender, a reporter/commentator for Huffington Post, is utterly clueless. Before we get into Jeb Bush’s statements, here’s what Ms. Lavender said:

PAIGE LAVENDER: We’ve seen in the last 2 election cycles that the Republican primary tends to favor the more conservative candidate.

In 2008, there weren’t any conservatives in the race. Of the liberals, John McCain was the most liberal. He got the nomination. In 2012, the GOP candidates were marginally more conservative. Mitt Romney wasn’t as liberal as McCain but he wasn’t a conservative, either. He was simply the least liberal of the liberals running.

The good news is that Republicans will have a handful of conservatives to pick from in 2016, starting with Scott Walker, then adding John Kasich and possibly Mike Pence. GOP activists won’t have to hold their noses when supporting one of these candidates. Conservatives will be able to enthusiastically support one of these three candidates.

The last 20 seconds of this video will hurt Gov. Bush:

Here’s what Gov. Bush said:

GOV. BUSH: I kinda know how a Republican can win, whether it’s me or somebody else and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to, you know, to be practical now in the Washington world, to be willing to lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.

Jeb Bush, like Mike Huckabee before him, doesn’t have a clue about conservatism. True conservatism has a healthy libertarian streak to it, mixed with a healthy skepticism of Washington, DC-run programs. We prefer smallish programs administered at the local level because that’s the best way to ensure accountability. Gov. Bush enthusiastically supports Common Core, which is federalizing education curriculum and standardizing tests nationwide. It’s even telling school boards which text books fit with Common Core’s curriculum.

Conservatism is about giving people lots of positive options, whether we’re talking about families’ health care decisions or telling parents that they can send their children to schools that aren’t failing students.

For the last 6-8 years, Republicans had to play defense because Democrats controlled the agenda. The next Republican president will work with GOP majorities in the House and Senate. That means they’ll be setting the agenda. Their first assignment must be to fix the messes created by President Obama, Sen. Reid and Nancy Pelosi. That means finally getting the fed to shut off the QE2 spigot. That’ll require the GOP to starting over with health care reform. This time, it’s imperative to get it right. Getting America’s economy requires siding with construction unions while ignoring environmental activists on pipeline projects.

There’s no shortage of things that need fixing. When a Republican governor is elected to become the 45th president of the United States, he’ll have lots of things to fix or to get started on. Hopefully, the 45th president won’t be Jeb Bush.

It’s difficult to determine how much Zach Dorholt’s dismal debate performance last night will affect his race against Jim Knoblach. Still, for people watching the debate either on TV or from the City Council Chambers got proof that Zach Dorholt is an empty suit. The gravitas gap between Dorholt and St. Cloud businessman Jim Knoblach was frequently on display.

When Sylvia Scheibel asked how jobs were created, Dorholt had the first response, which was a jaw-dropper:

Through demand. Demands build toothpaste. Companies don’t build toothpaste.

That’s absurd thinking. Did demand create laptop computers, iPhones or MP3’s? Did the stimulus create a growing economy? That was the foundation of President Obama’s stimulus bill. GDP didn’t start picking up, if you can call it that, until after the Federal Reserve started pumping $1,000,000,000,000 a year into the economy through quantitative easing. Even then, economic growth has been anemic, the worst recovery since WWII.

Earlier in the debate, Dorholt talked about how Minnesota had to “invest more money” to match skilled workers with the needs of Minnesota’s businesses. Later, Dorholt reversed himself, saying that, under DFL control, the Higher Ed committees “did a good job” in matching businesses with the skilled workers that they needed. It’s impossible to do both.

Saying that Dorholt isn’t an impressive speaker is understatement. Saying that he’s a better orator than he is a policy wonk is accurate. The best thing I can say is that he’s a typical politician. That isn’t the type of trifecta I’m hoping for.

Jim Knoblach was clearly the most informed candidate in that matchup.

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This LTE isn’t rooted in historical fact or reality. Here’s proof:

After the 2012 election, District 14B Rep. Zachary Dorholt and the Legislature had the tough task of cleaning up our state’s finances, which had been left in shambles. Previous Legislatures had passed along a $600 million budget deficit and nearly $1 billion in debt to our schools.

That isn’t accurate. The DFL legislatures of 2007-2010 left behind multi-billion dollar deficits and about $2,000,000,000 in school shifts. Republicans inherited a $5,000,000,000 deficit when they became the majority party in 2011.

They passed tons of reforms, including permitting reform, budget reform while insisting that high school teachers pass a Basic Skills Test. All of these things became law thanks to Republicans sticking to their principles of accountability and efficient government that works for people.

It’s worth noting that Republicans passed a bill that would’ve paid off the school shifts, too. The disappointing part is that the DFL legislature voted against repaying the school shift. Then Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill that would’ve paid off the school shift.

That’s verifiable historical fact. It’s indisputable.

When the DFL took total control of state government, the deficit had dropped to $600,000,000. That’s one-eighth the size of the deficit Republicans inherited in 2011.

By the time the 2014 session finished, the all-DFL government had repealed the Basic Skills Test reform and the budget reforms the GOP had passed. That’s inexcusable. Education Minnesota opposed the Basic Skills Test so Zach Dorholt and his DFL colleagues voted to repeal it. Nobody in the DFL, starting with Gov. Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Bakk and Speaker Thissen, liked the budget reforms so they repealed those reforms.

These paragraphs are total propaganda:

But Dorholt did not back down. He helped pay back every penny owed to schools and used new revenue (largely from closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest 2 percent to chip in a fair share) to eliminate the deficit and make long-overdue investments in priorities Minnesotans broadly share.

Those priorities included all-day kindergarten; a two-year college tuition freeze; bigger property tax refunds; more funding for nursing homes; and resources to help small businesses. As a result, our economy is growing, Minnesotans are going back to work and more children have an opportunity to reach their full potential.

Dorholt the ideologue fit right in, voting against his constituents in raising a) income taxes on “the rich”, b) sales taxes that hit the middle class and c) the cigarette tax that hits low income Minnesotans.

All-day kindergarten wasn’t a priority for most middle class families but it was a priority for Education because they saw it as a way to increase funding to their members. It doesn’t have anything to do with providing a better education to students. Property tax relief is mostly a mirage. Yes, there will be refund checks on the back side but there’s also property tax increases on the front side. As for helping small businesses, that’s a myth. Many small businesses are either expanding in other states, starting in other states or moving to other states.

Rep. Dorholt and his all-DFL legislature have made a total mess of things. They should be fired this November.

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Jeff Johnson’s latest ad is causing quite a stir:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson released a new television ad today that questions the competence of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

Johnson’s ad is titled “Unaware.” The narrator contends that Dayton was unaware of bonuses paid to “failed Obamacare bureaucrats,” the contents of bills he signed and the legal issues facing the owners of the Minnesota Vikings.

Johnson then appears, saying Minnesotans deserve a “governor who knows what’s going on,” and promising that he will to be a 24/7 leader.


WCCO’s Reality Check on the ad provides the text from the ad:

Johnson Ad Text:
“Unaware of bonuses for his failed Obamacare bureaucrats
Not even knowing what’s in the bills he signed
Half-a billion taxpayer dollars to the Wilfs after they committed civil fraud and racketeering.
‘I was not aware at all’
What is Mark Dayton aware of?
Minnesotans deserve an engaged governor who knows what’s going on and what’s in the bills he signs. I’ll be a 24-7 leader who owns his decisions. The buck stops with me.
Jeff Johnson for Governor”

The Dayton campaign quickly reacted to Commissioner Johnson’s ad:

A spokesman for the Dayton campaign, Linden Zakula, described the ad as a “desperate attack” from a candidate who is far behind in the polls. “Commissioner Johnson offers no real ideas to improve education, create jobs, or help Minnesota families,” Zakula said in a statement.

What Zakula means is that Commissioner Johnson doesn’t have the special interest-approved pseudo-solutions that Gov. Dayton has. HINT to Zakula: That’s the point. Jeff Johnson won’t be beholden to list of special interests that Gov. Dayton has been his entire public life. The DFL doesn’t do anything that their special interest allies don’t sanction.

As for “real ideas that improves education, creates jobs or helps Minnesota families”, Zakula is lying. Jeff Johnson’s ideas will help miners on the Iron Range (PolyMet), farmers everywhere in the state (Sandpiper Pipeline) and will strengthen families by creating high-paying jobs. Gov. Dayton is a pathetic advocate for raising marginal tax rates. Jeff Johnson is unapologetic in his desire to grow Minnesota’s private sector.

Jeff Johnson will fight for a new K-12 funding formula that reduces the gap between metro schools and outstate schools. I suspect Jeff Johnson will fight to restore the Basic Skills Test for high school math and science teachers that the Republican legislature passed and that Gov. Dayton signed and that the DFL legislature repealed and Gov. Dayton signed. That’s accountability I can believe in.

Zakula’s response is predictable. Gov. Dayton’s litany of things he supposedly didn’t know about is lengthy. Gov. Dayton shut down the government because he supposedly didn’t know that the GOP had removed some provisions that he objected to right before the shutdown. When told in July that they’d been removed, Gov. Dayton acted surprised. Right before FarmFest 2013, Gov. Dayton ‘discovered’ that the Tax Bill expanded sales taxes to include farm equipment repairs, warehousing services and telecommunications. In 2013, Gov. Dayton was outraged that the Vikings stadium bill included a provision for PSL’s, which are standard in every stadium bill that’s been passed in the last 15 years.

Being ignorant might work within the DFL but hard-working families expect their governor to pay attention to the details of major bills. Gov. Dayton said that he thinks MNsure is working “phenomenally well”:

That’s stunningly out of touch. Tell that to families everywhere in Minnesota that are seeing huge increases in their insurance premiums. Tell that to the 140,000 families that had the policies they liked cancelled and replaced by “better” policies they didn’t want.

Gov. Dayton’s policies aren’t growing Minnesota’s private sector. They aren’t making K-12 education the best it can be, either. Gov. Dayton’s policies reflect Education Minnesota’s wish list.

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It isn’t that Dave Unze’s article for the SCTimes isn’t accurate. It’s that it doesn’t speak to the initial, central complaint. Here’s what I’m talking about:

The U.S. Department of Education has closed an investigation at St. Cloud State University without a finding of wrongdoing after looking into changes to students’ transcripts.

The Office of Inspector General determined that “there appears to be no federal violation” of student loan rules and the “case is recommended for closure,” according to information provided to the St. Cloud Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The department was investigating whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money it was required to return if the students whose grades were changed became ineligible to keep that financial aid.

It’s true that the US Department of Education visited SCSU’s campus. Likewise, they visited because they’d gotten complaints that some federal laws might’ve been broken. Still, it’s misleading to suggest that that’s the heart of the scandal. It’s what the Potter administration has worked hard to portray as the heart of the scandal but it isn’t close to being the heart of the scandal. This gets to the heart of the scandal:

Two years ago, a student in my class completed all requirements but the final, requesting to take the final in early January. She did not then nor in April, when another faculty member contacted me on her behalf for yet another chance. Her grade for the semester was a solid F — even if she would have earned 100 percent on the written final.

However, a year later, she requested a withdrawal for all her courses. I provided detailed evidence that she had completed the semester and reasons for denying the appeal. I later received an email that her request had been granted despite my recommendation. I contacted the registrar’s office to learn that two professors had denied her request and two had complied. Yet a W was awarded for all four classes. My prompt reaction re-instated the earned grade for my class.

That isn’t the only example of the Potter administration trying to pervert SCSU’s transcript system. MPR’s article documents what’s at the heart of the Potter-SCSU transcript scandal:

Last spring, Tamara Leenay, a chemistry professor at St. Cloud State University, was reviewing grades when she came across the transcript of a student who failed an organic chemistry class she taught a couple of years earlier.

“I noticed the course was not even on his transcript,” Leenay said. “There was no ‘F.’ There was no course number … It was completely gone. And I have [a] record that he was in my class and that I gave him a grade … and I was never notified of any of these changes.”

That’s the heart of the Potter-SCSU transcript scandal. It wasn’t that transcripts were getting changed without a professor’s permission. It’s that people who had taken courses, completed their assignments, then failed their class talked the Potter administration into eliminating a student’s participation in a class from their transcript.

I’m happy to hear that SCSU didn’t break federal laws while corrupting their official transcript system. Unfortunately, students’ grades were deleted from St. Cloud State’s transcripts after they’d done the work but failed the classes.

If a student does all the work for the class, then fails, that student shouldn’t have the right to petition the administration to have that grade removed. Deleting a student’s participation in a class from the transcripts is dishonest.

The investigation determined that a “large amount” of the transcript alterations were from “a backlog of late-withdraw requests, not no-show students, and that most of the transcript alterations affected students that attended classes for some time and were thus eligible to keep a portion or all of the Title IV aid they received.”

President Potter, former Provost Malhotra and spokesman Adam Hammer have tried portraying the situation as being about late drops and withdrawals. Nobody protested the fact that late drops and withdrawals were appropriate in certain situations. The faculty’s protests were about students who had their participation in class scrubbed from their official transcripts after the student failed the professor’s class.

President Potter still insists that that there never was a problem and that this was all about some professors venting. It’s unfortunate that President Potter didn’t take this seriously. It’s worse that the SCTimes didn’t do a real investigation. What’s worst is that the SCTimes just took President Potter’s word hook, line and sinker.

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Apparently, the DFL is trying to pander to MnSCU executives. This article sounds like the DFL’s attempt to pander to MnSCU voters:

DFL leaders said today they would work to provide more money for higher education and work closely with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to ensure each system is becoming more efficient in order to better direct state dollars toward tuition stabilization and reduction.

That’s DFL demagoguery at its worst. The DFL never insists that government becomes more efficient. The next time they insist on MnSCU spend the taxpayers’ money efficiently, it’ll be the first time that the DFL will have insisted that MnSCU spend the taxpayers’ money efficiently.

The DFL chairs of the House and Senate Higher Education committees didn’t find out that Chancellor Rosenstone had gotten a big raise and a new contract until 9 months after the fact. They didn’t know that Chancellor Rosenstone paid McKinsey and Co. $2,000,000 until after the fact. Here’s how important it was to hire McKinsey:

Dean Frost, a professor at Bemidji State University and a former management consultant who reviewed some of the documents McKinsey produced, said the playbooks feature general, common-sense instructions on conducting a task force. He said the supporting research mostly includes publicly available materials rather than reports generated specially for MnSCU.

In other words, the work McKinsey did wasn’t particularly enlightening but it was expensive. Now the DFL expects me to buy the notion that they’ll actually pay attention? They expect me to buy into the notion that they’ll reform MnSCU? Why would I buy into that? This part leads me to think that the DFL isn’t trustworthy:

In an election year where candidates are promising to make education more affordable, the Minnesota House DFL says it wants to freeze tuition at Minnesota’s public higher education institutions until 2017. The effort would build on an existing tuition freeze through 2015.

That isn’t what happened in 2013-14. First, the DFL legislature imposed a tuition freeze on MnSCU universities in 2013. In 2014, the DFL legislature passed a supplemental appropriation of $17,000,000. Then it negotiated a contract with the IFO. When MnSCU got the $17,000,000, it didn’t spend the money on the new contract, which is what the supplemental appropriation was supposed to pay for. It went elsewhere.

That means the DFL legislature froze tuition, raised the universities’ biggest cost substantially, then told the universities that they’d have to figure out how to pay the higher contract costs without raising tuition. Meanwhile, Chancellor Rosenstone paid McKinsey $2,000,000 for work they could’ve done in-house and President Potter insists that losing $7,500,000 in 5 years on the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments is a great success for SCSU.

That last part is especially galling considering the fact that a) Zach Dorholt is the Vice-Chair of the House Higher Education Committee and b) SCSU is in his district. He’s paid no attention to SCSU except to rally students for his campaign this fall.

These aren’t the actions of politicians that are committed to making sure that the taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently on necessities. They’re the actions of politicians pandering to voters. Period.

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