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This Reuters article is breathtakingly misguided. First, the article is a hatchet job about Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing. What’s important to know is that Reuters says “Next Tuesday, the Education Committee will likely approve sending her name to the full chamber when it votes in an executive session. Then, Democrats could block the nomination with a filibuster on the Senate floor.”

Has Reuters been hiding in Saddam Hussein’s rabbit hole hideout the last 4 years? Have they paid attention to the Democrats’ whining the last month? NEWS BULLETIN TO REUTERS: Harry Reid killed the filibuster of presidential cabinet nominees in 2013.

What’s noteworthy about the hearing itself is how bitchy Democrats are. For instance, the Reuters article says “Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, an advocate of tough financial regulation, asked whether DeVos or her children had attended public schools, borrowed student loans or received federal financial help known as Pell grants. ‘You have no experience with financial aid,’ Warren summed up when DeVos answered ‘no.'”

She’s a billionaire who’s contributed millions of dollars to school choice scholarship funds. Why would she then require her children to rack up a pile of student loan debt?

Many were dismayed DeVos would not pledge to carry out rules on sexual assault, for-profit colleges and fair access for students with disabilities, only saying she would review the policies.

TRANSLATION: Democrats are upset that Trump’s pick isn’t a doctrinaire liberal who supports teachers unions. My advice for them is simple: put on your big boy britches. Get over it. You lost. The new president will be taking the nation in a different, more prosperous, direction.

NOTICE TO ELIZABETH WARREN: Keep doing what you’re doing, which is acting like a bitch. You’ve been letting your hostility flood the hearings. It isn’t attractive.

Finally, it’s difficult to trust Reuters as a news organization when they don’t know basic Senate rules. It’s impossible to think of Sen. Warren as a presidential candidate. She’s a bigger bitch than Hillary, which is saying a lot, and she hates anyone who’s been successful.

One of the great things about President-Elect Trump’s cabinet picks is that it’s forcing Democrats to defend the indefensible. Contained in this article is something that’s totally black-white.

The opening paragraph states “Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, stood firm about her long held beliefs that parents, not the government, should be able to choose where to send children to school, pledging Tuesday to push voucher programs should she be confirmed to lead the nation’s education system.”

Only a union member would disagree with that statement. Parents should have the right to pick the schools their children attend. As for those defending the failed status quo in education, which is what the Democrats are doing, check out Randi Weingarten’s statement about Mrs. DeVos. I don’t think that unhinged is a strong enough word. Weingarten said “She has no connections to public schools,” Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federal of Teachers, told CNN on Tuesday. “What she wants to do is actually drain the public system of dollars it desperately needs.”

Al Franken’s round of questioning was what you’d expect from a political hack like him. This video showed that he was a political hack with a pre-orchestrated script to follow:

Then there’s this:

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, questioned whether DeVos has the “breadth and depth” of knowledge to serve as education secretary. Franken started his turn at questioning by asking DeVos whether she believes in judging children on growth or proficiency. DeVos stumbled on the question and seemingly didn’t know that this was a debate within the education community. “It surprises me that you don’t know this issue,” Franken said, later adding that he is, in fact, “not that surprised that you don’t know this issue.”

Franken then turned to DeVos’ donation to Focus on the Family, an organization that believes conversion therapy for LGBT. Franken directly asked DeVos whether she “still believes” in conversion therapy. “I have never believed in that,” DeVos said, adding, “I fully embrace equality.”

Let’s inventory Franken’s questioning. First, he insisted that the expert wasn’t an expert because she didn’t give into his liberal groupthink. Next, he insults Mrs. DeVos for not being qualified. Finally, Sen. Franken assumed that Mrs. DeVos believed something because she’s a devout Christian.

That’s fair game with Democrats like Sen. Franken. It’s considered bigotry amongst civilized, thoughtful people. Apparently, Sen. Franken isn’t a civilized, thoughtful person. Sen. Franken, like other Democrats, are guilt-by-association people. Check this article out:

DeVos’s stance on LGBT rights is not known—she has declined to comment ahead of the confirmation hearings—but there are, to put it mildly, reasons for concern.

The DeVos family has been the primary funder of some of the most anti-LGBT organizations in the country, to the tune of more than $200 million. Her father-in-law, Richard DeVos, was one of the first mega-funders of the Christian right in the 1970s, and his foundation is now a fixture at The Gathering, the Woodstock of Christian right funders, and a major funder of Focus on the Family. The DeVos Center for Religion and Society at the Heritage Foundation has promoted a quasi-theocratic worldview. And Betsy DeVos’s father, Edgar Prince, was a founder of the Family Research Council.

That’s right. Admit that they don’t know her position on something. Then, in the next breath, attack her because she’s related. Don’t find out for yourself. Just make unsubstantiated assumptions.

Betsy DeVos has the chance of being one of the best secretaries of Education ever. According to this WSJ article, Mrs. DeVos has gone toe-to-toe with the ‘education establishment’ and lived to tell about it. In fact, she didn’t just live to tell about it, she defeated them. In fact, she didn’t just defeat them, she kicked some serious ass.

According to the WSJ article, “Mrs. DeVos is a philanthropist who has devoted years and much of her fortune to promoting school reform, especially charter schools and vouchers. She chairs the American Federation for Children (AFC).”

This year, “AFC was especially successful … as 108 of the 121 candidates it supported won their elections. AFC candidates in Florida won 20 of 21 targeted races. The group’s biggest coup was ousting a scourge of school choice in a Miami-Dade Senate district where Democrats are a majority. The teachers’ union dumped $1 million into the race but still lost.” [Editor’s note: winning 108 of 121 elections is a winning percentage of 89.25%, which certainly qualifies as kicking ass.

It’s especially heartening to see this many school choice advocates getting elected. They’re the future civil rights leaders of the next 15 years. Even more importantly, being seen as school choice advocates will help Republicans in minority communities irrespective of what Randi Weingarten said in this interview:

In Ms. Weingarten’s over-the-top statement, she said “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America. DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.”

This is a perfect illustration of the left’s wanting money out of politics … if the money is spent opposing the left’s monopolies. Mrs. DeVos has spent a portion of her wealth trying to increase educational competition in the hopes of forcing the forces of the status quo into providing a better product. The reason why the minority community likes school choice is because public schools have failed their children too often.

Here’s hoping that Mrs. DeVos carries out President-Elect Trump’s school choice agenda when she’s confirmed.

This morning, Donald Trump picked Gov. Nikki Haley, (R-SC), to be the US Ambassador to the UN. This afternoon, President-Elect Trump picked Betsy DeVos to be his Education Secretary. The Washington Post describes Mrs. DeVos as a “billionaire and conservative activist” who “has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.”

Of course, the article wouldn’t be complete without quoting Randi Weingarten. Ms. Weingarten is quoted as saying “Trump’s pick makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.”

In picking DeVos, President-Elect Trump is telling conservatives that he will push their school choice agenda. This pick, more than any other pick besides Jeff Sessions as Trump’s AG, signals that Trump’s education agenda aligns with Republicans’ education agenda.

After accepting the nomination to be the US ambassador to the US, Mrs. Haley said “When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed,” Haley said, adding that she will “remain as governor until the U.S. Senate acts affirmatively on my nomination.”

DeVos will likely get the most criticism from Democrats because school choice represents an existential threat to the Democrats’ teacher union special interest allies. I’d think that Haley will sail through for confirmation.

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A loyal reader of LFR just sent me a lit piece that a private citizen put together and distributed on St. Cloud’s south side. It’s something worth highlighting for multiple reasons. First, whoever put that together is definitely motivated. Next, it’s clear they’ll either vote against the referendum or that they’ve already voted to reject the referendum. Third, the person (or group of people) who put this lit piece together put together a well-thought-out series of arguments against building a new Tech High School.

One of the lit piece’s points says “The school that the District plans to build is modeled after the new Alexandria High School (opened 2 years ago). Incorporated into the plan are numerous “informal learning spaces” which offer places where students may gather outside of the traditional class room. The first year that Alexandria opened resulted in the failure of the new high school to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) for federal requirements in reading. Last year, the school failed to meet the AYP in the areas of reading, math and graduation rates. This was a high school that had excellent AYP (no failures) year after year. That changed after the new school was built and opened.” Here’s the first page of the lit piece:

Here’s the second page of the lit piece:

Every voter in ISD 742 should take the time to read this lit piece. It sets forth some important information and well-reasoned arguments against building a new Tech HS.

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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.

The St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids school districts sit side-by-side geographically. Despite that geographic closeness, they’re heading in opposite directions enrollment-wise. Kirsti Marohn’s article on the Sauk Rapids school district shows a vibrant, growing district. Jenny Berg’s article tells the story of a stagnating, shrinking district.

Marohn wrote that as of Oct. 1, “the district’s total enrollment is 4,459, up from 4,294 at the end of last school year. That’s an increase of almost 4 percent.” Berg wrote that “The number of elementary students attending St. Cloud schools dropped by approximately 10 percent from last year’s numbers, according to enrollment data released by the district Thursday.”

Additionally, Marohn wrote “The growth is due to a combination of higher birth rates in the Sauk Rapids-Rice area new families moving into the district and students from other districts choosing to attend Sauk Rapids-Rice schools through the open enrollment option, Bittman said. A demographer’s report predicted the district will grow by as much as 17 percent n the next five to 10 years.”

Then there’s this:

Januszewski predicted Tech would gain even more students in the coming years if the referendum passes and a new school is built on the south side of town. The new school would most likely lure students from other districts, he said.

That’s wishful thinking. People are moving into the Sauk Rapids-Rice district in droves. They don’t have a shiny new building. What’s attracting these students to the district? It might be that parents are using open enrollment to abandon the St. Cloud district’s sinking ship.

Thank God for Jenny Berg’s article on enrollment in St. Cloud’s elementary schools. According to Ms. Berg’s article, “This year, 534 fewer students are enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade. Kevin Januszewski, executive director of business services, said some of the change is due to students moving to a different district or state. But some students also left public schools to attend charter schools.” Further, the article states that “The district’s total enrollment is down by 276 students — about 2.7 percent — bringing the total enrollment to 9,881 students.”

In this post, I noted that Apollo had the capacity to hold 2,400 students when the district offices didn’t take up a significant portion of Apollo’s space. Let’s shrink Tech and Apollo’s enrollment by 2.7% even though it will be more than that within 10 years. That brings total enrollment down to 2,640 students. Are we really going to build a state-of-the-art new high school for 250 students, especially when the cost of that state-of-the-art school will exceed $100,000,000?

The ISD 742 School Board is tax-happy and fiscally irresponsible. If they want to spend $100,000,000 because Apollo doesn’t have the capacity to hold 250 students, then it’s legitimate to say that the ISD 742 School Board is fiscally irresponsible and utterly incompetent.

The solution to this insanity is to vote to reject the bonding referendum, then elect a voice of sanity to the board so the people are heard. Once those immediate needs are accomplished, then we can start from scratch by asking the right questions. (Think questions like whether we need a bigger building. Hint: We don’t.)

This article further undercuts the School Board’s argument that we need to spend $104,500,000 on a new Tech HS. With enrollment dropping, their argument now has to shift to being ‘renovating Apollo isn’t good enough.’ Getting people to vote to spend $104,500,000 on a school that they don’t need and will never need is foolish in the extreme.

I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m voting against the St. Cloud Tech bonding referendum because the School Board started with a vision of a new school rather than doing its homework on whether a new school building is needed. I think I was clear in stating that the only school board candidate asking the right questions was John Palmer. Now it’s time to talk about what questions voters should ask the school board candidates.

First, it’s important to ask each candidate why they’re supporting the building of a new Tech HS. Tell the candidates that if they say something generic like ‘we have to invest in education’ or ‘Tech is 100 years old’ will disqualify them from getting your vote. These aren’t reasons. They’re empty platitudes. We already have enough School Board members who speak in empty platitudes.

It’s worth noting that anyone who speaks in these empty platitudes isn’t willing to do the work of providing legitimate oversight on the District’s finances. Speaking in empty platitudes is proof that they’re part of the education community, the equivalent of the GOP establishment. That type of groupthink isn’t what’s needed.

Next, it’s important to ask each candidate what the high school enrollment is for ISD 742 and what it’s projected to be for 2020. If the candidate can’t answer, that should be eliminate them from getting your vote. If that candidate doesn’t know that the District’s enrollment is shrinking, they aren’t fiscally conservative enough to properly manage a school budget.

Finally, if only one candidate answers the questions thoughtfully, then you should only vote for that candidate. Candidates need to earn your vote. Sending that signal to the education community will let them know that you expect substantive, responsive representation.

The constant drumbeat from the St. Cloud Times and the ISD 742 School Board is that a) Tech is ancient and falling apart and b) we have to build a new Tech HS at the cost of $104,500,000. What they don’t want voters to know is that Apollo a) currently houses the district offices and b) can hold 2,400 students if they were the only occupants of the building.

The Times and the School Board definitely don’t want voters to know that the combined enrollment for Tech HS and Apollo HS for SY2015-16 was 2,715 students. They definitely don’t want voters to know that enrollment is declining and is forecast to continue shrinking.

What that means

Those statistics mean that Apollo’s campus will likely soon be able to hold all of the district’s high school students within 5 years. That means that the School Board and the St. Cloud Times are pushing voters to spend $143,500,000 on facilities that won’t be needed within 5 years. What’s puzzling is that renovating Apollo would cost a fraction of that $143,500,000 and suffice in housing the District’s high school students for the next half-century.

Decision time

ISD 742 residents have a decision to make. Do they want to spend $39,000,000 on renovating a facility that will meet the district’s needs for the next half-century or whether they’ll approve the building of a new Tech HS at a cost of $104,500,000 plus an additional $39,000,000 for renovating Apollo. ISD 742 residents will have to decide if they’re willing to spend $104,500,000 on a building that isn’t needed. ISD 742 residents will have to decide whether they want the accompanying property tax increases for the next quarter-century.

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