Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

According to Bruce Mohs’ editorial, the St. Cloud School District will host 2 informational meetings to inform citizens what their property tax increases will pay for. Unfortunately, these informational meetings won’t give citizens the opportunity to provide input into what their property tax increases will pay for.

According to Mohs’ editorial, this is informational only. Given how much effort has been put into keeping this vote secret and given how much effort has gone into limiting taxpayers’ options, it isn’t surprising that citizen participation is being limited.

According to Mohs’ editorial, “The first forum will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Whitney Senior Center. This session will be facilitated by Jay Caldwell from WJON-AM and will include a formal presentation from Neighbors For School Excellence, breakout group discussions, and a question-and-answer period.”

Notice that it doesn’t say that taxpayers will have the opportunity to explore other, less costly, options that would cost less than this Taj Mahal of a project. Mohs and other school board members apparently think that this project is too important to their legacy to give citizens the opportunity to have a real say in the matter.

Here’s a hint to Mohs and his cohorts. School board members don’t have legacies. Presidents and secretaries of state have legacies. School board members, if they’re lucky, are footnotes in history. Unfortunately, taxpayers foot the bill for these people’s egos.

In midterm elections and presidential elections, 65 polling stations are open in St. Cloud. In this year’s off-off-year election, the St. Cloud ISD742 School Board will only open 13 polling stations. According to this St. Cloud Times article, Kevin Januszewski, executive director of business services for the St. Cloud school district, said this move is designed save on the cost of the election. What Mr. Januszewski isn’t saying is that having the election next year would eliminate the school board’s cost of the bonding referendum vote entirely. That’s because there’s a presidential election next year.

Voter participation is at its highest during presidential elections. Further, the cost to the school district drop dramatically because they don’t pay for the entire election. If costs are significantly less and voter participation is at its highest, that’s the sweet spot. Public officials are always saying that they want high voter participation rates. Here’s the opportunity to guarantee that. Why didn’t the ISD742 School Board pick 2016 for this gigantic bonding referendum vote?

Is it because they want low turnout? Apparently so. I noted in this post that voter participation from within the education community was sure to be close to 100% while voter participation from the average taxpayer will at its lowest. It’s historically been that way for decades.

To the taxpayers:

  1. Has the school district asked you for your input into this important decision?
  2. Has the school board informed you about the bonding referendum beyond vague generalities?
  3. Has the school district been upfront with you about the property tax implications for you personally?
  4. Have they explained the ramifications of this property tax increase on St. Cloud’s tax base?
  5. Has the school board explained why they’re holding this vote when voter participation is at its lowest?

Personally, the answer to those questions are no, no, no, no and no. Without answers to these important questions, I can’t support this referendum at this time. Vote no on November 3.

Eric Williams’ LTE advocating for passage of the school board bonding referendum isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. For instance, Williams’ first argument to vote for the referendum is “A robust school system adds value our community. Young entrepreneurs who want to start innovative businesses need quality workers. What attracts these entrepreneurs and quality workers is a quality school system.”

I won’t dispute that a well-trained work force is an economic benefit to any community. I have multiple dispute. with the referendum. First, the school board is trying to shove a massive property tax increase down our throats without telling us a) any details about the size of the new Tech HS or b) what enrollment model they’re using to determine the size of the building.

Without knowing that, it’s impossible to say whether a $113,800,000 project is needed. That’s before considering why the school board threw in a bonding request for improved technology. That’s been paid for with the operating levy. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for that with interest tacked on. Here’s Williams’ second bullet point:

Quality schools raise the value of our homes. I would argue that it is the most important reason young families choose to live where they do. Realtors often leverage the quality of a community’s school system when they market a home to a family new to the area.

Again, it’s another generalized argument. For the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that it’s true. Does Mr. Williams think that taxpayers want to be treated like ATMs? Wouldn’t they be more impressed with a great new facility that the district didn’t overpay for? I’m betting that taxpayers would appreciate it if the district had modern facilities and that weren’t overbuilt. Here’s Williams’ final bullet point:

I think we all agree that a quality school system is a huge attractor for young families. Selfishly, I would love to see my children and the children of my friends and neighbors who have graduated from Tech and Apollo choose to raise their families in St. Cloud. (We won’t have far to go to see our grandchildren!)

This LTE didn’t address anything of substance. It’s filled with platitudes and emotional appeals. That isn’t a justification for passing the biggest bonding referendum in St. Cloud history. It definitely isn’t a justification for passing the biggest bonding referendum in St. Cloud history without a series of townhall meetings.

Vote no on November 3.

Bill O’Reilly closes his show by saying “The spin stops here because we’re definitely looking out for you.” If I were to transfer Mr. O’Reilly’s closing statement to the St. Cloud Times, I’d have to slightly modify it to say “the spin starts here because we want the $167,000,000 referendum to pass without explaining the details about what the new Tech High School looks like.” I’ll admit that isn’t as succinct as Mr. O’Reilly’s closing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate.

This LTE is long on generalities and platitudes but short on specifics, which is what voters deserve. It isn’t helpful to hear the citizen say that “As part of the community task force that researched and evaluated equitable options for our high schools, I realized the need to act now to improve our schools.” That isn’t detailed information about the size of the new high school nor does it tell taxpayers if other options were seriously considered.

This paragraph is spin:

This conversation was inspiring. The impact that improvement to our facilities will have on the entire community is why we need to vote yes. Vote yes for the future of St. Cloud education and to continue the high level of excellence in our public schools.

The worst kept secret in St. Cloud is that parents are pulling their children out of Tech HS and transferring them to Sauk Rapids-Rice HS or Rocori HS or to Sartell HS. That tells me that there are problems at Tech that can’t be solved with a new building. That tells me that a new building will raise people’s property taxes without fixing the underlying problem.

The ISD742 School Board has hid the specifics from the public. That alone is justification enough to vote no on the bonding referendum. That the school board hasn’t tried explaining what their goal is or why their proposal is the best solution indicates to me that taxpayers should vote no on the bonding referendum.

This bonding referendum is the biggest bonding referendum in the history of St. Cloud. Voters have the right to know what’s being planned and why it’s the solution to the problem.

ALERT — THREAT TO DEMOCRACY: A loyal reader of LFR just contacted me with the alarming news that there will only be 13 polling stations open for the upcoming school board vote on a bonding referendum. There’s normally 60 in St. Cloud. The school board certainly hasn’t publicized that fact!

That means the potential exists for thousands of voters to show up at their precinct to vote on this $167,000,000 referendum and find out that their polling station isn’t open, which will cause them to either find their new polling station or go home frustrated that they couldn’t vote.

The school board is 100% liberal. It’s been that way for 30+ years. Two years ago, some Republicans tried getting elected. They were defeated even though they were highly qualified teachers. The word got out that they weren’t “real” education experts, meaning that ‘they weren’t one of us’.

Now the DFL is shutting down 47 of the usual 60 voting stations in an attempt to keep voter turnout limited to ‘their people’ to ensure there’s no opposition to raising our property taxes. If this doesn’t scream of voter suppression, then the phrase is without meaning.

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.

Though I doubt it was meant as such, I’m betting that the St. Cloud Times Our View editorial is a wakeup call to taxpayers. That’s certainly the intent of this post. The Times’ Editorial Board laments the fact that “there are no yard signs, no visible campaigning, and really not much buzz about the plan.” Then it highlights the “good news” that “the group has experienced leaders and its website,, contains ample information about the history of Tech, the need to upgrade it and Apollo, and how to vote” before returning to lamenting that few people know about this website before the Times’ editorial.

Perhaps that’s their strategy.

The Times is right. The “group has experienced leaders” who’ve led the fight for other levy increases. Rest assured that everyone in the ‘education community’ a) knows about this referendum, b) can recite with great fluency the virtues of voting yes and c) can’t wait to start voting. Those “experienced leaders” have already counted the education community’s votes.

It’s foolish to think that this “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.

It isn’t a stretch to think that the education community doesn’t want a high turnout amongst regular taxpayers because they’re afraid that regular taxpayers are fed up with all of the tax increases that they’ve been hit with the last 2-3 year. Perhaps the education community is afraid that regular taxpayers are upset that they haven’t seen a meaningful pay raise in 5 years or more. Meanwhile, under Gov. Dayton and the DFL, government spending has skyrocketed.

The state budget has seen major increases while families have struggled. Gov. Dayton and the DFL isn’t on the ballot this November. Still, it’s a great time to send them a signal that taxpayers are fed up with the DFL’s spending increases and Gov. Dayton’s tax increases.

Gov. Dayton is proudly proclaiming that Minnesota is the best state to do business in. He’s basing that propaganda on CNBC’s latest ranking. After looking at how they arrived at the categories that they ranked states on, it’s easy to see how CNBC arrived at their ridiculous ratings. First, it’s important to know this about the rating system:

For example, if more states tout their low business costs, the “Cost of Doing Business” category carries greater weight. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves.

According to CNBC’s report, workforce is the most important category, followed by cost of doing business and infrastructure, economy, quality of life, technology & innovation, education, business friendliness, cost of living and, finally, access to capital.

Minnesota ranked 13th in workforce, 35th in cost of doing business, 9th in infrastructure, 5th in economy, 3rd in quality of life, 6th in technology and innovation, 2nd in education, 23rd in business friendliness, 32nd in cost of living and 23rd in access to capital.

CNBC’s ratings only tell us what the states think of themselves. They don’t tell us what businesses think of the state. The fact that more businesses are leaving Minnesota than are moving to Minnesota is the best indicator of what businesses think.

That isn’t to say that Minnesota is getting everything wrong. There are some things that we can build off of. It’s just that there’s a handful of important things that we’d better correct if we want to be the best. Lowering the cost of doing business is essential. That’s only possible by streamlining government, especially regulations. Cutting special deals with a couple companies to entice them here, then shafting businesses that are already here, which the Dayton administration has done, needs to change, too.

UPDATE: King Banaian’s article for the Center for the American Experiment highlights similar points. This point is especially noteworthy:

If you’re a state that isn’t particularly business friendly, you don’t talk about that in your marketing materials. You emphasize other things. You puff your materials with discussion of quality of life and how hardworking your workers are and ignore the areas where your policies might make business a little harder to conduct. And CNBC will go right along and take weight off those things, if the rest of the states are doing the same thing.

I can’t emphasize enough the fact that CNBC’s article isn’t a serious economic statement. It’s a statement based off of the states’ PR statements.

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.

This morning at 10:00 am, Minnesota’s most recent special session will start. This special session will be a disaster for the DFL on multiple fronts. Harold Hamilton’s explanation makes total sense with me:

To say the least, the special session period (the timeframe starting when the regular session adjourned) has been an utter and absolute disaster for Governor Dayton and the DFL. Even if the special session manages to conclude today, lasting damage has been done to the DFL that will carry over into the 2016 election cycle. In the collective memory of the Watchdog staff, it’s hard to recall more DFL dysfunction and backbiting than what we’ve witnessed over the past three weeks.

That’s the overview. Here’s more of the particulars on why it’s been a disaster for the DFL:

The governor failed to appreciate that these spending bills had bi-partisan support, negating the often convenient narrative that the GOP majority had overreached and the governor was merely acting as the voice of reason in the process. It’s also apparent that governor lacked a convincing, decisive and well-defined reason for those vetoes, which made it difficult for him to lay out for legislators and the public both a reason for a special session and special session legislative objectives around which he could rally both the DFL base and the public at large.

Instead, Dayton looked petty and weak as he vetoed the bills and then flailed about, changing his objectives for a negotiated budget deal. It was a classic case of moving the goal posts, which sowed nothing but doubt, confusion, and some bewilderment in the legislature, the media, and the public at large. First, it was all about universal pre-K education. When it failed to get any traction, especially among educators and education experts, Dayton dropped the proposal.

Next, it got really bizarre when he made a small change in the Office of the State Auditor the centerpiece of his special session strategy. Most Minnesotans can’t name the State Auditor, don’t know the office exists, and really don’t care about it.

Holding up the state budget and threatening a partial government shutdown over obscure language impacting an obscure office will never rally the public or move votes. While Dayton normally leads a parade of one, he led a parade of two on this issue. Himself and the Rebecca Otto, the State Auditor. It also didn’t help that Dayton decided to plant his flag on an issue that he signed into law just days before.

I’ve been preaching these things since the end of the regular session. Initially, Gov. Dayton and ABM tried vilifying Republicans for the special session. The fact that Speaker Daudt negotiated a bipartisan agreement with Sen. Bakk shut that attack down virtually immediately. That line of attack didn’t have a chance of working. The minute that people heard that a bipartisan agreement had been negotiated, they quietly cheered, albeit momentarily, that government had done its job.

Then Gov. Dayton entered the equation. Immediately, Minnesotans’ happy thoughts that government was finally functional disappeared.

Gov. Dayton caved on issue after issue because he was on the wrong side of each of those issues. He fought for unpopular things that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, starting with universal pre-K. Though the sticker price on that was $173,000,000, the real price was that plus $2,200,000,000 for infrastructure plus tens of millions of dollars for transportation, teachers and heating the classrooms.

As for the State Auditor, nobody cares. It’s like an offensive lineman in football. You don’t hear much about them unless they make a mistake. Most citizens don’t pay attention to the office. When Gov. Dayton fought that fight, he essentially said that that was the hill he was willing to fight for and die for.

As for Sen. Bakk, he’s been caught betwixt and between all session long. He ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners’ pay raises. Next, he negotiated a budget agreement with Speaker Daudt that Gov. Dayton and many DFL legislators objected to. Especially noteworthy was the fact that the budget bills didn’t get any DFL votes in the House, compared with Bakk’s senators putting up lots of votes on the agriculture/environment bill that Gov. Dayton vetoed.

At the end of the day, Gov. Dayton and the DFL have frequently looked foolish this session.

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