Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Now that we’re in the 6th painful year of Gov. Dayton’s administration, we have a historical record to judge his administration on. It isn’t a history of successful negotiating. In 2011, Gov. Dayton attempted to push the GOP legislature into accepting his tax increase proposal when Gov. Dayton shut down the government. Let there be no doubt about this. Gov. Dayton planned the government shutdown. Insiders at HHS saw a memo that outlined the strategy a week after the end of the regular session and a month before the official shutdown. The memo explained how Gov. Dayton and the DFL would exploit the media in their attempt to vilify the GOP.

After that fizzled, Gov. Dayton announced that he was going to tour the state to raise support for his budget. Originally, it was planned to hit Rochester, then St. Cloud, Moorhead, Duluth, Brainerd and Bemidji. The Rochester stop fizzled even though they planned on heavy union participation in Rochester.

That afternoon, St. Cloud got word that Rochester had fizzled. When Gov. Dayton appeared at Apollo High School, Steve Gottwalt stole the show, telling Gov. Dayton that they could resolve the budget impasse by getting Dayton’s administration out of St. Paul and bringing Gov. Dayton’s number crunchers to St. Cloud. After the Apollo meeting, it was announced that the rest of Gov. Dayton’s trips were canceled. A week later, the special session was held. The shutdown ended.

Last year, Gov. Dayton tried the same gambit. He did his utmost to portray Republicans as heartless politicians who don’t care about people. Gov. Dayton insisted on funding Universal Pre-K. Rather than caving, Speaker Daudt met with Dr. Art Rolnick. During the regular session, Dr. Rolnick said that universal Pre-K wasn’t the way to go:

Also, interestingly enough, early education advocates throughout the state, including myself, a person like Art Rolnick, a person who has pushed early childhood learning to the head of our state, is saying that the Governor’s plan to implement is wrong. We should be targeting resources to those kids most in need.

It wasn’t until a month later that Gov. Dayton caved on universal Pre-K. Again, Gov. Dayton’s top priority, the thing he wanted most of all, he didn’t get it. Speaker Daudt made a fantastic policy statement, bringing in Dr. Rolnick and making the case against universal Pre-K.

This year, Gov. Dayton wants funding for SWLRT and a ton of additional spending. Gov. Dayton is again touring the state. Friday, he’ll be at SCSU. I’ll be there to cover the event. Thus far, the DFL playbook has been pretty much what it’s always been, that Republicans don’t care about the little guy, that they only look out for millionaires and billionaires and multi-national corporations. This week, the GOP turned the tables on Gov. Dayton. They had Ryan Visher, a store owner from Madelia, MN, explain how Gov. Dayton’s veto of the Tax Bill will hurt him.

Predictably, the things that Gov. Dayton is pushing for aren’t popular outside of the DFL. It’s just a matter of time before everyone realizes that. Predictably, it’ll take a little time before DFL legislators will tell him that his pressure ploy isn’t working. Shortly after that, we’ll get a special session largely on Speaker Daudt’s terms.

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If this LTE doesn’t put Sartell’s bonding referendum in perspective, nothing will. The LTE’s second paragraph contains the first red flag. That paragraph says “It’s just one meal out at a restaurant a month, right? It will only lengthen your mortgage payments for up to six months on the average home. No big deal; what’s six months? Most residents won’t live in their home for 25 years, which is the length of this bond.”

While the writer didn’t say that she got the “one meal at a restaurant a month” figure from the school board, it isn’t a stretch to think that that’s where she got it from. It’s an old sales technique that’s used to make something sound inexpensive. It’s like the TV sales pitch for leasing a vehicle. Rather than saying what the cost of a vehicle is, these types of ads usually say something like ‘you can lease a brand new Mercedes for only $295 a month’ right before they tell you that they require $5,000 down at signing.

What they don’t tell you is how much money you’d spend during the cost of the lease only to have to lease another vehicle. That isn’t the case in this LTE. Instead of glossing over that statistic, Tammy Hagerty puts it into perspective by saying “But say you are a farmer owning 140 acres and rent another 400 acres from other landowners in this district. (Landowners rent their land to cover their taxes.) Taxes on that farmer’s homestead and acreage are $2,319.39 a year. With the projected increase of $948 a year, the family farm that you’ve owned for over 35 years will cost you an additional $81,610.75 over the next 25 years.”

It’s one thing to hear that a property tax increase would only cost “one meal at a restaurant a month.” That’s pretty reasonable sounding. It’s another when the taxpayers hear that that bonding initiative alone will cost a farmer $81,610.75 over the course of 25 years.

Taxpayers, it’s time to stop accepting sales pitch figures that politicians use. It’s time to demand that they use dollars and cents figures. Further, we should insist that school board members that don’t tell the truth should be immediately thrown off he board. I wrote this post about Colleen Donovan’s LTE because of this information:

“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 $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.”

In short, these school board members don’t automatically tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Unfortunately, it sometimes requires citizen pressure.

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According to this article, the St. Cloud School Board voted “to ask voters for money to build a new Technical High School and remodel Apollo.” St. Cloud Superintendent of Schools Willie Jett will work on “details of the project’s cost and when the vote would happen.” The vote was 6-1, with Bruce Hentges voting against the measure because the Board wouldn’t consider his preference, which is “building one high school that combined Tech and Apollo.”

What’s stunning is that the Board apparently didn’t consider the taxpayers. They didn’t consider a proposal put together by Claire VanderEyk and Sarah Murphy to fix Tech. Last fall, the School Board asked voters to approve $167,000,000 in bonding authority to build a new Tech High School, refurbish Apollo High School, improve security and buy technology.

After the vote failed, Ms. VanderEyk and Ms. Murphy inspected the existing Tech High School. Ms. VanderEyk and Ms. Murphy are Tech graduates and licensed architects. After taking notes of what needed to be fixed, they submitted those notes to a licensed contractor. The contractor put together an estimate on how much it would cost to fix Tech for the next 15-25 years. That estimate was for $15,696,000. Voters were told that the cost of building a new Tech High School would be $113,800,000.

That’s a difference of $98,104,000 in cost to the taxpayer.

Voters in November rejected a $167 million referendum that would have built a new Tech and remodeled Apollo. Concerns raised about that plan seemed to focus on whether Tech could be remodeled the future of nearby Clark Field and what would happen to the old Tech once a new one was built on land the district owns in south St. Cloud.

The reality is that a significant portion of the people who rejected last November’s referendum rejected it because the Board’s proposal amounted to asking for a blank check. They rejected it because the Board shrouded the blueprints in secrecy. The School Board acted in a suspicious, arrogant manner, essentially telling taxpayers to write them a blank check on a project that the Board didn’t explain in any detail.

Given those facts, it’s surprising that the margin of defeat wasn’t substantially more than 1,067 votes. Given the Board’s behavior, it’s amazing that the taxpayers didn’t run the Board out of town. This Board should table this proposal and let the next school board submit their proposal. Unfortunately, this Board is too arrogant to let that happen.

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It isn’t surprising that Sarah Palin predicted that Speaker Ryan would get “Cantored” in Wisconsin’s August primary. I wrote this article to state my opinion that Mrs. Palin has started believing her press clippings a bit too much.

Palin’s track record isn’t exactly filled with success. That’s mostly because she doesn’t do her research and her off-the-cuff statements are positively loony. This past Sunday, Mrs. Palin said that she’d do whatever she could to help Paul Nehlen, the sacrificial lamb that’s about to get trounced. After this tweet, though, I think Ryan can focus his time on important things rather than waste a split second on this annoying little gnat. Check out what Nehlen tweeted:

Nehlen all but officially ended his campaign with that tweet. That he thinks people will feel scandalized that a Catholic sent his kids to a Catholic school tell voters that he’s either stupid or that he’s incredibly desperate. I’m betting it’s the latter.

The truth is that Nehlen should consider it a moral victory if he doesn’t lose by 60 points. Contrary to Mrs. Palin’s prediction, this isn’t a close race. It never was going to be. The Washington Free Beacon’s article highlights what Nehlen was tweeting about:

Breitbart News reached out to the school as a perspective [sic] applicant and obtained a copy of the school’s 2015-2016 registration papers and tuition contract. The document inquires specifically into the applicant’s religious background; in particular, it asks whether the applicant is a parishioner at the associated Catholic parish. The school recruits through the parish by offering a tuition discount to those who have been baptized and are members of the parish.

Then there’s this astonishing admission:

As the registration forms explain, the school exists for the express purpose of helping to foster Catholic children.

Trumpbart has really outdone themselves with this one. If Andrew were alive today, he wouldn’t let his websites be used like this. Period. Finally, there’s this:

While Muslim students could presumably get into Ryan’s school, the school’s reliance on the parish as a recruiting center and the above-cost tuition fees would, by definition, function as a mechanism for screening them out.

There’s no cheap shot that Trumpbart won’t use against their enemies.

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.

The very first high school football game I went to was in September of 1970. The game was played at Clark Field. It’s still the best football field I’ve ever watched a game at. Part of that is because it isn’t a multi-purpose field. Thanks to the fact that there isn’t a track oval, fans sitting in the front row sit only 25 feet from the playing field.

For the last few years, the school powers-that-be have tried to scrap Clark Field. This St. Cloud Times article indicates that the Times Editorial Board supports scrapping the best football field in Minnesota. I have a simple response for St. Cloud Superintendent of Schools Willie Jett and the St. Cloud Times Editorial Board: over my dead body. This is war.

Admittedly, I’m hopping on the proverbial bandwagon after others have built the Clark Field bandwagon. The Friends of Clark Field are “a grassroots group formed to save its namesake next to Technical High School.” According to the Times editorial, “neither the school district nor the city are embracing the vision of the Friends group.” That’s part of the Times’ rationalization for not supporting the maintaining of Clark Field. Another part of their rationalization is that the Times just assumes that a new Tech High School will soon be built, “complete with its own modern-day, multi-use stadium.”

The Times shouldn’t make that assumption. Last fall, the School Board’s Vote Yes campaign lost by a resounding margin. When the dust settled, 8,460 people rejected the bonding referendum while 7,393 people voted to approve the referendum. Since that vote, the dynamics have shifted significantly.

The bonding referendum that was soundly defeated called for $167,000,000 in total bonding, with $113,800,000 of that money going into building a new Tech High School. Plenty of the people who voted no voted against the referendum because they were skeptical of the costs. I wrote this post to confirm the skeptics’ beliefs:

Those numbers are really round, so it’s hard to take them seriously,” said Murphy, who worked for architectural firms in Minnesota and Colorado before becoming a space planner for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. “The building is 100 years old so it’s going to need some help. But if there are real structural problems, there shouldn’t be anybody in the building. If the cafeteria has major structural issues, why are they using it? They’d be putting the kids at risk. There’s a difference between structural problems and things that are inconvenient or don’t look good, like floor tiles popping up.”

That’s just part of Ms. Murphy’s and Ms. VanderEyk’s argument. There’s also this:

During the campaign to pass the Tech bonding referendum, the ISD 742 school board said it would cost between $85,800,000 and $96,800,000 to temporarily fix Tech for 5-10 years. When Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk toured the facility, they took notes on what was in disrepair and needed fixing. Since they’re both architects, they’re qualified to determine what’s in need of repair, what’s structurally deficient and what’s in good repair.

Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk are both Tech alums so they’d like to preserve the building if that’s possible. That’s why they took their notes to a contractor to see how much it would actually cost to repair the existing Tech campus. Saying that their estimate came in at less than $97,000,000 is understatement. It came in at $15,696,000, which is approximately $100,000,000 less than the School Board said it would cost to build a brand new Tech High School.

Simply put, the $167,000,000 bonding bill is dead. ‘Trimming it’ to $100,000,000 is probably dead, too.

It’s time for Mayor Kleis, the Times and the St. Cloud School Board to start thinking in terms of refurbishing the existing Tech High School. There’s no reason not to save Tech High School. There’s no justification for raising people’s taxes that dramatically. Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk have given voters a glimpse of what’s possible when competent people are put in charge of project. They’ve provided a picture of the difference between competent experts from the private sector and bungling politicians with ‘a vision’.

It’s time to save Clark Field. It’s time to refurbish Tech High School. It’s that simple.

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.

It’s long been known that Sartell residents would be asked to approve a bonding referendum that would increase school capacity. This was known since before ISD 742 voters rejected their referendum last November. This morning’s St. Cloud Times Our View Editorial has some important information in it that Sartell residents should discuss.

Specifically, the Times editorial says that Sartell-St. Stephen school district residents “will be asked May 24 to cast ballots on a $105.8 million bond referendum” and that “enrollment is projected to grow 8 percent between now and 2026.” There’s little doubt that Sartell’s population is growing and that that population growth will necessitate increasing school capacity. What isn’t known is whether they need to spend $105,800,000 on the initiative.

After the ISD 742 bonding referendum was defeated, Kevin Allenspach wrote this article, which I quoted from in this post. The important information from Allenspach’s article came when Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk, who are both Tech graduates and architects, said that Tech could be renovated for less than $20,000,000. At the time, the school board said repairing the building would cost $85,000,000 to fix the building up for a decade.

Something tells me that Sartell’s $105,800,000 price tag is inflated.

LFR Pledge Week starts today. If you’ve appreciated my reporting and/or commentary, feel free to click the Donate Button at the top of the right sidebar. If you don’t want to donate electronically, just leave a comment to this post. I will send you an email with instructions on how to contribute to LFR the old-fashioned way.

In the past year, I’ve used LFR to advocate against a reckless school bonding initiative that was asking for $167,000,000 to build a new Tech High School ($113,800,000), renovate Apollo High School ($46,5000,000), improve security at the high schools ($4,200,000) and to pay for “technology ($2,500,000).” When the voters spoke, they didn’t just reject the bonding initiative. They humiliated the School Board, rejecting the initiative by a 8,460-vote to 7,393-vote margin.

The day after the vote, a loyal reader of LFR told me that they “had a turnout strategy and tons of money. You had common sense and the ability to motivate 8400 people to vote.” Honestly, I didn’t have to be a great salesperson. I just had to tell people what was happening, then let the people make the right decision. They did that and then some.

Over the next few months, many important decisions will need to be made. We need to pick a president who will fight for conservative principles. We need to keep Kurt Daudt as Speaker of the House and Jim Knoblach as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Not only are those priorities but we need to retake the majority in the Minnesota Senate and do our part to help Stewart Mills push Retread Rick Nolan into retirement once and for all.

Know that your support has humbled. I appreciate the fact that I have a loyal readership.

This post will be pinned to the top of the page through Friday, April 22.

It isn’t a secret that hardline progressives hate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. It isn’t surprising to find out that they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the political chandelier, either. This post is a perfect example of hardline progressives hating Scott Walker without a legitimate reason. According to this post, Scott Walker is to blame for Wisconsin’s economic woes for time when he wasn’t governor.

The post cites “state-by-state analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts” to blame Gov. Walker for Wisconsin’s economic problems, saying “Wisconsin experienced the biggest decline in middle-class households in the country between the years 2000 and 2013.” That’s interesting because Jim Doyle, a Democrat, was Wisconsin’s governor for 8 of those years. What’s annoying is that that isn’t the first time Democrats have blamed Gov. Walker for Gov. Doyle’s decisions. Originally, Gail Collins’ column blamed Gov. Walker’s budget cuts for teacher layoffs that happened before he took office.

Collins column originally said “All of that came as a distinct surprise to Claudia Felske, a member of the faculty at East Troy High School who actually was named a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2010. In a phone interview, Felske said she still remembers when she got the news at a ‘surprise pep assembly at my school.’ As well as the fact that those layoffs happened because Walker cut state aid to education.

The budget cuts that supposedly led to those teacher layoffs happened in 2010, the year before Scott Walker took office. As for Gov. Walker’s accomplishments, this information is definitely positive:

Proponents of the measure, including Chris Rochester, MacIver Institute spokesperson, said Act 10 has saved taxpayers $5.24 billion. These taxpayer savings come from government employees putting more money into their own retirement and health benefits, of which taxpayers previously pay a significant portion, Rochester added.

Saving taxpayers $1,000,000,000+ a year is an impressive amount of savings. At that point, taxpayers have the option of approving the hiring of more teachers and staff, giving teachers raises or keeping property taxes inexpensive or a combination of those options. That sounds like a positive outcome.