Categories

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

It’s time to put this shutdown puzzle together. This article highlights the role Tina Smith played during budget negotiations. First, here’s the information setting up that situation:

A few hours before the governor stood in his entryway waiting for Bakk or Daudt to reply to his education funding demands, the 41-year-old Daudt of conservative Crown and 60-year-old Bakk of the DFL-strong Iron Range, stood on the well-manicured lawn of the Governor’s Residence. Bakk told the horde of waiting media: “The speaker and I have agreed” on a deal. Dayton’s lack of concurrence was barely mentioned. Bakk said negotiations had “absolutely stalled,” and time was pressing. “I had to make a deal with the House that the governor doesn’t support,” Bakk said later.

Daudt, on his first tour leading the House, said he, too, had the Monday midnight deadline weighing on him. For days, he, Bakk, the governor and their staff had been locked in cordial but unproductive debate over the budget, all three parties admit. “We spent about five hours today and we adopted nothing,” Bakk said late that Friday night. Spacing out each word, he added: “We ran out of time.”

They had gotten bogged down on details without hitting on any sweeping agreements.

“The pivotal movement was that Friday afternoon where we, and I, said: ‘We’ve got to do it now or it’s not going to happen,'” Daudt later said. With that attitude, the leaders and Dayton stopped their meeting in the mansion’s grand piano room, which had been the site of hours of talks, so lawmakers could speak without the governor. They then worked out what turned into the budget the Legislature approved.

It came together within the course of two hours,” Daudt said.

In other words, Bakk and Daudt got the biggest obstacle out of the room, which helped them quickly finish the job. Their only stumbling block was that the chief obstructionists couldn’t be permanently excluded. That’s where Smith’s influence returned:

Meanwhile, Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius picked over the portion of the budget lawmakers set aside for preschool through high school funding. The money, $400 million in new spending against the backdrop of a $1.9 billion surplus, was not adequate, they decided. After all, the current budget, created while the state was struggling with deficits, had a $600 million increase for schools.

“I won’t accept anything less than $550 (million),” Dayton pledged that Friday night. Smith said of the Legislature: “In my mind, they cast the dice.” They bargained for a deal, without the governor, which is their prerogative, both Smith and Dayton said. The governor has the prerogative to sign or veto their results.

SPECIAL NOTICE to Lt. Gov. Smith: Thanks for highlighting the fact that you, Gov. Dayton and Commissioner Cassellius will be blamed for the shutdown, along with the House DFL. If Gov. Dayton had vetoed the bill, the only thing standing in the way of a veto override were House DFL legislators.

This has Smith’s fingerprints written all over it:

Daudt will meet again with Dayton on Tuesday. He wants to start from the end point – only $25 million apart and no universal preschool. “We were fairly close, so I hope that we can just pick up where we left off,” Daudt said. Dayton has signaled he wants to start fresh. On Saturday, he said he would like lawmakers to approve $650 million for schools, $250 million more than the Legislature approved, and a voluntary preschool program.

In the past, Gov. Dayton has been willing to negotiate from a (relatively) good faith position. Starting from scratch is a foolish political stunt that a political novice would think of. That description fits only Tina Smith.

While she was Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff, Smith didn’t interject herself into negotiations like she’s doing now. The fact that she’s part of the trio that decided to shut down the government in their attempt to appease Education Minnesota speaks volumes about who she is. It’s apparent that Gov. Dayton picked Tina Smith as his Lt. Gov. because she’s part of the obstructionist/true believer wing of the DFL.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,

One of the questions that people are asking is whether Gov. Dayton will shut government down again. Based on what Tom Dennis wrote in this Our View Editorial, I’m betting Gov. Dayton will shut government down because he isn’t willing to accept a superior policy to his universal pre-K initiative:

Gov. Dayton, you should have listened to Art Rolnick.

If you had, you could have gotten everything you wanted: more money for early-childhood education, a bipartisan consensus at the Legislature and a legislative session that ended on time.

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d be celebrating Christmas. Rather than showing flexibility, as several journalists/editorialists have suggested, Gov. Dayton is growing increasingly inflexible. It isn’t just that Republican and DFL legislators rejected Gov. Dayton’s proposal. It isn’t money that’s keeping them apart. It’s that Gov. Dayton’s proposal is terrible policy:

Rolnick (and many other early-childhood education advocates) thinks Dayton has seized the wrong high ground. For the governor’s plan “is only for 4-year-olds,” Rolnick said on Minnesota Public Radio last week. “We really have to start much earlier.” Plus, “it’s a public-school-only approach,” which would rob parents of their ability to choose. “We don’t think one size fits all parents.

“And unfortunately, the governor’s new program—which we are strongly questioning—is very expensive,” because it calls for schools statewide to hire unionized pre-K teachers. Far better to use the money to finance scholarships for low-income children—scholarships that could pay for quality pre-schools long before the youngsters turn 4. “The governor’s plan is universal in the sense that it includes all 4-year-olds,” he said. “Our scholarships can be universal, too. But the first dollars—we should make sure we first fund all our at-risk kids.”

Speaker Daudt, I’m simply suggesting that you outline your objections to Gov. Dayton’s plans. Right now, Gov. Dayton sounds like he’s fighting for the moral high ground on this issue. We both know that he isn’t.

Outlining the deficiencies in Gov. Dayton’s initiative will immediately strip him of that moral high ground. Highlight the fact that Gov. Dayton’s plan will drive up property taxes in Twin Cities suburbs because they’ll have to add onto their schools because they’re already overcrowded. Highlight the fact that Gov. Dayton’s proposal will increase operating levies for school districts because his plan doesn’t have anything in it for additional transportation costs or heating new classrooms.

Just because Gov. Dayton won’t pay for those expenses doesn’t mean those expenses don’t exist.

After you outline these objections, then it’s time to sell what you’re proposing. I know that you want to fund scholarships that would help at-risk children get the help they need. It’s time the entire state learned that about your initiative. I also know that you aren’t trying to undermine child care centers where children get lots of one-on-one time with their instructors. Let Minnesota know that you want more children to get that type of benefit. Finally, tell parents the most important thing, that these programs already exist and that they’re already working.

After you’ve finished doing those 2 things, Gov. Dayton won’t hold the moral high ground. You will. After that, the fight is essentially over. At that point, you will have painted him into a corner that he’s sharing with Education Minnesota, not with Minnesota’s children.

Either that or just highlight Ruben Rosario’s interview of Art Rolnick. I’d especially highlight this information:

RR: Now, the average person would think that universal preschool does sound pretty good and could benefit all kids …

AR: Their “universal” is very restrictive. It’s public only and 4-year-olds only. Now scholarships could be made universal very easily. But why would we limit it to public only? There’s no reason to do that. Now, do you really want to give a scholarship to people who make over $200,000 a year? Millionaires? It does not make any sense. The governor is way off track here. If we take it to scale, our program will cost $200 million to cover every child in the state born into poverty. His program, when it is fully funded, is $400 million a year, and he needs $2.2 billion for infrastructure because the schools don’t have the infrastructure. So, it doesn’t make any economic sense. It’s going to end up to be another program for middle-class families.

Gov. Dayton’s moral high ground just disappeared.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I wrote this post, I said that “Dayton has jumped across the line from being critical to being unhinged to the point of being totally disrespectful.” I’m not the only one who noticed. Joe Soucheray noticed, too:

The governor seems to have drifted off, to where we don’t exactly know, but wherever he is, the color of the sky is different. He claims that some Republican legislators hate public schools.

“I realize they hate public schools, some of the Republican legislators,” Dayton said last week after he said he would call a special session to pass an education bill more to his liking. “And they are loath to provide any additional money for public schools and for public school teachers because all the good programs … contradict what they say, which is public schools do everything badly.”

Those are the words of an addled fellow. An additional $400 million had been proposed for education spending, agreed to by both parties, to produce $17 billion in education spending.

I’ll be blunt. Since he announced that he was “unbound” because he wasn’t running for election ever again, Gov. Dayton has been extremely disrespectful. Hateful is too strong a word but extremely disrespectful fits perfectly. Here’s what he said initially that started this fiasco:

“I realize they hate public schools, some of the Republican legislators. And they are loath to provide any additional money for public schools and for public school teachers because all the good programs … contradict what they say, which is public schools do everything badly.”

Last week, 9 GOP legislators who either were or are teachers sent a letter to Gov. Dayton. Here’s their letter:

Painting with broad brushes smears innocent people. These days, Gov. Dayton is painting with one broad brush after another. It isn’t like his universal pre-K initiative is universally liked. It’s getting met with lots of opposition from across the political spectrum. Rather than persuading people that his initiatives are great public policy, Gov. Dayton has opted for vilifying his opposition.

During his first term, Gov. Dayton was somewhat of a gentleman. This year, he’s been a total jerk. He’s never been a policy wonk, which meant that, on his best days, he was tolerable. Unfortunately, he isn’t tolerable anymore. Now he’s unhinged. I don’t see him changing back.

There’s no question that Mark Dayton and Tina Smith are fighters. It’s unfortunate that they’re fighting for the DFL’s most entrenched special interest group, aka Education Minnesota. Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith have sent the unmistakable message that their highest priority is fulfilling Education Minnesota’s wish list:

Here’s the Dayton-Smith-DFL propaganda:

Today, Governor Mark Dayton visited Apple Valley’s Westview Elementary, continuing his push to ensure every Minnesota four-year-old has access to high-quality preschool. Governor Dayton’s pre-K proposal would provide universal access to voluntary half-day preschool programs, helping ensure that every Minnesota child gets a great start, preparing them for kindergarten, and future success in school and life.

“We have already seen the tremendous successes of all-day kindergarten, which got underway just this year,” said Governor Dayton. “But we have a lot more work to do to narrow Minnesota’s achievement gap, and provide excellent educations for every student in Minnesota. That work has to start now, and it must begin with our youngest learners.”

Here’s the Republicans’ counterargument:

There were a host of problems with the governor’s proposal, including opposition from school districts because they do not have enough classrooms to accommodate these students, opposition from existing private pre-K providers, opposition from parents concerned about government overreach, and concern about the additional cost of a universal pre-K program. It is hard to envision a scenario where the governor’s proposal gains widespread support in the short time between now and when a special session would take place. The governor had already dropped it in final negotiations that were taking place just before session ended.

It isn’t just that part of the Dayton-Smith proposal is being met with opposition. It’s that most of the Dayton-Smith initiative faces stiff opposition from multiple organizations across the political spectrum. What’s puzzling is why Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Smith are expending this much political capital. Politicians don’t usually spend this much political capital on a marginal bill or an insignificant provision in an important bill.

Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Smith don’t care about the taxpayers. If they did, they wouldn’t propose a bill with tens of millions of dollars of unfunded mandates in it. They certainly wouldn’t subject these 4-year-olds to a risky plan that’s filled with boom-or-bust possibilities. Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Smith shouldn’t be given the benefit of any doubt. They should be given a swift boot for playing hardball with a terrible idea.

In private conversations, I’ve told friends that the outlines for a budget deal are starting to appear. I said that before this article was published. Here’s why I view the article as confirmation that a compromise is starting to appear:

One prominent advocate has clearly chosen the latter. “I looked at the governor’s veto letter and at the long list of things that did not get funded,” said Art Rolnick, the former Federal Reserve economist who did the original, groundbreaking research that showed an eye-popping return on investing tax dollars in early ed. “I agree with him. It’s pretty upsetting there’s no money for the North Side Achievement Zone, no money for the Head Start waiting list. I think it’s important that the governor is speaking out for early childhood education. I agree with him; with this surplus we should be investing a lot more.”

Rolnick said he was particularly encouraged to hear that Dayton was willing to be flexible about the way early childhood services are delivered. “We need a governor with that kind of leadership.”

Early-ed advocates had been stuck between fearing that the special session that has now become inevitable could result in even less new education spending than the $400 million in the bill passed Monday, and throwing their weight behind a pre-K proposal they have described as impractical and overly one-size-fits-all. The idea that the governor might be willing to direct meaningful funding increases to multiple approaches to targeting pre-K resources seemed to provide a roadmap out of the impasse.

Republicans always included money for pre-K scholarships in their K-12 education budget bill. From the start, the Republican plan included funding for the Rolnick-favored scholarship plan. Gov. Dayton rejected that plan, saying that Republicans “hated education.” 9 Republicans wrote this letter to Gov. to highlight their disgust with Gov. Dayton’s over-the-top rhetoric:

In their letter, Republicans highlight the fact that the bill they passed and that Gov. Dayton vetoed included $60,000,000 “in new funding for proven early learning initiatives, including early education scholarships and school pre-K aid.”

Gov. Dayton insisted on $173,000,000 for half-day pre-K and that it be done in public schools. I included the list of specific requirements Gov. Dayton put in his proposal in this post.

Gov. Dayton wasn’t interested in flexibility then. In fact, the worst-kept secret at the Capitol was that Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk could “win” the PR fight if there was a shutdown.

While I give Dr. Rolnick credit for thinking up a positive solution for early learning, I won’t hesitate in criticizing him for talking about Gov. Dayton’s “leadership” during this brinksmanship. Gov. Dayton wasn’t interested in being a statesman at that point.

When Gov. Dayton said that he wasn’t running for office again, he said that he was finally “unbound.” What he really meant is that he’s finally unhinged. Insisting that the legislature pass Education Minnesota’s universal pre-K program appears to have turned Gov. Dayton into a walking diatribe machine. Doug Grow has noticed that Gov. Dayton’s plan is risky:

Dayton’s veto vow comes despite the fact that the Legislature has had little time to digest this major education initiative. And he’s making the vow despite the fact that it’s not just Republican legislators who are saying “no,” but many school administrators, who are cool to an idea that would not only be very costly but has raised other questions about its value. Even early-childhood advocates question whether a “one-size-fits-all” public school pre-K program is good policy.

Now, even Bakk is calling Dayton’s veto pledge “risky.” The obvious risk is to school districts, which are saying that even with the additional $400 million included in the current deal, they will have to cut programs and lay off staff. Without that $400 million infusion, there will be cuts deeply felt by every school district in the state.

That means there will be political fallout. If the veto happens, there could also be chaos. Administration officials say a veto could mean a shutdown of the Minnesota Department of Education, which would halt teacher licensing and, of course, mean no added funds to the formula going out to cash-strapped districts.

When Gov. Dayton travels the state campaigning for his pre-K plan, he will be met with lots of resistance, much of it from past allies. This won’t turn out well. Unfortunately for him, that isn’t his only problem:

A long-time teacher and state representative wants Gov. Mark Dayton to apologize for saying some Republican lawmakers “hate the public schools.”

Dayton’s remark came during a Tuesday news conference he called to discuss his plans to veto a education funding bill that passed the House and Senate Monday. The $400 million in new spending isn’t enough for Dayton and he’s frustrated it also omits his top priority of universal preschool.

Gov. Dayton will lose the state’s voters if he continues with these over-the-top diatribes. It’s one thing to be critical. It’s another to be unhinged. Right now, Gov. Dayton has jumped across the line from being critical to being unhinged to the point of being totally disrespectful. He isn’t just saying Republicans are wrong. He’s essentially accusing Republicans of being evil and mean-spirited.

ABM’s ad campaign will be a waste of money if Gov. Dayton can’t control his temper.

ABM is launching another ad campaign, this time to push Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K initiative across the finish line. Predictably, ABM’s latest campaign is filled with dishonesty:

“Minnesota Republicans — especially in the House — need to be held accountable for putting corporations ahead of working families’ priorities,” says Alliance for a Better Minnesota Executive Director Joe Davis. “The GOP repeatedly pushed for special treatment for big business, but shortchanged our schools.”

Here’s how Catharine Richert dropped the hammer on ABM’s BS:

Of course, this being politics, the story the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is trying to tell in its ads is more complicated than that. House Republicans and Senate Democrats agreed to put $400 million more into K-12 education. Dayton wants $150 million more than that to fund pre-kindergarten in public schools, and says he will veto the bill as a result.

TRANSLATION: ABM omitted the part about Republicans and Democrats, specifically, Kurt Daudt and Tom Bakk, agreed to this budget last Friday. ABM’s ad campaign doesn’t mention that the DFL Senate voted down Gov. Dayton’s proposal 2 weeks ago. I’ve written repeatedly about Dayton’s unwillingness to accept a bipartisan rejection.

Education experts like Art Rolnick, a former member of the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis, have criticized Gov. Dayton’s plan:

Rolnick, now a policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has made researching early childhood education a big part of his life’s work. He argues that the earlier kids start a good education, the better off they will be in life. But he doesn’t back the governor’s universal preschool plan for 4-year-olds.

“It’s not cost effective,” Rolnick said. “There’s a much better way of doing this.” Rolnick prefers an existing scholarship program that pays for needy children to attend Head Start, a child care facility or a public school program that meets quality standards. He said Dayton’s plan is misguided because it would subsidize early education for all kids rather than target low-income children who need early education the most and are the least likely to have access to it.

Gov. Dayton’s had the entire session to build support for his plan. That clearly hasn’t happened. This article highlights why Gov. Dayton’s proposal likely won’t pass:

Some school districts indicated to the House Education Finance Committee that they don’t have space to add “basically an entire new grade in our public school system,” its chair, Rep. Jenifer Loon, an Eden Prairie Republican, told us.

There’s concern about facilities, equipment and transportation, she said. “There may be money the governor is proposing per pupil, but there’s no money there to help districts if they have to build classrooms,” for example. “That’s a huge cost that would largely fall on local property taxpayers.”

That’s a gigantic property tax increase waiting to happen. Then there’s this:

“The high return to the public is in investing in our most at-risk children,” Rolnick said. In the study that made him a national leader in the fields of child development and social policy, “we got an 18 percent inflation-adjusted return when you invest in our most at-risk kids.”

Such findings, it’s been suggested, run counter to committing a broad stream of resources to serve all children.

Plus, says Rolnick, we now have evidence from St. Paul’s Promise Neighborhood that a key approach — an emphasis on preschool scholarships — is closing the achievement gap between white students and their peers of color.

This is documented, indisputable proof of what works. Dr. Rolnick wants to solve a problem. Gov. Dayton wants to pay off a political ally. I’ll pick solutions to difficult problems over paying off political allies with terrible policies every time.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I suspect that there’s lots of games-playing behind this vote:


Education Minnesota must’ve given a bunch of these DFL senators a pass, knowing that a) it’s an unpopular vote and b) Gov. Dayton will veto it despite all the good things in the bill.

This weekend, Gov. Dayton said that he’d campaign around the state before he called a special session. It looks like he’s started campaigning already:

He’s charging up his rhetoric, too:

“I’m doing what I believe is the best for Minnesota. Again, this is not about who gets wins and losses – and gets their number one priority or anything else. This is about what’s right for Minnesota. This is what’s best for people who have got to drink the water. Right now, it’s declining in quality all over the state as both the Department of Health and Pollution Control Agency have documented in the last couple weeks.

This is about four-year-olds and their parents and giving them a better chance in life. And giving kids from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance in life. That’s what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for the kids of Minnesota. I’m fighting for the parents of Minnesota. I’m fighting for the parents of those kids. I’m fighting for the people who need to drink quality water and think they are but will be horribly shocked that they’re not. That’s what I’m fighting for.

“My wins and losses are not important to me anymore. Doing what’s right for Minnesota is what’s important to me. I’m not running again. I’m not here to win or lose political points for myself. I’m here to win for people of Minnesota.”

That’s BS. Gov. Dayton should be ashamed of himself peddling this as a policy that helps children and parents. Art Rolnick, who dedicated his life to improving early childhood learning, opposes Gov. Dayton’s bill, saying that the program should be targeted to those most at risk and delivered through scholarships. Dr. Rolnick says that the alternative to Gov. Dayton’s plan is less expensive and is more effective.

The Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) opposes Gov. Dayton’s initiative because it’ll raise their operating costs and force them to add onto schools, which will drive up their citizens’ property taxes.

Gov. Dayton, what part of those concerns says that your initiative will improve 4-year-olds’ lives? Gov. Dayton, how will raising property taxes on parents improve their lives?

The simple truth is that Gov. Dayton’s speech is Education Minnesota-approved spin. Anyone that thinks this is about brilliant public policy is kidding themselves or they’re incredibly ill-informed. This initiative, in its current form, is payback to Education Minnesota. Period.

Technorati: , , , ,

If the universal pre-K bill that the Dayton-Tina Smith administration supports got votes based on what’s good policy, it wouldn’t have made it out of committee. It certainly wouldn’t still be alive with 20+ hrs. left in the session. This article just adds to the policy justifications for killing the Dayton-Smith bill:

Rolnick, now a policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has made researching early childhood education a big part of his life’s work. He argues that the earlier kids start a good education, the better off they will be in life. But he doesn’t back the governor’s universal preschool plan for 4-year-olds.

“It’s not cost effective,” Rolnick said. “There’s a much better way of doing this.” Rolnick prefers an existing scholarship program that pays for needy children to attend Head Start, a child care facility or a public school program that meets quality standards. He said Dayton’s plan is misguided because it would subsidize early education for all kids rather than target low-income children who need early education the most and are the least likely to have access to it.

Unfortunately, people who like great public policy have one strike against them. This paragraph highlights what’s missing:

The governor’s plan is backed by the state teachers’ union, Education Minnesota. But some early education groups and experts are skeptical, which may not bode well for Dayton in the Legislature.

Dr. Rolnick has a way that’s more effective and less expensive. If the Dayton-Smith administration’s highest priority is to eliminate the achievement gap and help children, then they should be for plans that are effective and inexpensive. If their goal is to pay off another DFL special interest ally, then they should shut down the government again and admit to Minnesotans that their highest priority is to pay off Education Minnesota.

To find out more about who opposes the Dayton-Smith-EdMinn plan, check out this audio of Sen. Carla Nelson talking on the subject.

Here’s a partial transcript of Sen. Nelson’s statement:

It’s very frustrating for me as a legislator and I can only imagine for Minnesotans all across this state to know that, as of Thursday night, just 4 days out from adjournment, there was still no budget agreement on the individual targets for the individual conference areas. Quite frankly, there is no excuse for that. We should have had those targets early, in late April. So, first of all, it was frustrating getting those targets so late and then to add to add fat to the fire, so to speak, there was this agreement between Democrat Senate Majority Leader Bakk and the Republican-controlled House Speaker Daudt and them the Governor is suddenly threatening a veto of the Education Bill. I find that worrisome for a number of reasons. Minnesotans want bipartisanship. We got that here and then the Governor is concerned about one provision in the Education bill and, quite frankly, I understand his concern. He’s very concerned about high quality early learning, making sure kids are ready when they get to Kindergarten and are prepared to learn. I support that, too, but I believe the Governor’s initiative, which is universal pre-Kindergarten, is very premature at this time and is not what Minnesotans want or the school districts need. They just don’t want to build wings of Kindergarten wings onto their buildings for all-day Kindergarten. They are not wishing to now go out and build wings of pre-Kindergarten rooms. Those would be additional property taxes. 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.

Let’s be clear about this. The Dayton-Smith-Thissen pre-K bill is a massive property tax increase waiting to happen. Schools throughout the state will have to build onto their existing schools to house all of the extra children. That’s inescapable.

Dayton, Smith and Thissen know this. They don’t care. Their allegiance isn’t with the students, as they’ve insisted. It isn’t with the school districts that’ve protested this throughout the state. The Minnesota School Board Association opposes the program, too. Check this out:

Some school districts indicated to the House Education Finance Committee that they don’t have space to add “basically an entire new grade in our public school system,” its chair, Rep. Jenifer Loon, an Eden Prairie Republican, told us.

There’s concern about facilities, equipment and transportation, she said. “There may be money the governor is proposing per pupil, but there’s no money there to help districts if they have to build classrooms,” for example. “That’s a huge cost that would largely fall on local property taxpayers.”

TRANSLATION: There’s money in this bill for Education Minnesota but there’s a major tax increase in the bill for parents and other taxpayers.