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Recently, Sen. Dave Thompson introduced legislation to freeze teachers’ salaries for the next 2 years. Since then, a plethora of unions have criticized Sen. Thompson, portraying him as a villain.

What the Twin Cities media hasn’t reported about is Sen. Thompson’s letter to teachers to find out about their concerns. Here’s the text of Sen. Thompson’s letter to the teachers:

Dear Educator,

I recently sent you a survey requesting your opinions on various issues relating to education. I sent the questions for pre-approval to your union representative, Mr. Don Sinner, in an attempt to work cooperatively. I had also hoped to use his “blast” e-mail list in order to save work for my Legislative Assistant. He refused to allow me to use the list, but gave me no indication he intended to sabotage the survey. We did the work necessary to send the survey to each of your e-mail addresses individually.

It has come to my attention that Mr. Sinner sent you scripted responses, so that I will be unable to gain the information I seek. You do not need to send Mr. Sinner’s remarks, but I would very much like to hear from you.

As you may know, I am on the Senate Education Committee, and recently presented a significant piece of legislation to the Committee. I sent the survey to you because I have a sincere desire to understand the viewpoints of educators in my district. I value your judgment, and am frankly shocked that Mr. Sinner does not believe you should have the right to communicate directly with the people who represent you at the Capitol. He obviously does not have the confidence in your judgment and professionalism that I do.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at sen.david.thompson@senate.mn or 651-296-5252.

Sincerely,

Dave Thompson

Senator Dave Thompson
Assistant Majority Leader
Senate District 36

Sen. Thompson noted that “Mr. Sinner [had]sent…scripted responses” and that the teachers didn’t “need to send Mr. Sinner’s remarks”, he made clear that he wanted to talk with the teachers and get their opinions. Here’s the text of Mr. Sinner’s email to the teachers:

The EML Executive Council on Monday Evening respectfully declined to forward this survey from Sen. Thompson to our members. They did however direct me to provide Sen. Thompson with the appropriate information which addresses each of his questions.

If Senator Thompson now chooses to send this survey directly to you, we would ask that you use this information to reply.

Stay Positive, Stay Professional, Stay United.

Sincerely,
Don Sinner
EM-Lakeville President

1) Do school teachers and administrators currently have the authority to effectively manage classroom behavior and expectations?

Yes, there are no statutory issues here. The real problem is adequate, equitable, sustainable, and predictable funding which can provide the conditions necessary for teachers to effectively provide a quality education for all students.

2) Do you believe the current incentive system focusing only on “step and lanes” is the best option for school districts and teachers?

Research shows, and most teachers agree, that as a teacher develops over time with effective professional development, they are more effective in the classroom and deserving of a commensurate pay increase. Research also shows that completion of relevant graduate degrees and/or National Board Certification also leads to higher student achievement.

3) Do you think that entry-level teachers in different subject areas should all earn the same salary?

Yes. There is best-practice research that shows the value of fine arts areas in improving not only the talents of the whole child, but also increasing achievement in the “core” subjects as well. This indicates that all teachers in all fields should be compensated on an equitable basis.

4) Do you believe that the current two-variable approach (education and years teaching) to teacher salaries is a fair measure of the teacher’s value?

The two-variable approach to compensating teachers is just one piece of a multifaceted approach to fairly compensating teachers. There should also be recognition for those who take on increased responsibilities in leadership roles, mentoring, and National Board Certification to name a few.

5) Have students in your school benefited from the implementation of the “No Child Left Behind” law with its statewide standards, testing, and reporting?

Yes and No. Yes in that we are now focused on individual student data in making instructional decisions to meet their educational needs. No, because it has caused an unnecessary narrowing of curriculum which ignores the needs of the whole child. It has also caused a higher focus to be placed on facts rather than critical thinking skills and creative thinking. It has also caused an unnecessary diversion of limited resources into simply administering the mountain of testing that is required.

6) Is the current “needs based” funding formula equitable?

Yes, there is a proper place for “needs based” funding. We must recognize the fact that not all students arrive at school ready to learn. We must provide the added resources to level the playing field for those students who come form a disadvantaged background such as poverty, no access to early childhood education, or english language learners.

7) Is there too much, too little, or the correct amount of federal government involvement in Minnesota’s education system?

Too little in the fact that there is not full-funding of IDEA mandates. Too much in the area of NCLB and its’ punitive actions towards schools attempting to improve or in its’ model of measuring student growth.

8) Do you support an increase in the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18?

Yes, as long as there are options for students who progress quickly through the system to access PSEO, early graduation and options in a post-secondary institution.

9) Should Early Childhood programs be given more attention, less attention, or be eliminated?

Early Childhood needs to be funded equitably across the entire state to ensure all students enter school ready to learn. A plethora of research shows that the groundwork of early childhood and primary education (K-2) is necessary if children are to achieve at high levels throughout their academic careers. This research also shows that most students are unlikely to overcome a poor start.

10) Should Early Childhood programs be given more attention, even if it means K-12 education funding grows at a decreased rate?

The question is not whether ECFE funding should have a higher priority than K-12, it should be how can the state adequately fund both of these areas as well as Higher Ed. in order to support a vibrant economy and allow Minn. to compete in a 21st century global economy.

11) Is teaching in Minnesota public schools a better or worse career than it was five years ago?

Working with children is as rewarding as it always has been. However, due to the financial conditions and the “blame game”, teachers are no longer provided the necessary resources to effectively accomplish their goals, nor are they rewarded for positive outcomes. Can schools do better, yes, are they a categorical failure, no. Without adequate support of public education, we will lose our best and brightest teachers to other fields and ultimately our students will suffer.

12) In an average Minnesota public school classroom, what should be an appropriate number of students?

Best-practice research shows:
15 in primary grades (K-2)
18 in intermediate grades (3-5)
20-25 at the secondary level (6-12)
with no more than 28 before student achievement begins to decline.

Several things jumped out at me while reading Sinner’s answers. Here’s one thing that I noticed:

Q: Should Early Childhood programs be given more attention, even if it means K-12 education funding grows at a decreased rate?

A: The question is not whether ECFE funding should have a higher priority than K-12, it should be how can the state adequately fund both of these areas as well as Higher Ed. in order to support a vibrant economy and allow Minn. to compete in a 21st century global economy.

In other words, Sinner is telling teachers to tell the legislature that education funding, from Kindergarten through post-graduate degrees, shouldn’t get cut.

It’s disgusting that Sinner felt the need to tell his automatons teachers what they should say. Aren’t they allowed to have their own opinions? Was Sinner afraid they might say things that Sen. Thompson agreed with?

It’s a sign of desperation or fear that Sinner instructed his troops on how they should answer. Why else would he issue these talking points? If they all agreed with his agenda, there wouldn’t be a need for that email. Methinks that it’s proof of Sinner’s failed leadership.

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3 Responses to “Sinner, Repent!!!”

  • J. Ewing says:

    The problem is that the Devil has a thousand tools but the lie is the key to all of them, and this Sinner is doing the Devil’s work. It is an outright lie that class size is determinant of educational outcome, and putting specific (and ridiculously low) numbers on it is proof positive that what matters is lots of dues-paying members, not education.

    It also seems a lie to say that steps-and-lanes conformity recognizes (or actually leads to) individual teacher excellence, it’s simply an oxymoron. You’re a union drone or you’re a professional, them’s your choices.

    I find it particularly interesting the support for extending mandatory attendance until age 18. It would seem that this is the simple solution to the fact that 10% of our schools– and far more in the urban areas– are “dropout factories” where 40% or more of students do NOT stay in school until age 18 or graduation. Yea, keep ’em locked up in a school that isn’t teaching them anything, that’s the ticket.

    On NCLB, it’s a good thing that “we” (teachers) are now focused on educating every individual child’s progress, but “we” find NCLB too punitive to schools that don’t make progress. So, are you making progress in these failing schools, and educating these individual children, or not? If not, why should that failure continue to be overlooked and why do you think you should keep your job?

    He’s lying again when he talks about ECFE. Some research– mostly by those with a vested financial stake in it– shows ECFE helpful. Other more independent studies say it is a class A boondoggle with no redeeming educational value, and that private early education is far more effective. If the public schools were doing their jobs, they wouldn’t be casting about for these excuses, like a lack of funding (it has tripled, above inflation, in just 40 years).

    There’s more.

  • J. Ewing says:

    So, a union head has to tell these teachers what to think, and then these teachers are going to teach “critical thinking” to our kids?

    This guy wants “stable funding.” What is more stable than a freeze? While all the rest of this so-called “research” is being sorted out– wheat from the fertilizer sort of thing– let’s concentrate on having teachers actually teach, rather than having the excuse of just needing more money.

    Beside, the research shows that money doesn’t matter much, and what little it does actually detracts from educational achievement, so if we wanted to follow what research tells us, we would cut education by 20% and see achievement go up. It makes as much sense as what he is proposing, perhaps more.

    A little independent anybody-can-do-it research also shows that class sizes in many cases are near his ideal when you divide the number of teachers into the number of pupils, yet the average class size numbers quoted by district administrations tend to be about 50% higher. Why is that? Good grief, if we have 50% more teachers than we need, couldn’t we save a few bucks, rather than Sen. Thompson’s generous proposal to keep them all employed?

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