Valeria Silva, superintendent of the St. Paul schools, was in Washington on Monday to help deliver a message to President Obama: renewal of the "No Child Left Behind" act will have the effect of leaving behind lots of kids in large urban districts like St. Paul.
"I feel very blessed and humbled to be able to express to the president the concerns we have as urban leaders," said Silva, shortly after arriving back in the Twin Cities from Washington.
She was among a dozen superintendents and school board members from the Council of Great City Schools who met for about an hour Monday with Obama at the White House, discussing the success of recent school reforms and how they might be jeopardized if "No Child Left Behind" is reauthorized.
The Council of Great City Schools is a coalition of large urban public school systems. Other superintendents at the meeting were from Cleveland, the District of Columbia, El Paso, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Milwaukee; Orange County, Fla., and San Francisco.
According to a White House pool report, the Department of Education released data Monday showing that high school graduation rates have increased by more than 3 percent in the last two years for African-Americans, American Indians, Hispanic students, low-income students and students with limited English proficiency.
The school leaders say that "No Child Left Behind," a measure advanced and signed by President George W. Bush, required excessive testing and discipline with little additional funding to back it. The school leaders said it would harm school accountability, annual testing, college standards and equity.
If the Republican-controlled Congress passes it, Silva said, St. Paul would see its Title I dollars reduced by 6 percent. That's the funding allocated for students who live below the poverty level. In St. Paul, 75 percent of school kids qualify for that funding. .
After the meeting, Obama told reporters that continued improvement in math and reading scores and graduation rates will require federal resources.
If the Republican budget “maintains sequester-level funding," he said, "then we would actually be spending less on pre-K to 12th grade in America’s schools in terms of federal support than we were back in 2000.”
If that happens, he said, “then we’re going to have a major debate.”
Obama, Silva said, "is very engaged and knowledgable. He understands the effects of 'No Child Left Behind.' "
Keep it moving. That’s the basic gist of the new signs Metro Transit placed earlier this week in the downtown St. Paul skyway near the Green Line’s Central Station.
The signs read, “ATTENTION No loitering, stopping or eating in hallways/skyways. Keep moving. No sitting/kneeling on floors or stairs.”
Underneath the type, the sign says “City Ordinance 140.02.” which leaves passersby to guess that the rules spelled out on the sign were derived from that particular ordinance.
However, while that city law does seem to support the language that prohibits passerby from kneeling on the floor, there is no language prohibiting eating or stopping unless it obstructs others from being able to walk through the skyway.
Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said Friday that the sign spells out rules that are a combination of the ordinance and Metro Transit code of conduct that people have to follow when they are on buses or trains. Some of the language was also taken from signs that had already been in the skyway, Padilla said.
“It fit with what we needed. It fit with a combination of the ordinance and our own stuff,” Padilla said.
The language was approved by the St. Paul city attorney’s office before it was posted, he said.
Two City Council members, one in Minneapolis and the other in St. Paul, are introducing resolutions this week calling on legislators to provide dedicated funding for new and repaired roads, bridges and transit in the state's cities.
Most city streets are built and repaired with the use of local property tax revenues, which the council members say is an inequitable way to share what they believe should be a statewide responsiblity.
"Unless we start looking for new state resources to help fund our streets, the burden will continue to fall on local property taxpayers in our cities," St. Paul City Council Member Chris Tolbert said, in a prepared statement.
"We need partnership and support at the statewide level to come up with a real, sustainable solution to our critical infrastructure needs," according to a statement by Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden.
At Wednesday's St. Paul City Council meeting, Tolbert said the resolutions are part of an effort led by the League of Minnesota Cities to lobby the Legislature for dedicated road funding, such as the wheelage tax used by some counties.
At least 30 Minnesota cities had passed similar resolutions as of Wednesday, he said. St. Paul City Council members then proceeded to unanimously approve the measure.
According to the resolutions, about 14 percent of Minnesota's roads -- more than 19,000 miles -- are owned and maintained by the state's 853 cities, and more than 80 percent of them aren't eligible for state funding.
That's also true for more than 700 Minnesota cities with populations below 5,000, the resolutions state.
Rural and suburban communities across Minnesota also are joining in the campaign to seek more funding for local transportation infrastructure.
On Wednesday, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is expected to flip a giant light switch, officially turning on the lights at CHS Field for the first time.
Coleman will be joined by St. Paul Saints pitching coach and former Atlanta Braves pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg. The lighting ceremony will be part of a night-long event including tours, a brief program and a social hour at nearby Heartland Restaurant. More than 150 people -- including elected officials and ballpark design committee members who helped make the ballpark possible -- are expected to join in.
It is all scheduled to start with ballpark tours from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The program will begin at 6:30, with a social hour to start at 7 p.m.
CHS Field will be home to the St. Paul Saints and Hamline University Pipers baseball teams, as well as dozens of other sports and entertainment events.
The new, 7,000-seat ballpark is owned by the City of St. Paul, but is operated by the Saints, an independent minor league baseball team that for the past 20 years has played it games at Midway Stadium on Energy Park Drive.
As the first puck was being dropped this week at the Xcel Energy Center for the girls state hockey tournament, the folks of Visit Saint Paul, flanked by wrestlers, entertainers, roller derby girls and astronauts, announced the launch of 31 Days of Giveaways!
It's a promotion to highlight a busy month in the Saintly City.
"March is so big in St. Paul that the festivities start in February," said Mayor Chris Coleman. "It's one of our busiest months of the year and a great opportunity to showcase all the fun and unique events that make St. Paul so special, from Wild hockey to a wedding fair."
Beginning with the girls' hockey tournament, the city will host dozens of games, events, concerts, the city's St. Patrick's Day parade and Space: And Out-of-Gravity Experience at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
To entice even more interest, Visit Saint Paul is offering a long list of prizes, from Wild game tickets to concert passes, restaurant gift cards and free hotel and bed and breakfast stays.
Terry Mattson, president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul -- who actually introduced the mayor by wearing a hand puppet "Mr. Happy" -- said an estimated 1 million visitors could descend on the city over the next six weeks.
"We can't wait to welcome these visitors to St. Paul," he said. "It's an incredible month. We plan on making it even better by giving away all kinds of awesome St. Paul swag."
A complete list of prizes and contest rules can be found at http://VisitSaintPaul.com/marchon.