Lori Sturdevant: O’Connor urges Minnesota change

  • Updated: February 10, 2010 - 6:47 PM


The expected flood of corporate political advertising that will follow last month's U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance ruling strengthens the argument for ending contested elections of judges in Minnesota.

That was the case brought to Minnesota legislators Wednesday by someone who follows the high court's actions closely -- former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She was a late and appreciated addition to the roster of speakers at Wednesday's "One Minnesota" conference for members of the Legislature, hosted by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.

O'Connor, who is also a former majority leader in the Arizona Legislature, appealed to Minnesota lawmakers to eliminate contested elections from the state's judicial selection process. The recent high court decision -- which in part overturned a 2003 opinion O'Connor had written -- is likely to bring corporate-sponsored ads to bear on judicial elections, she said.

Former Gov. Al Quie has been a leading proponent of a state constitutional change to replace contested elections with up-or-down "retention" elections, and making merit-based screening a mandatory part of gubernatorial appointments of judges. O'Connor advised legislators that if they put such an amendment before Minnesota voters this year, other states will notice, and follow suit.

Minnesota judicial elections traditionally have not been the high cost, harshly negative contests seen in other states. "But don't think you're immune. You're not," O'Connor said.



Accountability remains the key

It's good news that the Obama administration will seek reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. Also welcome is its interest in fixing some of the law's failings, such as the fact that states have been able to game the system with low standards. It's critical, though, that in seeking to repair the law's imperfections, the administration not retreat from its most important legacy: that schools be accountable for their students' achievement.

We are particularly interested in how it will get school systems to do a better job of delivering on the promise that students most in need will get the teachers most able to help them.



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