Jack Schneider has a point in placing Teach for America within a school-reform entrepreneurial spirit that aspires to "excellence for all."
However, he is wrong in contending that this program to place bright, liberally educated college graduates in the neediest classrooms is presented as some kind of magic or silver bullet ("No magic solution for schools," Jan. 31).
More accurately, TFA is just one part of broader reform that includes alternative teacher certification, merit pay, performance evaluations in lieu of rigid tenure, charter schools, vouchers, special-needs scholarships, open enrollment and virtual academies, among other initiatives.
This reform ethos contrasts with what Schneider describes as "redistribution." Easily qualifying as part of that mind-set is subjecting all would-be teachers to a government-controlled training-and-certification mill and assigning all students to the schools to which they are zoned.
That approach favors sameness and mediocrity. Isn't excellence for all a more noble goal than excellence for none?
ROBERT HOLLAND, CHICAGO
The writer is a senior fellow for education policy at the Heartland Institute.
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Please be aware that the debate about teacher seniority ("Battle to end teacher seniority begins," Jan. 1) has nothing to do with quality of education. There is no evidence except unsupported anecdotes that less competent teachers are actually being retained over more competent but less senior teachers.
As a parent who had three children go through the St. Paul public schools (all of whom are now college graduates), I found the level of teacher competence to be very high across the board. On the other hand, educational achievement of children is statistically linked to the economic level of the parents and the functionality of the family.
So, if we want to improve it, there are concrete steps we can take -- such as helping families who are stressed by poverty and the other family problems that lead to or go along with poverty, including abuse and addiction.
Getting rid of teacher seniority is purely an anti-labor move, and I wish that Republicans in Minnesota would simply admit that they want a nonunion workplace for all workers.
NORMAN J. OLSON, MAPLEWOOD
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Like Jonathon Swift's "A Modest Proposal" to use orphans for food, Daniel McGroarty's article ("Tax the rich? Totally. It'll buy us ... a year," Feb. 1), suggesting that we fund the federal budget by confiscating the wealth of billionaires, was meant to be ironic, but McGroarty unintentionally shined a spotlight on the incredible wealth disparity in the United States.
I was astounded to learn that the wealth of a mere 400 individuals could pay for all of the U.S. government for five months. I was also surprised to learn that Mitt Romney's net worth could fund the federal budget for a full 30 minutes. Wow.
V. JOHN ELLA, MINNEAPOLIS
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Reading about travelers' reaction to the removal of McDonald's from the airport ("Some unhappy meals at MSP," Jan. 31) magnified something I think is becoming all too common.
Many readers are likely tempted to view this as yet another example of Delta Air Lines and "corporate America" misunderstanding the customer base. Others will see it as part of a conspiracy to impose mandated healthy eating. I, however, think the article illustrated how much our focus on "me" has blurred (and even prevented) our larger perspective.
When did we get to this point where a lack of access to an airport McDonald's is not only newsworthy but framed as a significant imposition? A 4-year-old mentioned in the story is fortunate enough to fly with his grandparents to Disney World (something many kids only dream about), but it's implied that the trip will be negatively impacted if he can't get a Happy Meal at the airport.
The quality of air travel is judged not on whether or not we safely and efficiently get to our destinations, but on whether or not there is a $1 cup of coffee.
JASON D. TOWLEY, FARMINGTON
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One has to wonder if, after the historic Citizens United decision of two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts and others on the Supreme Court have ever said to themselves, "man oh man, did I ever screw up" -- especially after the 2010 elections, in which 94 percent of the winning candidates outspent their opponents by three or four to one!
Now, we witness firsthand, just in this year's primary elections, this same activity on steroids. It will take a constitutional amendment to correct the idiocy of how Roberts and others in the majority ruled. Readers might check out www.getmoneyout.com to join those who are attempting to counter the selling off of America to the highest bidder.
CHUCK DAVIDSON, ALBERTVILLE
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It is weird that Saul Alinsky is such a bugaboo in the Republican presidential race, as Myles Spicer wrote in his Jan. 31 commentary ("To Gingrich, an enemy; to others, an inspiration"). Spicer calls the community organizer "as American as apple pie." I'd add as Minnesotan as hot dish.
After organizing Chicago stockyard neighborhoods, Alinsky took his show on the road to two similar communities in Kansas and Minnesota.
The South St. Paul Community Council he started in 1941, led by a Republican and a Democrat, combined labor activism, patriotism and immigrant ethnic pride, and lasted almost until a certain native son's arrival in 1960.
If Tim Pawlenty hadn't left the GOP race, perhaps he'd be tangling with Newt Gingrich over Alinsky's legacy.
CHRIS STELLER, MINNEAPOLIS
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.