What is your goal? I ask this question of Minnesota legislators who are introducing bills to revise the teacher seniority laws. The Star Tribune reported that “[b]etween 2008 and 2013, nearly 2,200 Minnesota teachers were laid off under the so-called ‘last in, first out’ provision in state law” and outlined data showing about 550 rookie teachers laid off per year (“Coin flip, not skills, can select teachers,” Feb. 22). There are approximately 50,000 public school teachers in the state of Minnesota, so this accounts for about 1 percent of all teachers.
So is it possible that a small fraction of the 1 percent of teachers who were laid off were truly better than the more experienced teachers? It is possible. However, given choice between the skills of a veteran teacher and a rookie, I will place my faith in experience every time. But even if you disagree, I ask you again, what is your goal? Is it to debate laws that focus on a fraction of 1 percent of all teachers, in the hope of improving the overall performance of Minnesota students? If so, your math doesn’t add up. But what do I know? I’m just a veteran teacher.
Brian Swiggum, Hopkins
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You can’t have it both ways. Either the worst, least experienced teachers are trapped in high-poverty, high-children-of-color schools by seniority laws that allow senior, more proficient teachers to choose schools that are mostly white in middle-class neighborhoods, or more senior teachers are deadwood that can’t be eliminated because of seniority laws, leaving talented less experienced teachers to be laid off.
Which is it?
Carol Henderson, Minneapolis
City officials meet local wishes and needs
Regarding former Roseville Mayor John Kysylyczyn’s disappointment (“City leaders often drive up the cost of road projects,” Feb. 22) with a Feb. 15 Star Tribune editorial on transportation funding (“Shield cities from higher road costs”), I am more disappointed that his letter was even printed.
I find his examples of supposedly inflated costs that don’t warrant increased transportation system funding a total misrepresentation of reality and of what I have seen in my 50 years of experience in civil/transportation engineering and policy issues and almost as many in volunteer and elected public-service roles.
First, exposed and colored concrete features of new or replacement pavements are an amenity that comes with citizen support. They soften the visual environmental impact of the roads with minimal impact on total costs. Second, “trees and bushes” don’t cost $1 million per mile. Third, cities and counties don’t build four-lane roads for 100 vehicles per day. Frankly, they wouldn’t even if they had the money. The move is toward downsizing, not expanding lane capacity.
I have led and/or attended many more public meetings than former Mayor K has observed that led him to his viewpoint. Probably thousands, not just hundreds. I urge readers to discuss transportation funding need proposals with their elected representatives to get the real information.
Bob Benke, New Brighton
The writer is a former mayor of New Brighton and a past president of both the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Mayors Association.
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I know a neighborhood in Roseville where exposed aggregate and sloping curbs were installed. Residents wanted to keep the country feel of the neighborhood but knew that there was a need to install curbs. To maintain that country feel, residents of the neighborhood agreed to pay the extra cost of exposed aggregate curbing, as well as a sloping curb. Those were the conditions under which the city agreed to install these unique road treatments. These changes not only enhanced the beauty of the neighborhood, but allowed it to preserve some trees that otherwise would have been cut down. All of this took place without additional cost to taxpayers. Who could complain about this?
Also, a survey in Roseville found that the top priority among residents was the ability to safely walk and bike to parks and other locations in the city. It has been shown that the presence of trees near to streets (or even in central islands) has a traffic-calming effect, making walking and biking safer. This is something that all pedestrians can appreciate. The added beauty of these additions to the streets makes a city more livable and raises property values.
I appreciate the fact that city leaders are willing to consider not just the cheapest, mindlessly utilitarian upkeep of streets, but also the quality-of-life factors that residents value.
Joan Felice, Roseville
Think about what he really wants from U.S.
What does Benjamin Netanyahu really mean?
As President Obama and the leaders of Western nations are in delicate negotiations to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons, Netanyahu has said he would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran in any way possible. His “any way” is getting the United States to attack Iran. Do we really want to put our troops into another country? It is impossible to bomb the knowledge of how to make a weapon, or to reliably destroy a weapons factory in a mountain.
After the recent terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, Netanyahu said all Jews should come to Israel. The Jewish settlers, Netanyahu and the military are doing everything they can to wreck the Palestinian economy and push the Palestinians out of the West Bank. Netanyahu is so generously offering Palestinian land.
Carol Emdy, Bloomington
The drums of war are beating again
We are being driven to military response against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant by an endless saturation of news covering sensational events in the Middle East. It is difficult to separate our feelings of horror these scenes present from the reality of what it will cost to fight another intensified Middle East conflict. Leading up to the Spanish-American War, news mogul William Hearst said, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” To avoid a rush to another heightened level of military commitment, I would suggest we implement pay-as-we-go financing of our military actions and a full implementation of the universal draft. These two actions would likely alter public opinion toward our Middle East war involvement.
Peter Boelter, North Branch