And police-community relations suffer …

Speaking at his sentencing about the day he punched Brian Vander Lee, Minneapolis police officer David Clifford explained that, although he had changed his clothes after work that day, he maintained the mind-set of the working police officer and reacted as an officer would when Mr. Vander Lee didn’t do as Officer Clifford had directed (“Punch gets ex-cop 43 months,” July 12). That statement admits what communities of color, the poor and the defenseless have long known — that there isn’t a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.

BRYAN J. LEARY, Minnetonka

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It seems that Clifford tried to take the law into his own hands by threatening a patron and assaulting him viciously, knowing with all his special training that he would hurt the guy. We hold police officers to a higher standard, as Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau has said, and knowing this you would think they would try to be the best they can be. Several officers in the courtroom shook their heads as they believed that it’s not right for Clifford to get punishment for his actions, and his wife made a comment to Vander Lee: “Don’t have too much to drink.” Is anyone really sorry this happened? Can those in Clifford’s support group just say he made a mistake and take blame? Hopefully they will learn no one is above the law.

RANDY ANDERSON, Rogers

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Climate change? No, storms are nothing new

The July 11 editorial (“Despite warming, don’t give up on trees”) stated: “… and now, almost certainly fueled by a changing climate, summer storms have become more frequent and more violent.” Actually, the climate has always been changing, so whatever is happening now could have happened in the past. And there is no proof that storms are any more frequent or violent. Storms that cause more destruction don’t necessarily mean they’re stronger; rather, that there’s more civilization in the way and that costs are, of course, higher.

JIM FISHER, Edina

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Why ‘steps and lanes’ are good and necessary

The July 9 editorial “Minnesota school finance issues persist” stated that Minnesota should reconsider the use of “steps and lanes” for determining teacher’s salaries. Good reasons exist for keeping this method of determining teachers’ salaries. Such a method allows districts to hire new teachers at entry-level salaries, because the teachers know that a career ladder is in place that will eventually allow them to earn a middle-class income. These low entry-level salaries allow scarce tax money to be available to pay experienced teachers. This career ladder is essential to making teaching a career, and we definitely need career teachers.

The way to make steps and lanes an effective tool for improving education is to set high standards for progressing from one lane or step to another. Require all additional education to be part of a professional development plan focusing on content in the teacher’s field or field-appropriate methodology. Additional subject-matter knowledge is particularly important for high school teachers, who are being asked to teach International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses.

GRETCHEN G. WHEELWRIGHT, Minneapolis

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Competitor should give Kline more credit

It comes as no surprise that former DFL congressional candidate Mike Obermueller would misrepresent U.S. Rep. John Kline’s efforts on keeping student loan interest rates from doubling (Readers Write, July 7).

Kline, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, championed bipartisan legislation nearly two months ago that passed the U.S. House of Representatives moving all federal student loans — except Perkins loans — to a market-based interest rate. Kline’s plan built on a proposal put forth earlier this year by President Obama. Most Americans agree with Kline and the president — politicians should not be in the business of setting student loan interest rates.

Rather than follow Kline’s lead, the U.S. Senate passed nothing, allowing rates to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.

This was a rare opportunity for Washington to embrace a bipartisan solution. Instead, the Senate is holding our college students hostage, and Obermueller seems all too willing to follow his marching orders from congressional Democrats by parroting petty partisan lines — even on an issue on which President Obama and Republicans mostly agree. Our college students and families deserve better. Through bipartisan leadership from congressional leaders like John Kline, there was another option to provide a positive result.

I applaud Kline for embracing a bipartisan, long-term solution that gets Washington out of the business of setting rates altogether. Taking on tough issues takes leadership and the desire to solve a problem.

LAURA BROD, New Prague

The writer, a former Republican state legislator, is a regent for the University of Minnesota.