The good news is absent in coverage


The May 22 article "Affluent schools stay on top" continues to ignore the hopeful story that a small cadre of schools in the urban core are telling about the potential of great schools to help all students learn and achieve at the highest levels, whatever their skin color, family income or zip code.

Notably, Reward School Hiawatha Academies, which serves almost exclusively children who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program, is ranked in this new system as the No. 1 school receiving Title I dollars in the state and the No. 2 school overall.

Harvest Prep and BEST Academy, and several other high-performing charters serving low-income kids, are also Reward schools. These schools -- and their leaders and students -- simply refuse to believe that poverty is destiny. To the contrary, they are wielding high-quality education as a weapon in their fight for social justice.

For the Star Tribune's coverage of the state Education Department's rankings to suggest, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that schools serving children from low-income families cannot succeed despite the challenges of poverty shows, to use a word from the story, a "stubborn" refusal to cover one of the most hopeful stories being told about the future of education in the Twin Cities.


The writer is executive director of Charter School Partners.

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Get the details, not the slogans


Several relevant facts were missing from the May 23 story on the proposed mining of polysulfide metal deposits in northern Minnesota ("Battle waged over mining firms' plans). The Twin Metals deposits are about 800 to 1,500 feet underground, so the effect of the mine itself on environmentally relevant groundwater is likely to be minimal.

Because of the tremendous size of the deposit, the Twin Metals partnership intends to have only a transitional surface storage facility for the tailings -- the materials left after extraction.

As each section of mine is used up, the tailings will be permanently placed there, back underground, so that the transitional facility will have space for the next section's tailings. This appears to be the most environmentally sound disposal practice.

Sulfide residue from ore processing has some commercial value. Uses include the manufacture of battery acid and sulfate fertilizer. The days of dumping liquid mine waste on the ground are long gone; existing laws have made sure of that.

It is good to monitor the use of natural resources to ensure that it is done in a responsible fashion. However, attempts to block such use by making a pejorative of "sulfide mining" before the mine and mill plans have been drawn are irresponsible emotionalism. See Proverbs 18:13.


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Layoffs, profits: The way this works stinks


The MarketWatch headline reads: "Shares of Hewlett-Packard rally after news of job cuts." So the 1 percent who own most of HP shares had their portfolios increase in value in response to the elimination of 27,000 jobs. We are asked to believe that the 1 percent are the job creators. The facts of this case should falsify that claim once and for all. The 1 percent are the profit creators -- whatever it takes.


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Steven G. Horwitz, in his May 24 commentary -- "You say 'jobs', I say 'rhetoric'" -- states that the president's focus on job creation is a big waste of time.

My guess is that Horwitz is a fan of laissez-faire economics. While he touts a familiar -- dare I say tired -- argument, I'll give him props for spicing things up by using some fresh, new words.

He states that it's freedom (from government) that "entrepreneurs" (aka: job creators) really need, because freedom (less government regulation) would allow these "value creators" (aka: job creators) to better create more value for others, which would create more wealth for themselves.

Then, if we just allow them to keep more of this wealth (read: lower their taxes), "the more likely they are to continue to create it." He did not explain exactly how that would happen.

Horwitz is describing "trickle-down" economics without saying the words. He knows people respond to them negatively. Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who penned the book "Words that Work," would be proud.


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Stop trying to jam people into a box


Enough already about college snobbery vs. common sense.

It takes many types of people to comprehensively cover the duties of government, and many types of skill sets and intelligence are required. Sometimes education does matter, and sometimes it doesn't.

What most voters (and commentators) fail to grasp is that economic systems essentially function independently of government policies. Democracies are designed to protect their citizens from political abuses and foreign enemies, not to "create jobs" or "fix" the economy. Let's not expect our elected officials, whether Ivy League or homegrown, to have superpowers.


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Our state and country faces economic and social problems that require critical thinking and expert understanding of economics. A politician's educational background does not guarantee success as a leader (no single attribute can), but it is a legitimate measure of a candidate's intellect and understanding of our world.

The difference between an elite education and Winona State (where candidate Kurt Bills earned his degree) is the networking and experiences that complement the classroom lectures.

Let us judge our future leaders not only on what they promise, but also on what they have achieved. Compare their rhetoric with well-supported theories and understanding of science, economics, public and foreign policy.

Question the practicality and validity of their statements; use their educational background as a context to judge their character, intellect and commitment to excellence.