FARM BILL 2008

Plow it under

Putting politics over reason, Congress has produced a farm bill dissociated from 21st-century realities.

While corporate agribusinesses harvest record profits, costly taxpayer subsidies increase. While a food crisis devastates millions, foreign food aid is shipped overseas instead of being purchased where it is needed. While America's international trade negotiations remain gridlocked, agriculture subsidies at the root of the standoff are further entrenched.

Proponents of this tired status quo hope other parts of the farm bill, such as food stamps and rural development initiatives, will distract the public from the bill's fundamental flaws.

The stakes are too high to make this a shell game. Congress should reject the special interests, take a hard look at how the world has changed while the farm bill hasn't, and return to the drawing board.

ADAM OLSON, MINNEAPOLIS

THE IRAQ WAR

Forgoing the links

President Bush said he stopped playing golf in 2003 out of respect for U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war (Star Tribune, May 14). Wow! Talk about sacrifice.

I'm envisioning the future Iraq War Memorial. A giant set of golf clubs is perched atop a huge marble pedestal with Bush's own words inscribed on a plaque: "I didn't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best I can with them."

Makes me want to cry.

DOUG WILLIAMS, ROBBINSDALE

TEACHER FUNDING

Not being eliminated

Your May 14 story about the supplemental education funding bill passed by the Legislature Tuesday quoted Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, as saying it "starts us down the path of eliminating compensation for the very, very best teachers." Buesgens should have read the bill before making that inaccurate statement and voting against additional funding for schools.

An additional $51 per student will go to every district in the state using a combination of unallocated teacher compensation funds (Q-Comp) and budget cuts at the Department of Education recommended by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The teacher funding is not being eliminated. All schools currently enrolled in the program or who had submitted a preliminary plan to the Department of Education by March 20 will be funded if approved by the department.

Currently only 39 out of 340 Minnesota school districts -- mostly in the metro area -- have opted into the program, leaving $23 million in idle funds due to the lack of applicants. The legislation implements a short-term suspension that redirects those unused funds to students in classrooms all around the state.

Considering that higher gas prices, higher energy and food prices, rising special education costs and unfunded mandates have all stretched school budgets to the limit, sending the money to schools to help them ease those funding pressures seems like a much better idea right now than leaving that money just sitting unused.

REP. MINDY GREILING, DFL-ROSEVILLE; CHAIR, HOUSE K-12

EDUCATION FINANCE COMMITTEE

The cost of gas

Who is accountable?

U.S. Rep. John Kline should watch out, because I am sure the people of his congressional district have a better memory than he does ("High prices: We've got to do something," May 10).

Kline's party passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, described by its sponsor as a "comprehensive energy bill [that] will address America's dynamic energy needs and, over the long term, improve air quality, cut fuel prices and generate jobs and opportunity."

Only a year later, the Democrats win a thin majority -- especially thin, in terms of passing legislation through the Senate -- and, suddenly, as Kline declares, "gas prices were already too high," and it's already the Democrats' fault! This amazed me, as his criticisms to that point were something I thought would be found in his opponent's campaign literature.

Obviously, somebody's policies failed to deliver on those objectives. Just how many years of complete control of the legislative and executive agenda does the Republican Party want before we can hold it accountable for its failure to govern?

CLAYTON HAAPALA, MINNETONKA

PERMITS TO PROTEST RNC

It's time to issue them

Antiwar groups wanting to protest the Republican National Convention are seeking an injunction in federal court this week for their right to march in September. City officials in St. Paul have been dragging their feet on issuing permits and have forced this scenario.

It should not have to come to this. Mayor Chris Coleman and the St. Paul City Council have been invisible in their leadership. Where are our permits, Mr. Coleman?

JIM DAHLGREN, CRYSTAL

MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS

Will more money help?

I read May 14 that the Minneapolis School District is seeking an additional $60 million from citizens. The board chairwoman is quoted as saying that the district can't deliver increased student achievement without the money. I have a simple question for the district administration: How much do you need?

According to the state Department of Education, in 2005-2006, the district received $12,202 in funding per student. This compares with a state average of $9,076. We can also look at some rural schools, such as Big Lake, that only receive $6,444 per student, yet achieve great student results.

Throwing more money at Minneapolis schools isn't solving the problem now, and it surely won't solve the problem in the future.

JUSTIN LARSON, BIG LAKE, MINN.

question for a columnist

ls the sky red?

It is typical of ultra-right conservatives to call something exactly the opposite of what it is. In Katherine Kersten's case the bullies -- those who would persecute members of same-sex-parented families -- are somehow now the victims. To be consistent, I would like Kersten to explain how people who are sexist and racist are also "victims."

AUGUST BERKSHIRE, MINNEAPOLIS