Once again, the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has failed its students. Despite Hennepin County meeting the threshold for a hybrid approach to learning, the district has decided to start the year exclusively online ("School districts to decide," front page, July 31). Gov. Tim Walz directed districts to prepare this option over the summer, but MPS is not ready.

Superintendent Ed Graff said that hybrid learning is complex. It certainly is, but this explanation demonstrates the bureaucratic intransigence that plagues MPS. The culture at the Davis Center is one of mediocrity. Management regularly chooses the easy way out and doesn't learn from mistakes. Case in point: They chose to survey parents online about distance learning, resulting in a very racially skewed response rate ("Mpls. plans remote start for schools," front page, July 29). One would think they would have put two and two together and realized that the number of Chromebooks they had to distribute last spring reflects the number of families without access to technology. But no, an online survey that would clearly not reach many families was good enough.

MPS' inability to tackle complex issues drives the achievement gap. And now, initial studies indicate that children could lose an average of seven months of school progress by staying home. Not surprisingly, outcomes are poorest for nonwhite children.

How much more progress will children lose until the district is willing and cable of bringing at least K-3 students (who have the worst outcomes) back to the classroom? I hope, in vain, that MPS will be able to handle the consequences when most of their students will need to repeat a grade.

Emily Greenwald Johnson, Minneapolis

Still a sticking point, but why?

I question BNSF Railway's firm opposition to the Blue Line extension, which would share land with the freight railroad for approximately 8 miles ("Backers press for Bottineau line," July 30). The specific rail line involved in this issue is the Monticello Subdivision, a spur line from Minneapolis that ends at the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant. With one local train per day they serve approximately 14 shippers along the rail line.

BNSF has been willing to work with the Green Line extension, which will partly run alongside a busier route also owned by that railroad, so it's perplexing that it wants absolutely nothing to do with light rail running alongside a lightly used spur line. According to BNSF, "The proposed Blue Line light rail project does not meet our high standards," but those standards aren't specified. The only reasons I can think of for it not being willing to allow the Blue Line extension along their tracks are: 1) it wants more money from the Metropolitan Council for use of its land, 2) it's getting back at Hennepin County, which blocked its planned freight rail connection in Crystal a few years ago, 3) it doesn't want to be liable for any accidents even if they are its fault, or 4) it just doesn't want to deal with the Metropolitan Council again after the Green Line extension.

Whether BNSF will be more transparent about its intentions is up for it to decide. As a business that runs through our communities, it should recognize that the movement of people to where they need to go is just as important as the movement of freight, including goods we use every day.

Eric Ecklund, Bloomington
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It seems curious to me that our mayors are pressing Gov. Tim Walz to do something about the stalled negotiations for the Blue Line extension. These same people spent over $129 million of our taxpayer money on this project before they ever reached any agreement with BNSF, which is not interested in participating in the plan.

The governor is busy trying to manage a pandemic, and the railroad is occupied with delivering needed goods. Do you really think the governor has time to try to force a freight railroad company to roll over to the mayors' demands?

Nancy Azzam, Golden Valley

'Slow train wreck' already started

An article in the Star Tribune on July 28 titled "I was an executive director; now I need that $600" showcased the story of a single father and the troubling times he has faced due to COVID-19 and unemployment. This man's story highlights the struggles many are facing, but he brings up one important point that has been gaining attention: paying for rent. What if the next story line is, "I was a tenant; now I am homeless?" Tenants and renters alike are facing unprecedented futures.

As Warren Hanson, president and CEO of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, said in a MinnPost article published in May related to the permanent loss of jobs and subsequent evictions to come, "It's a slow train wreck many will be forced to experience." Minnesota had an eviction ban in place, but it recently partly expired.

The last thing we need at the time of a major pandemic and "stay at home/shelter in place" orders is the displacement of families and individuals from their homes to the streets. No one should be forced to experience homelessness. It is time for our government to do more to protect its constituents from the detrimental impacts of COVID-19.

Julia Rupp, St. Paul
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It is unfortunate that Owen Duckworth uses his commentary ("There's time to stop the eviction epidemic," Opinion Exchange, July 29) to critique Gov. Tim Walz and rental property owners in order to advance his worthy efforts to expand renter rights and resources.

Duckworth calls the governor's recent order (#20-79) a rollback of tenant protections. But it is important to understand what is included in the so-called rollback. While maintaining the general suspension of evictions, this order identifies several exceptions. For instance, an eviction action can proceed where a tenant is seriously endangering the safety of others or is significantly damaging property. The order also clarifies that eviction can occur for violating existing state statute, which prohibits use of rental property for illegal drug use, prostitution, holding stolen property or possession of illegal firearms.

Are these infringements on the rights of tenants or sensible restrictions on the use of rental property? Might these restrictions benefit those who live in a rental community and their neighbors as well as the owners of rental property? Duckworth apparently fails to see that tenant protections should extend to tenants who hope to be safe and not have to endure the illegal and disruptive activities of their neighbors.

Chip Halbach, Minneapolis

Target the root causes here

In his commentary "Planned Parenthood has a prime example" (July 31), Ross Douthat claims that a higher abortion rate (or lower birthrate) among minorities is proof that Planned Parenthood is encouraging women to have abortions. This is totally inaccurate: The organization never seeks for people to have an abortion, nor does the organization encourage women to have abortions. Indeed, Planned Parenthood requires women to take part in counseling that includes referrals for other services.

The fact that women of color have higher abortion rates has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood policy. Rather, these women are more likely to be poor or from abusive homes (for example). If we truly want to reduce their abortion rates, we need to address the circumstances that lead them to seek an abortion in the first place.

Nic Baker, Roseville

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