Recently, angry parents have confronted school boards over controversial topics that have attracted significant media coverage. While some rhetoric is inappropriate and clearly the violent behavior is wholly unacceptable, there is an underlying question in these conflicts that needs to be answered: "What is the true purpose of a school district?"

Recently, one White Bear Lake school announced the elimination of failing grades. It wants students to "focus on the process of learning" and "become good learners." In theory this is admirable, but when schools decide to lower standards, eliminate personal accountability and accept mediocre performance, then we are no longer preparing students properly.

Most successful leaders say they learned more from their failures than they did their successes. In a fast-paced global economy, there is a demand for people who can compete on a world stage and deliver high-quality outcomes on a consistent basis. Getting an "F" in the 7th grade because you didn't turn in your assignment on time might emphasize to a young person that there are consequences to their efforts. After White Bear Lake students leave the safe confines of school, they might find their future employers are not tolerant of missing deadlines or failing to meet quality standards which could result in a worse outcome for the individual — called unemployment!

There are numerous school board elections across the state on Nov. 2, and our children deserve the proper leadership that instills personal accountability, not mediocrity, in the educational process.

Bill Mahre, Hugo


I became a school bus driver around 30 years ago because it worked with my kids' schedules for school, but I also needed to take care of my family financially. I remember my first experience at the contract negotiating table with the school district. I left the meeting feeling like the school administrators didn't care about bus drivers.

I wish I could say times have changed, but I now sit at bargaining tables across the state as executive director of my union and these administrators — who now make $100,000 to $190,000 a year plus paid time off, retirement and bonuses — allow bus shortages to get worse while more and more money goes into their pockets.

But it's not their money — it is the taxpayers' money, and I know community members would want their money to be spent differently than how it is now.

Many bus drivers and school staff work two and three jobs just to be able to pay their rent. This is not how we should take care of our workers! They need unemployment; most people don't know that hourly school workers don't get paid during the spring break or the holiday break and never for summers. They are always playing catch-up.

It is time for a real change! The people who take care of our kids need to be recognized for the work that they do. They are the essential workers, and they care for our kids. I know the community values them more, and we need school districts to reflect that by making pay and benefits fair for all school staff.

Kelly Gibbons, West St. Paul

The writer is executive director of SEIU Local 284.


What group is holding up basic protections? Starts with an R ...

The Star Tribune's Oct. 8 editorial "OK, lawmakers: Step up on COVID" makes a great point, but not until literally the last sentence does the piece point out that it's Republicans, individually and as a political party, who have been unwilling to support creation of a lifesaving, consistent policy for fighting COVID, whether through universal mask mandates in schools or other measures. It's Republicans who refused to support continuation of Gov. Walz's emergency powers in dealing with the pandemic, and it's Republicans who threaten to oust Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm for no reason other than that she's doing her job.

The editorial ran on the same day that the Star Tribune's lead story on the front page was "School COVID-19 spread remains high." If the editorial's goal is to advocate for action that will protect the state's children and broader citizenry, it needs to be clear that today's Trumpist Republican Party is one of the biggest obstacles we face.

(I'm a member of the Winona Area Public Schools Board.)

Steven Schild, Winona, Minn.


Potentially, but not like this

I'll start with my opinion that, if designed properly, rent control initiatives can protect tenants from large rent increases while not discouraging investment in rental housing ("Reject efforts to add rent control," editorial, Oct. 9). But it's hard to get behind either the Minneapolis or St. Paul proposal. Through my consulting work I've studied various rent control approaches and have concluded that there are three general standards for sustainable rent control: 1) Clearly identify the properties to be regulated and the method for which the rents are allowed to increase. 2) Allow for a financial return to the property owner consistent with similar-risk alternative investments. 3) Have a simple process for administration, one that is predictable and minimizes legal cost.

Based on the information now available, it is not clear whether either city would meet those standards, and the consequences of doing rent control poorly are well documented. The proposal for St. Paul has a stringent 3% cap on rent increases, and while it allows exceptions to provide owners a fair return, there is no guidance regarding what constitutes "fair" (and exceptions are obtainable only through what is likely to become a very congested appeals process). It is hard to imagine how this system would not discourage rental investment. The Minneapolis proposal, which empowers the City Council to design and adopt a rent control program, could well meet the standards. But based on the actions of the current council, this is a big risk.

Chip Halbach, Minneapolis


I bought my first house on the East Side of St. Paul when I was single and working, in 1996.

Since then, I got married and had a son, and we lived in that house for 20 years. As our son grew we needed more space, so we moved about a mile away, still on the East Side. My father-in-law had passed away and left us some money, so we were able to keep that first house as a rental. We are literally mom-and-pop landlords.

We're good landlords, and we've been able to keep the rents reasonable. We raise the rent about 1% a year. We're glad to provide housing that's stable for people who need it and make a reasonable return.

What we know — and many who oppose rent stabilization seem to ignore — is that whether or not we make a bunch of money on rent, we certainly make it in property value. Our house is approaching the crazy valuations from before the mortgage crisis again.

We support the Keep St. Paul campaign to stabilize rents. Our son goes to a great St. Paul public school on the East Side, and a lot of his schoolmates are renters. It's better for him, for them and for us if no one has to move because a landlord raised the rent too quickly.

We are voting "yes" on rent stabilization this November.

Wendy Slade, St. Paul

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