There are good reasons for maintaining it

Once again the Star Tribune Editorial Board has come out for changing the tenure law (March 14) so that as we lay off teachers we keep the “effective” ones.

To start with, I have a great idea. Let’s fund education in 2014-15 at the same level adjusted for inflation as 2004-05. One recent report from the Minnesota School Boards Association found that this alone would increase education funding per student by almost $700. That alone would prevent us from making any cuts in the first place.

Second, what does “effective” mean? Since even under the new teacher evaluation law teachers are observed only once a year, it always means test scores. So how do we compare a teacher who only teaches gifted and talented students with one who works with those who are struggling? What about the 60 percent of teachers who teach in an area where no standardized test exists?

The reason we have tenure is simple. Districts would have an economic incentive to lay off more-expensive teachers first. Let’s start by calculating what it truly costs to educate a child, and then fund it.

Marc Doepner-Hove, Mound

• • •

The editorial ignored the rigorous evaluations in place before achieving tenure. It also ignored existing processes to remove teachers. These powers simply require due process.

Worse, the editorial ignored the most obvious threat to professionals — replacement by cheap, new graduates or volunteers in the name of austerity.

Reasonable protections for teachers exist to protect tireless, devoted professionals from retribution for:

• Supporting academic integrity.

• Assigning real literature like Steinbeck or Twain.

• Speaking out to protect students.

• Insisting on academic freedom.

• Whistleblowing.

• Writing letters to the editor.

Ultimately, the corporate movement to eliminate tenure has yet to prove tenure has an impact on performance. Schools with teacher tenure rank among both the best and the worst in America. Instead of attacking professionals in the height of their career, let’s support them and educate our children.

Nathan Gauslin, Brooklyn Park



There’s no point in wasting their talents

We have only one time to get it right with our children. Contrary to the opinion of a March 12 letter writer opposed to the flight of such students from Minneapolis schools, I strongly believe that students who are gifted-talented should be placed in schools where they will be exposed to the challenges that will make them tomorrow’s leaders. To have them in a so-so system waiting for it to improve is a waste of their gifts.

Guss Krake, Silver Bay, Minn.



The first important step is to repeal the 2013 tax

While we support the creation of a broadband fund, as suggested by former legislators Dan Dorman and Margaret Anderson Kelliher in a March 10 commentary and challenged by Charlie Schmidt on March 13, this should not come before the Legislature repeals the regressive tax on telecommunications equipment it put in place last year.

Restoring the state’s sales-tax exemption on telecommunications equipment, a tax no other industry is subject to, will ensure that Minnesota remains a focus for private-sector investment in telecommunications infrastructure. Economic studies point out that any lost sales-tax revenue is more than made up for in the industry’s positive economic impact on the state’s GDP. The telecommunications industry has invested more than $5 billion in the last six years alone.

The industry is working hard to reach every corner of Minnesota. While a broadband fund could help our efforts in areas that are very difficult to reach, let’s not continue to hamper the private sector’s ability to maintain and expand by leaving the telecommunications equipment sales tax in place.

Brent Christensen and Mike Martin


Christensen is president of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance. Martin is executive director of the Minnesota Cable Communications Association.



The outcome need not be terrible

Jon Tevlin’s March 12 column on PolyMet advertisements (“PolyMet used boys’ hockey tournament to burnish image”) featured a photo of the Flambeau Copper Mine in Ladysmith, Wis. First, the caption incorrectly identified the period of mining. The mine was open from 1993 (not 1933) to 1997. Second, it might have been of service to readers to have also run a more recent photo of the reclaimed Flambeau Mine site, in which not a trace of this hole or bare rock is visible. Visitors to the site today can hike, horseback ride or snowshoe on a beautiful wetland and prairie that bears no visible sign of the mine. The Flambeau Mine site is monitored, and to date it has met or bettered all of the environmental requirements placed upon the company by state and federal laws. The technology for mining and mine-site reclamation have had decades to improve yet further since the Flambeau Mine closed.

It is certainly possible to have a mine in our region that can be both an economic and an environmental success. The trick is coming up with and implementing the proper mine plan, legislative requirements and environmental controls.

William S. Cordua, River Falls, Wis.