Thank you for the wonderful news that Minneapolis Public Schools is about to get a new permanent superintendent ("Finalist states her case for MPS post," Nov. 30). There are some urgent needs. MPS has the space to serve 40,000 students, yet enrollment is just 27,000 students. Clearly, some schools will need to be closed, consolidated or repurposed. As the adage goes, the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging. The same thing applies when you are racing toward a fiscal cliff. Stop wasting money!
According to a Nov. 16 Star Tribune article, the school district will be voting on a resolution in December 2023 to audit the district's real estate holdings. Inexplicably, however, "District officials will make their final recommendations during the 2025-26 academic year," meaning that actual changes will happen after that. A quick glance online reveals that MPS has around 15 schools with less than 250 students. Tough decisions on which schools to close, consolidate or repurpose clearly should be made in months, not years. MPS students deserve better!
MPS launched a Comprehensive District Design recently that disrupted many students and families by changing enrollment boundaries. Hundreds of students had to change schools. Despite this major disruption, MPS failed to close any schools when the plan was implemented. Obviously, this was a huge missed opportunity, and now more disruption is inevitable. MPS has great teachers and needs competent leaders.
A few years ago, MPS conducted its own research on why families were leaving and learned there were concerns about lack of academic rigor, safety concerns and lack of a welcoming feeling. These persistent problems must be addressed or students will continue to depart. Meanwhile, across the river, St. Paul Public Schools confronted its declining enrollment and made the difficult decision to close six schools. As a result, it is on sounder financial footing than MPS and is not wasting money on empty spaces or excess principals. The new MPS superintendent would do well to consult with Minnesota Superintendent of the Year Joe Gothard in St Paul. Gothard has courageously addressed district capacity issues that the brain trust at the MPS Davis Center has consistently kicked down the road.
Patricia Praus, Minneapolis
How are we helping or hindering?
As a parent of three children in Roseville schools, news of students bringing guns to school is harrowing. As a clinical social work student providing therapy to children, I'd like to add an individual thing we as adults and parents can do about this. The deteriorating mental health of our kids, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is well documented. The most recent Minnesota Student Survey Report by the Department of Education shows more Minnesota kids are feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods, unsafe at school, greater anxiety and increased bullying. A potential sign of anxiety that may be missing from our assessments and research is whether some kids deal with being anxious/scared by becoming scary themselves (i.e., carrying weapons, intimidating others, etc.).
It's normal and easy to assign blame for this tragic reality we live in. I hear things like parenting, mental health and the guns themselves. There's truth to all of these, and we should increase our capacity to hold multiple truths to craft holistic solutions. My added recommendation is for us as adults to look inward and ask, how do I deal with my fears? Do I know how to address my own anxiety? Am I modeling this for the kids around me? Have I helped normalize mental health care practices? (This doesn't have to be about seeing a therapist but could be if needed.) Let's not accept simplistic answers. Instead, let's hold multiple answers, include ourselves as change agents to this problem and collectively work to help kids feel safe.
Michael Berry, Maplewood
Still a chaotic, expensive mess
I regret that so many Minnesotans struggle with skyrocketing health care costs ("Health care cost $581 more per insured person last year," Nov. 30). I am fortunate to find my own inflated medical costs to be merely annoying, not financially devastating. Yet I find it hard to live with the increasing portion of public wealth consumed by this growing fiscal beast, not to mention the suffering of my fellow, less-privileged, Minnesotans.
In exploring the reasons for the problem, we should avoid familiar myths. American clinical personnel are, on average, excellent, and it is not their practices that cause our high health care prices. Nor is it the often-maligned fee-for-service payment system, which is used by countries whose health systems cost far less than ours. Nor is it our own demand for service, as those countries have as many hypochondriacs as we do.
Comparative studies point to the fragmented nature of the American health care landscape, divided as it is by uncoordinated and duplicative private enterprises. Evidence is provided by measures like our extraordinary administrative overhead costs, the time spent by medical personnel hassling with multiple insurance companies and similar inefficiencies. Until we have an integrated and comprehensive national health care system, don't be surprised by more such articles in the future.
Joel Clemmer, St. Paul
"Health care cost $581 more per insured person last year" lays out how problematic the health care industry is. Health care is becoming increasingly less affordable due to the historically rising cost of 5 to 6% each year. What is more shocking to learn is that UnitedHealth Group, a medical insurance company based in Minnetonka, expects to see revenue growth of around $30 billion next year. Highly profitable health care companies aren't the only ones making money off the sick and needy. Pharmaceutical companies make a fortune off customers who have no choice but to pay a premium for medicine they cannot live without. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, 300,000 residents are without health insurance, a number that is sure to grow as prices continue to increase. I believe the solution to this problem is not allowing the health care industry to be for-profit. If these companies are truly focused on patient care, they need to stop profiting off those they claim to protect.
Elizabeth Crane, St. Peter, Minn.
Let me get this straight. Downtown has been in a death spiral since the COVID-19 pandemic. Minneapolis is short hundreds of police officers. The perception of public safety is at a near all-time low and homeless encampments are popping up all throughout the city. With all of that and more going on, the Minneapolis City Council honestly believes that the highest and best use of its time is to close the one cigar lounge in Minneapolis? ("Push against indoor smoking may doom Uptown cigar lounge," Nov. 30.) If the City Council's job description could be distilled into just one function, it might well be to promote and ensure public safety. Maybe the City Council should focus on that before spending its valuable time worrying about closing a business in Uptown's already struggling commercial corridor.
Brent Hall, Edina