I was somewhat puzzled by the Star Tribune’s recent coverage of the constitutional amendment proposed by Minneapolis Federal Reserve Chair Neel Kashkari and former state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page (“Quality schools a constitutional right?” front page, Jan. 8). Lost in the Star Tribune’s “he said/she said” framing of the proposal was a clear picture of the material policy differences that would arise from such an amendment.
Minnesota’s Constitution already guarantees a “thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” The amendment reframes this in the more progressive-sounding vocabulary of “fundamental rights” and “participation in the economy.” It’s certainly a more inspiring piece of rhetoric, but these are largely cosmetic tweaks that don’t fundamentally change the state’s obligations. In practical terms, the key difference appears to be the removal of a stipulation that the state’s system of public schools must be “uniform” (but “uniform achievement standards” would still be required).
Why would these esteemed local leaders go to such lengths to effect such a minor change? Could it have anything to do with the pending case of Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota? Cruz-Guzman represents an existential threat to the hyper-segregated system of public charter schools established by so-called “education reform” advocates. Surely Kashkari is aware of these implications, given his support for expanding charter schools when he led the GOP ticket in the 2014 California gubernatorial election.
Minnesota suffers when the intentions of its leaders are not sufficiently scrutinized. I hope the Star Tribune can offer clarity in what is sure to be a contentious public debate.
Sam Daub, Minneapolis
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Page and Kashkari propose a change to the state’s Constitution that would guarantee all children the right to a quality public education. Though the amendment highlights a problem we have recognized for a long time, it doesn’t address the reasons for the disparity, nor give any solutions. I’m afraid this is not helpful. There are many reasons for the disparity in scores. The amendment seems to assume that giving one more mandate will automatically solve the problem.
For children to learn, they need good teachers (competitive salaries and good work environments) and good schools (safe and updated). Both of these require adequate funding. We need programs that address special needs (often mandated, but not properly funded).
However, children also need stability in housing, access to books and educational opportunities outside of school, adequate nutrition, parents who are not struggling to make ends meet to the degree that they can’t supervise or help students with homework, adequate health care, and parental involvement with the schools. All have been shown to make a difference in academic success.
What we need are solutions to help equalize these factors among all groups. Then we will see the disparities lessen.
I’m afraid that changing the state Constitution will simply put one more demand on the schools without recognizing that equalizing economic opportunities, providing adequate housing, giving support to parents and involving them in the schools, and community programs that help families provide good nutrition and health care are needs that must be addressed for change to occur.
Mary Rogers, Edina
Would you deny your own ancestor?
I expected discouraging headlines in Wednesday’s paper about the situation in Iran and the tragic shooting of a police officer in Waseca (“Officer’s shooting shocks Waseca,” front page). I did not expect the devastating news that the Beltrami County commissioners voted to deny refugee resettlement in their county, notwithstanding Gov. Tim Walz submitting a letter of consent to allow resettlement in the state in September (“Beltrami County prohibits refugees; others table vote,” Jan. 8).
As I look at the photograph of the meeting, I see people who may well have the same western European lineage that I do. Like me, they are descendants of immigrants to this country. It puzzles me that, with this legacy, they would choose not to welcome a refugee — a person who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.
Apparently one concern was that refugees would be a burden because the county was having enough trouble taking care of its own people. I invite those holding this concern to visit the English classes in which I volunteer at Minneapolis Adult Education. The students — who have come here from Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia — write paragraphs about their jobs. They describe their work as personal care attendants, wheelchair pushers at the airport, dishwashers in restaurants, school bus drivers, package scanners at Amazon and food servers. They do this work — and learn English — with uncommon grit and grace, with endurance and enthusiasm that I could not muster. It is they who are taking care of my community.
Deborah Schmedemann, Minneapolis
GOP ‘BLOWBACK’ ON IRAN
What term do the Dems get, then?
I wonder why the fact that two Republican senators, both previously known for their disagreement with the president over policies in the Middle East, breaking away from the president on Iran was considered a “GOP blowback” in a front-page headline (“Trump’s Iran decisions bring GOP blowback,” Jan. 9), but the fact that a “half-dozen” Democratic senators who broke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her delay in sending articles of impeachment to the Senate is buried in an article on Page A4 (“McConnell, Pelosi in deadlock over impeachment trial,” Jan. 9)? Does the Star Tribune consider this reporting fair?
Kevin Tauer, Edina
ENBRIDGE OIL PIPELINE
Decision isn’t made in a vacuum
The discussion around Enbridge Line 3 often morphs into one about jobs vs. the environment, or opponents of the pipeline being accused of unwittingly supporting more oil spills from the rail car shipments that result without a new pipeline (“Enbridge Line 3 debate shows no signs of stopping in Duluth,” Dec. 20). What this discussion misses is the broader context for why those of us who oppose Line 3 consider it part of a larger story.
Every decision and every investment that is made today must take into account how it may damage the climate. There is widespread scientific consensus that human activity is damaging the climate, and institutions like the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hardly a radical organization, have highlighted the need to reduce emissions by nearly half by 2030 to avoid their most catastrophic impacts.
In addition, the potential carbon emissions from proven fossil fuel reserves far outweigh the emissions that can be released while staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius in warming. The only conclusion then is to stop them from being burned.
Line 3 must be viewed through this lens. This is not a single pipeline in isolation. This is about the infrastructure that will be utilized over the coming decades, up to and beyond 2050, by which time we need to completely decarbonize. Continuing to invest in fossil-fuel infrastructure is simply incompatible with these long-term targets.
Instead, let’s invest in a sustainable future and begin rapid deployment of the available, proven technologies that promote a cleaner environment, healthier people and a healthier planet.
We need energy, but we do not need tar sands oil. Enbridge needs the pipeline, not us.
Daniel Tikk, St. Paul
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