The outrage at the purchase of reading materials for public schools that were found to be “laden with cultural and racial stereotypes” may be well-founded, and parents’ concerns deserve to be listened to by the school district and the publisher (“School books spark outrage,” Sept. 10).

The most concerning part of the whole article, or the real outrage, is top administrators buying $1.2 million of books and saying that “they never thoroughly reviewed the content” and admitting, “We didn’t vet the material.” The money matters, but how about not knowing what the children are being taught? That doesn’t help any achievement gap.

If they were too busy to inform themselves about this program, how do they know “they are not going to find a better program?” Does this same thing happen with other curriculum?

It sounds like this can get worked out, and the receptive publisher will have a better product in the end and so will the kids. In the meantime, congratulations to the parents and teachers who paid attention to their kids’ schooling and addressed the issue.

Cherie Doyle Riesenberg, St. Paul

The writer is a former curator and faculty member at Macalester College in St. Paul and co-founder of Seven Hills Classical Academy (now Seven Hills Preparatory Academy), a charter school in Bloomington.

LITERACY

Don’t demoralize reading volunteers; value them

As the volunteer coordinator for a large, first-ring suburban school district that serves a diverse student population, I have concerns about the recent Star Tribune editorial “A call to action for improved literacy” (Sept. 4). It portrays volunteer tutors as well-meaning but as essentially failing students because they are poorly trained — that simply listening to children read or reading to a child is inadequate.

While school districts, including ours, offer volunteers additional training to maximize the impact they have during their time with students, I feel the editorial undermines the value of the relationship that develops between the student and the volunteer and the potential outcomes — even when the volunteer is simply listening to the child or reading to the child. Having that supportive, encouraging and consistent volunteer presence can make all the difference in the world toward helping a child develop a sense of capacity as a learner.

Research supports that for a child to read to a volunteer (and also to a canine through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program) has a profound benefit of changing a student’s attitude about reading. Teachers report that students’ confidence in reading, overall behavior and attitudes about school often improve, as well.

My hope is the thousands of devoted, compassionate and generous volunteers, who are an integral part of our schools, are not discouraged by the editorial’s message that I feel marginalizes their important contribution. Our district recognizes that all volunteers are valued partners in educating our students and affirms that they truly make a positive difference.

Jill Kaufman, New Hope

 

UCARE

For our health plan, bidding process was strong medicine

The Star Tribune has provided excellent coverage of the outcome of the bidding process for Minnesota’s two primary public health insurance programs and the drama that has since unfolded. It is truly unfortunate that UCare, which has been selected in previous years but not for 2016, has resorted to stoking unnecessary flames of fear and ridiculous cries of foul in the courts and the media.

As Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson outlined (“Counterpoint: Minnesotans benefit from competitive bidding on health insurance,” Sept. 7), the Department of Human Services embarked on bidding to end what had become regular increases to insurers and to provide incentive and provoke innovation. Thus, there are now winners and losers. My colleagues and I know this very well. After losing two-thirds of the members in our plan in the last bidding process, we were charged with reinventing it. Now we have Hennepin Health, a model that focuses on prevention, coordination of care and integration of social services to improve health. We have saved money, improved patients’ lives and gained national attention. We also emerged victorious in this year’s state bidding process.

UCare’s flailing efforts to unwind the process should stop. As should any suggestion that a change in insurer means an automatic change in one’s doctor or provider. Nearly all insurers have networks that include the same providers. Patients in Hennepin County will almost certainly not have to change.

Public money for health care is precious. Competition in the name of efficiency must be embraced. There is nothing to fear for patients and the benefits are clear — new approaches that improve health and incredible monetary savings for Minnesota taxpayers.

Mike Opat, Robbinsdale

The writer is a member of the Hennepin County Board.

 

VA HEALTH CARE

The system’s bureaucracy is truly dysfunctional

The constant criticism of Department of Veterans Affairs health care needs clarification. The health care my husband has received has been excellent. The medical staff has provided thorough, professional and lifesaving health care. Even the general staff has been most caring and helpful. The problem is the bureaucratic system. The VA system of scheduling, phoning, informing and all other aspects of such a large organization needs to be improved. Make sure your editorials and columns make the distinction between health care and health systems. It must be so demoralizing to the medical staff to hear all the negative criticism of the VA. As a side note, haven’t we all encountered dysfunctional business systems in other fields?

Jo Brinda, Crystal

• • •

Since mid-April, I have been shuttled between six clinics at the Minneapolis VA, each trying to deal with my symptoms. The latest fiasco occurred recently in the Spine Clinic. I had a 1:30 appointment and arrived 15 minutes early, as requested. When I had not been called by 3:30, I went to the desk to inquire as to what was going on. The lady said she would find out. Ten minutes later she returned to inform me there were now 11 patients ahead of me! “What?” I screeched. “That would keep me here until 8 or 9.” I said I couldn’t stay that long and would need a new appointment. I got one — Oct. 19! Who says the VA is shaping up?

David Valen, Plymouth

 

REMEMBERING MARTIN MILNER

I am one of the thousands he inspired to join the LAPD

I read with sadness that Martin Milner had died (“Martin Milner, clean-cut 1960s TV star, dies at 83,” Sept. 9).

You see, it was Milner — who played Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Pete Malloy on the TV show “Adam 12,” along with his partner, Kent McCord, who played Officer Jim Reed — who enticed me to become a Los Angeles police officer.

I started watching the show in San Diego in 1968 after my return from Vietnam, and continued watching it when I was transferred to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Finally, in 1972, I left Navy blue for LAPD blue.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, upon hearing of Milner’s death, said “the show inspired thousands of men and women to become LAPD officers.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement that “Adam 12” revealed that the LAPD was “the pinnacle of law enforcement excellence and carried this vision to a national audience.”

I never did work “1-Adam-12,” which the two worked, but I did work “8-Adam-12,” and when the show ceased in 1975, I was given the magnetic seal that adorned the Adam 12 car.

I still have it.

Ted Storck, Morris, Minn.

 

PRESIDENTIAL QUALITIES

How about humility?

The Sept. 10 edition of the Star Tribune had an excellent article by Fred Zimmerman about the qualifications for a president (“A list of presidential qualifications”). They included trustworthiness, empathy, prudence, justice and appreciation of the executive job. It seems that an ounce of humility would also be complementary to the aforementioned attributes. Thanks for alerting us to consideration for our next president.

Lynne Rigg, Red Wing, Minn.