As a former teacher, I was disturbed by the opening line in the front-page Tuesday article "A solution to educational inequity?" in which the writer states that Minnesota has "a long and well-documented history of shortchanging students of color." I read the rest of the article expecting the writer to share some of this documentation, but I found nothing.
Certainly we can agree that there is a significant achievement gap between students of color and white students. There are many reasons for this, and all schools are working to address this problem. I guarantee you that teachers at every school in the state come early in the morning and stay late after school to help struggling students one-on-one or in small groups. In addition, the government has spent billions of dollars on Head Start and other programs to raise the performance levels of all students. If the writer is suggesting that this achievement gap is caused by schools, teachers and the government "shortchanging" students of color, please provide some facts to support that argument.
Nat Robbins, Minneapolis
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The opening phrase that Minnesota has a "long and well-documented history of shortchanging students of color" belongs in an opinion piece, not in what should be a neutral opening to a "news" article. Yes, Minnesota has a long history of lower performance for students of color. Whether this is a result of schools (or the state) shortchanging some students or due to other factors that are less directly under schools' control is a key element in the debate over the wisdom of the proposed quality-education amendment. This is a difficult discussion about an important issue. Don't throw it off track with biased reporting.
Ross Moen, Golden Valley
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As the past president of Ready 4K and later as an executive at Think Small, I read accounts of attempts to close the achievement gap with increasing frustration. One current idea is a constitutional amendment to require quality in public education. Great.
The trouble is that the need is now and the smartest place to invest now is in quality early learning, in whatever setting that occurs. We know what works; study after study has demonstrated that with well-trained staff in good settings children will be ready to thrive in kindergarten.
Indeed, my friend and colleague Art Rolnick, a retired economist from the Federal Reserve, has demonstrated that the single best public investment we can make is in quality early learning. No one has proven him wrong.
A wide range of people from different political views know this. Two years ago I co-chaired a study with a terrific leader, Jan Kruchoski of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board, and we issued "A Roadmap for Action" with practical, workable ideas to get the job done.
The benefits to Minnesotans for such investment would be enormous. The Wilder Foundation showed that for every Minnesota child from a low-income family that has access to quality early learning there is a net taxpayer benefit of $43,000.
In this period of COVID-19 the stakes could not be higher. Children from birth to age 5 have only one chance to get on the right track. Support them, their parents and early childhood providers.
Please, leaders, act now. Invest sufficient dollars now to move the needle on Minnesota's achievement gap.
Todd Otis, Minneapolis
The writer is a former DFL state representative.
First, close the loopholes
In response to Lee Lynch's "Please raise my taxes; I can afford it" (Opinion Exchange, Feb. 2), it is admirable to desire a reversal of such runaway inequities among classes within our society. However, the blunt tool of raising tax rates is fueling the flight to dodge tax obligations. The true problem is the vast number of methods wealthy individuals have to select from to shield themselves from paying taxes. The first priority should be reform in the allowance of individuals to play games through claiming residence in tax-friendly states, use of tax shields such as trusts and other unnecessary tax loopholes. If you are comfortable in paying more in taxes, then make your personal contributions. But if you simply want to prioritize the use of a higher tax rate, you will drive more individuals out of Minnesota.
I personally am a CEO of a growth company in Minnesota. I bear the risk of hiring employees and ensuring that they have a comfortable wage level relative to their contributions. One of the toughest aspects of recruiting personnel to join our company in Minnesota is the punitive tax rates. The elephant in the room that is not being discussed is the absurd waste, fraud and abuse of public spending. Just think back to the ridiculous amount of money wasted on Minnesota driver's license system.
Paul Bottum, Stillwater
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News flash to Lee Lynch! Up to a certain point both you and Warren Buffett have to have to pay your taxes: They are mandatory. However, after you pay your mandatory taxes, you are free to give the government all the money that you wish if you feel you're not paying your fair share!
Kit Dahl, Wayzata
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Lynch is spot on in advocating for higher taxes for people who can readily afford to pay more as one way of addressing the increasing disparity in wealth of middle-class Americans. Let's focus our discussions not on how much we pay but instead on what we need from our government to make Minnesota a great state for all citizens.
For me, comfortably retired but certainly not a .01-percenter, I'm happy to pay more taxes if my money is spent wisely on education and other needs that are critical to the success of the people of this state, particularly the endangered and dwindling middle class. A stable democracy cannot survive without a strong and healthy middle class, so rather than tax breaks for people who can afford to pay more, let's invest in the future of our children by properly funding education and other programs that will reduce poverty and enhance our middle class. Trickle Down economics has been a proven failure several times over; how about we give Trickle Up a try?
Lindsay Arthur, Minnetonka
Democrats, take this compromise
Many of my fellow Democrats want President Joe Biden to pass a COVID relief package with Democrats alone rather than compromise with 10 Senate Republicans ("GOP pitches Biden on smaller aid plan," front page, Feb. 2). I disagree. Here are four reasons to compromise:
First, it's a decent deal. It is pretty large, with plenty of money for the most critical element: vaccine distribution. I'd like more for opening schools and extending unemployment, but Biden can bargain for that.
Second, Biden campaigned on unity and bipartisan dealmaking, and he won't get many better chances.
Third, Democrats must use budget reconciliation to act alone. We can only have two or three such bills before the 2022 midterms; after that, the window probably closes. By not using reconciliation now, Democrats can address other priorities (green infrastructure, anyone?) later, including items left out of a COVID deal.
Finally, a deal may strengthen more moderate Senate Republicans fighting for control of their party. The Capitol attack showed that party went off the rails under former President Donald Trump. Somehow we must lower the temperature. Working with more reasonable leaders is one way Democrats can help reduce our national fever, while vaccine distribution does that more literally.
Brett McDonnell, Minneapolis
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