Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


I read with interest the opinion piece by Ted Kolderie ("Why is Minnesota short on teachers?" Opinion Exchange, Aug. 27), the letter "Autonomy matters, but so does salary" (Readers Write, Aug. 29) and the many reader comments. I've being doing research on these issues for three decades and am glad to see data from my research used in these exchanges. But there are some misunderstandings regarding why teachers leave their jobs that are important to clarify.

The best and largest source of data on teachers is the National Teacher Principal Survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. These data have long shown that, compared to many other occupations and professions, teaching has relatively high turnover and that these departures are the main factor behind teacher shortages. The data also document that teaching has relatively low salaries.

When the survey asks departing teachers to indicate the reasons behind their decisions to leave, many report low salaries as an important factor. But the reasons most frequently given by teachers for their departures concern the poor quality of the job and unsatisfactory working conditions. Teachers report that it especially matters how much say they have into the key decisions that impact their work. Teachers often are allowed little input into decisions in the schools, yet are often blamed for the poor results, resulting in frustration and turnover.

Our data analyses show that, net of salary levels, schools with more teacher decisionmaking influence have better teacher retention and also better student achievement.

Richard Ingersoll, Philadelphia

The writer is a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.


Early, proper use of force can prevent a dangerous escalation

Passive-aggressive behavior is a recurring problem for police. It occurs when a person confronted by police verbally refuses to cooperate but without resorting to force or violence; e.g., when a driver stopped by police refuses to get out of the car even after repeated requests. In some cases, the passive-aggressive behavior results in a standoff. In others, it escalates to violence ("Video shows Ohio officer shooting pregnant woman," Sept. 2). Is it the case that police cannot resort to force until the person detained has done so first? If so, authorities have no way to end a standoff. Mild force early in a confrontation can prevent the confrontation from escalating. It might have prevented the officer shooting in Ohio. Had the officers forced George Floyd into the police van early in that now infamous confrontation, he might still be alive.

Passive-aggressive behavior is not just a problem for police. It is a problem for teachers, educational administrators and school resource officers. Our society needs guidelines for legitimate authorities confronted with passive-aggressive resistance, so that when force is legitimately applied, their employers and the courts will stand behind those authorities.

Mark L. Davison, Maple Grove


The shooting of Ta'Kiya Young is a tragedy. I would love to live in a world where officers never needed to unholster, let alone fire, their weapons. But we don't live in that world. In most news reporting and a recent article republished in the Star Tribune, Young is consistently referred to as a "pregnant Black woman," which is accurate but not relevant to why she was shot and implies a racism narrative ("Ta'Kiya Young's family urges officer's arrest after video shows him killing the pregnant Black woman," StarTribune.com, Sept. 1). We need papers, like the Star Tribune, to stop publishing stories that push racially inflammatory narratives.

Young was shot by an officer after she refused to get out of her vehicle and then drove toward him. The article notes the officer may have reasonably feared for his safety. The article then takes the officer to task questioning why he put himself in front of the vehicle — a reasonable question. The article fails to equally take to task Young for refusing to comply with the police officer's demands. Could this have been avoided? Yes, had Young complied it would have been avoided. Yes, had the officer not stood in front of the vehicle it could have been avoided. Yes, if the officers had let her drive away it could have been avoided. Unfortunately, none of those things happened.

The article clearly attempts to place the officer in the worst light possible. And makes racially inflammatory innuendo by saying that Young's "death follows a troubling series of fatal shootings of Black adults and children by Ohio police and numerous occurrences of police brutality against Black people across the nation in recent years ... ."

The media hypes every time a Black person is killed by police. The overhyped reporting focusing almost exclusively on Black people being killed by police is creating a false narrative that these killings are on the rise, with some articles portraying it as an epidemic. The facts are that the killing of Black people by police is on the decline — not on the increase. According to Mapping Police Violence, there were 31 fewer Black people killed by police in 2022 (283) than when it started keeping statistics in 2013 (314). That is a 10% decline. It also reports 28 fewer Black people killed by police through July 2023 than through the same period in 2022. Conversely, 49 more white people were killed by police through July 2023 than through the same period in 2022.

It is troubling when anyone, regardless of race, is killed by police. However, given the nature of the work, it is likely unavoidable. At times, police will make errors in split-second decisions, manage a situation poorly or simply be abusive and/or racist. That happens and should be dealt with accordingly by training, firings and/or prosecutions. But the ongoing media-driven narrative that there is some type of epidemic of Black people being killed by police is factually not accurate and, in my opinion, socially more harmful than helpful to the nation.

Gary Shelton, Prior Lake


Deal with this building, please

Like many residents living in the Third Precinct of Minneapolis, I was sad, angry and dismayed by the circumstances that led to the destruction of the Third Precinct building. I am not here to comment on the civil unrest, but I do wonder how long the residents in the Third Precinct have to endure the constant reminder of that horrible night by looking at the burned-out building that housed the police station. Is it possible for something positive to come of this building? I understand that some people may want to keep this burned-out symbol in our neighborhood, I truly do, but let's do something positive with this building. I do not suggest that we erase what led to the civil unrest, because this is not at all possible. I suggest we turn that building or premises into a park or some kind of housing — or anything but what it is. The residents in this neighborhood should not have to shoulder the responsibility of the entire city for what led to the precinct's destruction.

Cheryl Hunstock, Minneapolis


Younger does not mean wiser

Regarding the Sept. 5 letter to the editor "It's no insult to say age matters": It is one-dimensional to say that any younger person is "more capable [of doing] a better job." That assumes "younger" means "better judgment."

For instance, the prevailing emotion of most younger Republican politicians and activists these days is anger. And for them, anger is a dimension of insanity coming out of frustration with actual facts.

We all know that really bad decisions come out of anger.

Now, I don't like Sen. Mitch McConnell much. But he is a darned sight better at making decisions for Republican policies than a younger angry person.

I think his brain freezes are completely due to his continuing realizations that he is in judgment hell trying to make sense out of the current Republican policies he tries to represent.

Age does matter.

Erwin Rud, Fosston, Minn.