Campaign bribery of judges legalized

Minnesota's independent judiciary may soon end. The U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision set a false precedent that corporations may make unlimited contributions to elect or defeat candidates in our state. The precedent is false because the core question -- whether corporations qualify as persons -- has never been formally decided, but was falsely cited as precedent by a court reporter in the 1866 case, Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad.

Just recently, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed a suit to challenge Minnesota Statute Chapter 211B.15, subdivision 2, which prohibits corporations from making contributions "directly or indirectly" to candidates. If the Supreme Court precedent in Citizens United is applied as it was written only weeks ago, then the Chamber will win.

Here in Minnesota, our judges are elected public servants who must raise money to finance their re-election campaigns. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has unofficially given the green light for judges to accept "cash for verdicts" in Minnesota. All Americans must agree: bribery should never be protected speech. Our campaign finance laws are already too weak to prevent legislative candidates from accepting "cash for votes." While this practice of "quid pro quo" is technically illegal, the burden of proof is often beyond reach even in the most flagrant cases.

If a Minnesota corporation knowingly develops a product that they expect to kill customers, then there is no longer any impartial, uncorrupted process to hold that corporation accountable in any of our three branches of government. Minnesota judges are prohibited from directly soliciting contributions from donors, in order to prevent exactly the sort of judicial corruption that this precedent makes possible. However, corporations and corporate proxies will be able to offer unsolicited donations to any party. As a result, corporate bribery should easily be expected to dwarf any sum a judge could raise independently.

Our independent judiciary is dead. Now, what are you going to do about it?


Helping kids learn to be prepared

Imagine the home carpenter you just hired asks to borrow your hammer. "Where is yours?" you ask. "I forgot it at home" would be the reply. Based on past school experience, the carpenter expects to exchange a shoe for the needed supply.

In my 20 years in education, I have heard students saying "I forgot" countless times in response to a teacher's request for needed material, be it a pencil, paper or a completed homework assignment. The student has clearly arrived at class unprepared.

As a parent, it has helped me to tell my kids "I need you to bring your books home from school," even when they claim that they have "no homework tonight." I can then help them stay on top of needed supplies, pending assignments and upcoming test preparations. I know that a scolding at the kitchen table or fussing about the teacher is counterproductive. I know that doing so creates resistance and wastes energy better spent creating a positive habit of being prepared.

As an educator, I want all our students to learn this important life skill by the time they enter the workplace. I also want them to learn that there are consequences in the adult world for being unprepared. I also want our students to understand that there are rewards for being ready -- for being prepared. It is personally satisfying to complete tasks correctly and on time.

As a school, we are going to use our PRIDE program as a vehicle to help students for whom being prepared is a new skill yet to be acquired. Each teacher will review and model with all students what being prepared means in their class. Teachers will use our "Stop and Think" tickets as data collection and they also can use them as conversation points with the child regarding the importance of being prepared and the need to understand individual class procedures.

According to our plan, after a student accumulates five "Stop and Think" tickets, they will be assigned a consequence and parents will be contacted. Consequences will be directly related to fostering the habit of being prepared for classes.

Only working together, child, parent and school, will we make it a successful effort. We have to come together unless we are prepared to give the future carpenter our hammer, the painter our paintbrush and the catering service our frying pan because they have come unprepared.