Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

Minnbest is a non-partisan, broad based coalition of parents, educators and school advocacy groups who believe excellent public education is a foundation of democracy in America.


Will they get the message? Make sure they do.

Thousands rally in support of education money

Now make those follow up calls and emails!!!

Patrick Condon,

Associated Press

March 1, 2005

Thousands of parents, students and teachers, bundled up against the freezing cold, waved signs and chanted slogans Monday as they demanded more education money from lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Capitol Security estimated that at least 5,500 people showed up. For K-12 advocates, it was a show of political muscle amid the ongoing battle for tight state resources. "We are not to be deterred,'' Jon Kent, a senior at Hopkins High School, told the cheering throng.

For other groups vying for the same pots of cash, it prompted a serious case of rally envy.

"You look at them and say, 'I wish I could get that many people here,''' said Joel Ulland, director of the Minnesota chapter of the National MS Society.

Interest groups with a point to make or a case to plead often turn to rallies to get attention from elected leaders, garner air time and ink from the media, earn sympathy from the public and fire up their own activists.

"We've noticed that it's gotten a lot ore crowded down at the Capitol,'' said Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which has held an annual anti-abortion rally at the Capitol for 35 years, typically drawing thousands.

It's rare to go more than a day or two at the Capitol without some kind of event. Some, like Monday's rally, hope to impress with sheer numbers.

In his speech to the crowd, Kent demanded that lawmakers and the governor pay heed to the needs of schools. He said classrooms are crowded and resources are dwindling.

"Minnesota will not stand for mediocre education,'' he said.

Other groups press for more one-on-one contact with lawmakers, while some resort to clever gimmicks to get noticed.

"It helps you remember that these aren't just numbers on a balance sheet,'' said Todd Otis, president of Ready4K, an early childhood advocacy group that brought about 1,000 people to the Capitol last week. "These are real people you are affecting.''

Otis' group came with a tailor-made attention-getter: Dozens of small children shouting through megaphones in support of early childhood education programs.

Ulland said advocates for people with disabilities have increasingly turned to coordinating so-called "lobby days'' where they summon their activists to the Capitol to personally meet with the lawmakers who represent their hometowns.

"A lot of these rallies are so generalized,'' Ulland said. "Support health care, or don't support tax cuts, or whatever the case may be. You wonder if it sinks in.''

Legislators themselves must strike a balance as seemingly countless groups compete for attention and limited resources.

"You have to try not to tune it all out,'' said Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Shakopee, chairman of the Education Policy and Reform Committee. "These are good people, they're citizens — they're who we're here to represent.''

Even for lawmakers who become jaded to constant cries for attention, it's hard to ignore a crowd of 5,500 people. "Numbers are the greatest message, they really are,'' Fischbach said.

Big numbers are also the best way to ensure prized media coverage, as evidenced by the TV news helicopters circling over Monday's rally.

"This is bigger than usual,'' said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, as he worked his way through the crowd. "This one will get noticed.''