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.

3/28/2005

Virtual Rally!

Thursday March 31, 2005
Statewide Virtual Rally
7am- 1pm

They saw us at the rally in February, now they need to hear us.

Even if you have talked with your House member and Senator this week, you need to be part of the unified effort this coming Thursday.

If each of you gets five people to call,
we would have over 20,000 calls in 6 hours.

- Flyer -
(print and broadly distribute!)

Please send it on to as many others as you can.

What's a Virtual Rally?
A virtual rally is when parents, students, teachers, community leaders and other friends of public education make their voices heard at the State Capitol by calling lawmakers on one day, at one time, with one unified message.

Our goal is to let legislators know that we didn't go away after the Statewide Rally for Public Schools in March. We're watching them work. And we will remember what they do for our public schools.

When is the Virtual Rally?
7 a.m. - 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31

Why a Virtual Rally Now?
Time is running out on the legislative session—and on our opportunity to secure adequate funding for public schools.

Lawmakers saw us at the Rally for Public Education in February, now they must hear us Thursday, March 31—before important budget decisions are made.

How Can People join the Virtual Rally?
It's easy to get involved. All people have to do is pick up the phone between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31 and:

  • Call your state representative and state senator;
  • Call Gov. Tim Pawlenty at (651) 296-3391;
  • Call House leader Steve Sviggum at (651) 296-2273;
  • Call Senate leader Dean Johnson at (651) 296-3826; and
  • Invite friends and family to join the Virtual Rally.


What's Our Message?

  • We demand that lawmakers focus on our children's future. We’re tired of smoke & mirrors and tricks & gimmicks. We are focused on our children’s future and expect the same of our elected officials. We are watching and we will remember.
  • We are tired of our schools losing ground. Inadequate funding over the last five years is eroding the quality of our schools. If the legislature doesn’t invest in our schools now, we’ll lose more teachers, class sizes will continue to rise and more opportunities for students will be lost.
  • We demand that lawmakers invest in public schools. Our schools need an increase of $250 per student in each of the next two years.

Need More Information?

- Check Parents United for Public Schools for Tips on Calling Your Legislator

- Contact your local school district.

VIRTUAL RALLY TIPS

Get involved
Participating in a VIRTUAL RALLY is easy. All you have to do is join the thousands of other friends of education from around the state and call your elected officials.

Expect to leave a message
Chances are, you won’t get a lawmaker on the phone. It’s likely that you’ll be asked to leave a message with a staff member or on an answering machine. That’s OK, lawmakers track their messages.

Use your personal phone
Please don’t use your employer’s phone to participate. The message we’re sending is personal and should come from personal equipment.

Don’t hold back
If you get a busy signal, keep trying. It means lawmakers are hearing our important message.

Be polite

Sponsored by the Alliance for Student Achievement.

P.S.—With the rally and all of the attention on school finances in the media, we have done a good job of raising awareness. We need to keep up the momentum. If your legislator is having a town meeting or gathering, make certain your school is represented. If you see your legislator at a community event, take the time to politely thank them for their hard work and urge them to do right by education.

3/25/2005

From The Pioneer Press

Posted on Fri, Mar. 25, 2005

Schools must foster social skill, not just academics



It is a mistake to think that the darkest day in the history of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation is a failure of the Red Lake schools. Red Lake teachers, administrators and community members who toil so hard there to provide education (in an area where perhaps 40 percent of adults are unemployed) are not to blame.

Early media reports about the tragedy reported that Red Lake has "some of the lowest test scores" in the state. That stilted characterization of the Red Lake schools points to the real problem. For reasons of "political accountability," some government officials have decided that the way to close the education gap in low-income/ethnic minority communities is to push for higher test scores: As though educators in these communities, who work against tremendous odds, are shirking and only need the prod of public scrutiny to get learners to perform. (Certainly, the prospect of increased testing is not what made teacher Neva Winnecoup-Rogers choose to return to Red Lake.)

In Minnesota, No Child Left Behind has forced teachers to become information-crammers, rather than the educators most want to be — educators who can perhaps head off mass killings in high schools, and certainly less terrible, less obvious, failures in "invisible" troubled students.

In Minnesota, there is not the time and the support for the teacher to individually greet students in the morning, easing them through conflicts since the previous day that may be getting them down. There is not the time and support for every teacher, every day, to teach the meaning of a community of learners, of an encouraging classroom, in which cooperative communication is used and the need for rejection and bullying of individual students is eliminated.

Many European schools, and virtually all quality early-childhood classrooms in Minnesota, teach for social-emotional competence, the democratic life skills that every citizen needs. The research shows that when teachers are given time and support and actively teach to prevent school-based oppression, such oppression goes down. And individual students vulnerable for the enduring stigma of bullying and victimization are helped to find an acceptable social place in the class.

But what of the student who has lost a father to suicide and a mother with a brain injury to a nursing home, who feels isolated from the school community, who has serious psychiatric difficulties, who harbors deep hostility and jokes about it?

From the beginning — from a well-funded, coordinated preschool system and full-time kindergarten classrooms straight on into college — we need mental health professionals in our schools. These professionals would work with teachers to make their classrooms bullying-free learning communities. They would provide individual screening, assessment and treatment for the sizable number of Minnesota's learners with tangible mental health problems. The mental health professionals would work with other school personnel to build helping, trust-based relationships with families. (Starting with families in preschool would make this task easier than it is now.)

What will it take for our schools to teach for social competence and authentic citizenship, instead of feeling the pressure to teach only for academic performance?

It will take the state actually learning from the spiritual dignity shown by the grieving but courageous residents of Red Lake.

It will take weighing the need for new taxes against the lives of all Minnesotans lost in schools and finally recognizing that new taxes are indeed needed.

It will take reducing state emphasis on academic test scores and fundamentally realizing that schools are here to educate our children for life in a complex, culturally diverse democracy — a multi-dimensional citizenship of which narrow academic skills are only a part.

It will take replacing the current political accountability some officials cling to with a more enlightened 21st century educational accountability.

We believe Minnesota educators would willingly accept this more valid accountability: to optimize the chances of every student to succeed not just in the "academic classroom" but also in everyday life. The hard lesson of the tragedy in Red Lake is that what happens in school is life. Let us hope our political leaders can become more open to what so many citizens now so painfully understand.

Gartrell is a professor of education at Bemidji State University and a former Head Start teacher at Red Lake.

3/05/2005

Let the nutballs howl, Minnesotans want to fund the schools

Doug Stone: Rallying round our hurting schools

March 2, 2005

I've always been proud to live in the land of 10,000 frozen lakes, but never more so than at Monday's education rally at the State Capitol. Along with thousands of other parents, teachers and students, my two grade-school children and I stood in the cold for more than an hour to tell the people who work in the Capitol to pay attention.

Education funding in Minnesota is at a tipping point. We need to make critical and real investments this legislative session to keep our educational programs from deteriorating. That is the message from the inner city of St. Paul to the suburbs of Minneapolis and beyond.

The first speaker Monday was the superintendent of the Edina schools. When the Edina schools are hurting, the rest of us are as well.

What the superintendent's presence suggested was a simple truth: The desire for an excellent public education for all of Minnesota's children is an issue that knows no partisan, geographic or ethnic boundaries. It is a truth that too many political figures have ignored. But they ignore it at their own peril.

These parents are concerned, angry and will not take "no" for an answer. They may disagree about presidential candidates or foreign policy, but they agree on what's best for their children. And if it takes additional revenues (taxes) to pay for their children's education, they are willing to pay their share.

I've sat on an elementary school site council (Webster Magnet) for four years. We are not cutting paper supplies and scissors any longer. Real people -- teachers, aides, and specialists -- are on the chopping block. That means bigger classes, fewer programs and less opportunity for our kids.

The other message that I hope the folks in the Capitol hear is the one from a minister at the rally who talked about how every religious faith depends on the idea of community, of helping each other, especially in times of need.

Public education is the prime civic example of working together for the benefit of all. That spirit was certainly present at the rally. I hope and pray it stays around for the rest of the legislative session. We are all in this together.

Doug Stone, of St. Paul, is director of college relations at Macalester College.

3/01/2005

Again Gunyou gets to the heart of the issue.

John Gunyou: Pawlenty pledge simply isn't a core Minnesota value

March 1, 2005

Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently characterized his no-tax pledge as a core Minnesota value. That's troubling.

The Minnesotans I know value other ideals. We come from diverse walks of life, and even from different political parties, but we share core values born of a common heritage. The no-tax pledge is not among those values.

Nobody likes taxes, but most folks understand they're the price we have to pay for public investments that enable our state to prosper. They're how we support the real core values that have served Minnesota so well for more than a century. Here are the five values on my list:

A quality education is the constitutional right of every Minnesotan. We believe that every child in our state should enter school prepared, be challenged to succeed, and have the opportunity to go to college.

Generations of leaders have understood that education is Minnesota's one true competitive advantage. Yet, that key to our individual and collective futures is being starved a little more every year. We're like the farmer who decided to save money by feeding his horse less and less each day. The plan was working, but just as he taught the horse not to eat anything at all, the darned thing died.

After several years of stagnant funding, Pawlenty's latest budget funds our school needs at less than 50 cents on the dollar. As a result, next year's school property taxes are projected to soar a staggering 23 percent.

The governor's budget also fails to restore his previous cuts to school readiness programs, and only increases college support enough to cover recent enrollment growth. As a result, tuition hikes will price even more Minnesotans out of the education they need to succeed.

Sustainable economic growth is a core value. Minnesota has long served as an economic engine for the Midwest, but our position is weakening.

For our economy to prosper, we have to be able to get there from here. One-third of our state's roads are already classified as "too far gone," because our gas tax has remained stagnant for 17 years. Rather than honestly provide recurring resources, Pawlenty's transportation plan relies on borrowing -- with no real way to pay off the debt. We must adequately fund the public infrastructure necessary to support economic growth and job creation.

Sustainable growth is also dependent on fair and stable taxes, but the governor is so irrationally committed to his no-tax pledge he won't even reform our volatile tax system on a revenue-neutral basis. We need courageous leadership to enact the necessary reform.

Minnesotans believe in selfless commitment to community. We understand it's about us, not just about me. If we see someone stuck in the snow, we stop to help; we don't just keep driving.

Helping people help themselves is a core Minnesota value. That's why we enacted historic bipartisan health care and welfare reforms more than a decade ago -- reforms that are now being systematically unraveled.

Pawlenty's last budget forced 10,000 kids off child care, and his latest budget eliminates 1,000 kids a month. His previous budget also lopped 20,000 children and 18,000 adults off health care. Now he's reneging on his promise to restore medical coverage for those kids, and also cutting another 41,000 workers, parents and others from what he cruelly labels "health care welfare."

Cutting the legs out from under our working class simply costs us all more in the long run. We must reverse the governor's shortsighted cuts, and restore the landmark reform we all worked so hard to enact.

Environmental stewardship is a core Minnesota value. We must carefully balance our economic and recreational needs with environmental preservation and public health to sustain our state's rich natural resources.

Minnesota has still not implemented programs required under the Federal Clean Water Act, which was enacted in the mid-'70s. An estimated 2,000 bodies of water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes are listed as impaired. When we catch a fish in a Minnesota lake, we should be able to eat it.

And finally, fiscal responsibility is a core Minnesota value. We believe in leaving our children a better Minnesota than we inherited from our parents.

We have a long tradition of honestly balancing budgets, spending smarter and investing in the future. The Pawlenty administration is hacking away at successful programs and mortgaging our future. Debt service climbs an astounding 32 percent in his latest budget.

The problem with debt is, you eventually have to pay it back -- there's no such thing as a free lunch. It's like borrowing from your own family. We can have the services now, but the payment comes out of our kids' inheritance. Instead of my daughter's VISA bill coming to me, I have mine delivered to her.

That's not what Minnesota is all about. The governor's no-tax pledge and intergenerational tax shifts are not core Minnesota values.

Education is a core value. Sustainable economic growth is a core value. Helping people help themselves is a core value. A healthy environment is a core value. Leaving our children a better Minnesota is a core value.

These are the real values that make Minnesota the special place I know and love.

John Gunyou is Minnetonka's city manager and was previously Minnesota's finance commissioner in the Carlson administration.