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School vouchers for low-income parents would further state’s goal of equal opportunity

Article IV of the Minnesota Constitution authorizes the governor to call the state legislature into special session “on extraordinary occasions.” Gov. Mark Dayton, citing the need to “address the serious disparities affecting Minnesotans of color,” wants to summon legislators back to St. Paul soon for such a special assembly. While it is doubtful how much meaningful progress can be made in tackling the North Star State’s shameful racial disparities during a brief, out-of-season session of the legislature, the governor is right that this is indeed an “extraordinary” problem in need of immediate attention. 

Andy Brehm

While our state frequently finds itself sitting atop many national rankings we can be proud of, a major study this year found Minnesota had the worst economic disparity between white and minority citizens in the nation. That’s a disgrace for any state, let alone one with as proud of a civil rights history as ours. 

One important driver of this economic inequality sources back to the poor job some Minnesota schools have done educating minority students. While 85 percent of white students graduate high school on time, fewer than 60 percent of the state’s black and Hispanic students receive a diploma in four years. And the rate for our Native American students is the second worst in the nation at 49 percent.

These reprehensible gaps are even more wrenching for our state’s largest city, Minneapolis, where just 41 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of African-Americans and 34 percent of American Indians leave public schools on time.

Equal opportunity requires we provide the cornerstone of success – a quality education – to every single Minnesota child regardless of race or socioeconomic background. We should be ashamed that we are failing so in this most important of duties to our children. 

More money for education?

So what do we do? Dayton maintains that we spend too little on education. A school’s poor performance, Democrats argue, is a symptom of scarce funding. But the math suggests otherwise. 

Minneapolis’ miserably performing public schools are, in fact, among the best-heeled in the state. While the state spends an average of $11,089 per pupil, Minneapolis appropriates $21,000. 

It is true that the Minneapolis Public School District has more students from families living at or below the poverty line than affluent suburban districts do and thus has unique challenges to face. But just because success is harder does not make it impossible.

Consider a special place called Hope Academy, a private, faith-based school located in a destitute neighborhood in South Minneapolis that has a student population that is 41 percent African-American, 33 percent Hispanic and 21 percent white. Hope has every hurdle of any Minneapolis public school; 77 percent of Hope families live near or below the poverty line. In fact, the percentage of low-income families represented at Hope Academy is higher than that of the Minneapolis Public Schools and more than twice the state and nationwide percentages. 

Remarkable success

Remarkably, however, 81 percent of Hope Academy’s students test at or above grade level in reading and 75 percent in math, compared to 28 percent and 24 percent respectively at neighboring public schools. 100 percent percent of Hope’s student body graduates on time and 95 percent of its alumni is headed to post-secondary institutions 

And the cost for Hope to produce these astonishing results? Around $8,000 per student. When it comes to results, Hope Academy is outpacing — by leaps and bounds — its public counterparts and all with much less money. 

To close the unacceptable achievement gap between white and minority students in Minneapolis, we need to make it possible for every one of them to leave failing public schools and get the kind of education Hope Academy or another private institution can offer.  We can do that by embracing school choice and providing vouchers for low income families in failing school districts to attend the learning institution of their choosing. Abandoning public schools is not the correct course, but forcing them to compete with private institutions or shutter their doors is only fair to the families they are tasked to serve. Competition and choice will drive excellence. 

I agree with Dayton that earmarking $15 million to further more equal opportunity in this state could be money well spent. But those funds should not go to building another community center or expanding government programs. Instead, that money should be distributed to low-income families in the form of vouchers so their children can attend the school – this year — that will serve them best. 

Dayton was blessed with a top-notch secondary school education. Every Minnesotan should have that same opportunity. 

Andy Brehm is a corporate attorney in Minneapolis and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the American Experiment.


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Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/09/2015 - 05:21 am.


    School voucher supporters want to invest in lifeboats, because they have no idea how to prevent the ship from sinking. Our schools have major challenges to address and school vouchers are nothing more than a strategy crafted by those who refuse to deal with them.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/09/2015 - 08:51 am.

    No, School Vouchers Are NOT the Solution, Here

    The solution is to fund the public school system sufficiently,…

    especially in the most stressed inner-city areas,…

    to make sure that every student THERE,..

    has an opportunity to receive an excellent education,…

    as a matter of course.

    School vouchers always and inevitably pull money OUT of the schools all regular kids must attend,…

    and, therefore, are a distraction and a detriment to what we really need to be doing.

    What they ACTUALLY do is play interested parents for suckers,…

    while allowing a few hucksters to get their hands on taxpayer money,…

    in order to pad their own pockets,…

    while providing education of VERY questionable quality.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 12/09/2015 - 04:33 pm.

      It is over $20,000 a year per student for inner city children. How much more would you like to spend? Would $25,000 do it? $30,000 maybe? The hucksters already have their hands on tax payer money and our education for inner city children stinks because of it.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/09/2015 - 05:18 pm.

        $20,000 is less than the best private schools charge per year

        to educate students who have all the advantages, so spending more to educate students without advantages is not a stretch.

        Look at the websites of Breck and Blake for some perspective.

        The one thing I would say is dump most of the administrators and replace them with classroom teachers in order to reduce class size. The elementary school I attended back in the olden days had only 15 students in each kindergarten or first grade class.

  3. Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/09/2015 - 09:16 am.

    Here’s a thought

    If your religion is in need of converts, find them on your own dime. This not even thinly veiled attempt to dismantle the wall between church and state has no place in the educational discussion.

  4. Submitted by David Mindeman on 12/09/2015 - 09:44 am.

    Hope Academy

    Families have to pay a portion of tuition….$600 to $1000 per year. And students are evaluated prior to admission for “school readiness”. Grade 6 and above have to pass an admissions test. If vouchers were in place and Hope could not refuse admission…would numbers be as impressive?

  5. Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/09/2015 - 09:58 am.


    Perhaps the argument might be more convincing were I to believe it’s proponents, the author included, cared a whit about the success of those underprivileged students they claim to champion. As it seems the only aim here is to prostitute these folks out as a means to destroy political opposition (teacher’s unions and the public schools that employ them) I find the argument despicable.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/09/2015 - 10:29 am.

    Segregation won’t erase disparity

    I remind everyone that school vouchers were the brain child of the Christian Right (i.e. Jerry Falwell) back in the 60s. Vouchers were a deliberate effort to re-segregate schools after Brown v. Board of Education. At the time Right Wing Christians were arguing about whether desegregation or abortion were the best “wedge” issues.

    Vouchers eventually morphed into the charter school movement and despite liberal buy-in the effect has been obvious. Americas schools have re-segregated and educational disparity has at best become intransigent, if not more pronounced.

    Right wing policies are a bad idea even when they’re implemented by liberals.

    We HAD an innovative, creative, and responsive public education system until conservatives convinced liberals we needed to get “back to basics” in the late 70s and early 80s. Having demolished the system that had desegregated the schools, and produced generation of well educated Americans, liberals bought into the conservative narrative that only “free markets” could solve all problems. Charter Schools, and subsequent schemes to fund them with public dollars, were the result of magical thinking (i.e. create a market and wait for the magic to happen) albeit with liberal support.

    After two decades (at least) of zero progress if not declining standards it’s time to put this nonsense behind us, not double down on it. Every advanced nation on the planet has acknowledged the fact that a strong public education system is the best way to provide quality education. We need to stop pretending that we’re trying to invent something doesn’t already exist and the sooner we stop wasting time and resources on market “solutions” the better.

    Sure, some charter schools are good, but they’re not better than public schools could be.

    • Submitted by Mike martin on 12/12/2015 - 10:24 pm.

      Charter Schools can go out of business

      if charter schools don’t have any students they go out of business. They stay in business because parents value the education they get in charter schools

      50% of the students living in North Minneapolis DO NOT attend Minneapolis public schools. They attend suburban and charter schools. Black parents are voting with their feet and leaving Mpls. public schools.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Carlson on 12/09/2015 - 10:34 am.

    Vouchers and Equal Opportunity?

    They shouldn’t be used in the same sentence.

    What is the reason for Hope’s success – faith-based? private? limiting who gets in? not taking special needs students? I’d need to know more before I’d argue it is the answer for education in the inner cities.

    Also, why do all the answers I hear from political pundits like Brehm involve giving less money to education. Oh, now I remember, it is because it IS ONLY about money – not student success for all.

    Education revenue as part of all state’s spending has been greatly reduced in the last few decades. How is that a strategy for success in Minnesota – the education state? What is surprising is that given that reduction in priority Minnesota only trails Massachusetts as the best educator of students in the US.

    • Submitted by Eric Andersen on 12/10/2015 - 10:40 am.

      Comparison to Massachusetts

      Do you know what Massachusetts and Minnesota have in common?

      Well organized and effective teacher unions.

      Do you know what the states with the lowest achievement have in common?

      ‘Right To Work’ laws and virtually non-existent teacher unions.

      • Submitted by Mike martin on 12/12/2015 - 10:54 pm.

        MN hass the worst gap iin student achievement

        Right to work state have a smaller achievement gap between blacks & Whites than MN.

        Mississippi may have bad schools but they are equally bad for blacks & whites.

        Minneapolis & St. Paul have the strongest teacher unions (much stronger than suburban & outstate MN) and have the largest achievement gap. Is there a correlation here?

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/16/2015 - 05:22 pm.

          No one has ever been able to explain the mechanism

          by which teachers’ unions harm students.

          The union in St. Paul is currently in mediation and is asking for the following (lifted from their own website, not from an AM radio program), due to concerns about school safety:

          The necessary additional staff, time, and resources to allow schools to meet these needs and adopt a restorative approach to school climate
          Adding social workers, counselors, nurses, and school psychologists
          Proper staffing and common preparation time for our special education and ELL staff so that they have the time and means to make inclusion work
          Meaningful district support, in the form of time and funding, for parent engagement so that classroom teachers can expand their work with parents and build the collaborative relationships necessary for strong school climates
          Smaller class sizes so that strong relationships can be built with students

          Note that they are not asking for more money for themselves.

  8. Submitted by Joe Musich on 12/09/2015 - 04:36 pm.

    Yep !

    Vouchers are a 5th column like attack against truely public education. The original alternative schools were also an entirely different model then charter initiatives of today. Until the general public grapes this intended obfuscation by those who have sold out to corporate for profit education interests progress will behind turmoil.

  9. Submitted by Craig Brooks on 12/09/2015 - 04:39 pm.


    I am a MN person who retired to a WI home on the Mississippi. Don’t do vouchers like WI has done. It is killing our public schools and is clearly part of the nation wide effort by some to privatize our public education system. Don’t do it !

  10. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/09/2015 - 05:44 pm.

    May I remind the voucher advocates that all those countries

    that are outperforming the U.S. on international comparisons are doing so with their PUBLIC school systems and their unionized teachers.

    There is nothing wrong with public schools per se. But having taught the graduates of U.S. public schools for eleven years, I would say that many public schools have been infected by the worst aspects of American culture–anti-intellectualism, sports fanaticism, jingoism, an over-emphasis on assumed vocational usefulness, an over-emphasis on grades over real learning, and, in some cases, stealth evangelism on the part of conservative religious groups.

    If I were education czarina, I would try to reproduce the atmosphere of the best private schools in every public school in America: small classes (a maximum of 15 students per class), low-pressure kindergarten, no standardized tests (in a small class, the teacher would know who was doing well and who was not), a curriculum rich in content (history, geography, natural sciences, literature, art, music, current events, foreign languages), a pleasant learning environment, plenty of lifetime physical activity (recess, as well as swimming, running, cycling, intramural sports) but no varsity sports, and vocational education for the non-college bound at age 16, but only after studying that enriched curriculum in grades 1-10 and only alongside continued study in English and math.

    We could probably do it for the same amount of money we are spending now by doing away with a couple of layers of administrators and all varsity sports teams.

  11. Submitted by Pat Missling on 12/09/2015 - 06:17 pm.

    apples to oranges

    Hope Academy and other private schools can admit students based on their responses to 8 essay questions, letters of recommendation from an English teacher, math teacher, and a community leader. They can be dismissed from the privilege of attending if they break their pledge to honor and obey the teachers or are not working to achieve their full potential. When potential students don’t make the cut, or they fail in that promise when accepted, they attend public schools – because they have the right to an education. Public schools require more resources and staff (more money) to provide an education to those who struggle to learn, lack motivation, or do not yet appreciate the importance of education. To compare schools that choose their students to public schools which do not, without considering that factor, is dishonest.

    Education is every child’s right. There are not try-outs. I doubt anyone would consider it fair to compare the program and skill of a coach who fielded whichever kids walked through the door to those of a coach who could choose or reject each kid based on skill and the recommendation of their previous coaches. But in comparing schools, it is done all the time. Not fair, and not a good basis for deciding education policy.

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/09/2015 - 07:38 pm.


    Mr. Brehm is apparently totally ignorant of the fact that this area already has a huge divide between have and have-not schools, have and have-not school districts, and have and have-not families and children. Vouchers will do nothing to improve a child’s education. They make opponents of public education feel better about themselves, perhaps, but in practice, all vouchers accomplish is to allow the more affluent to have more choices among the various alternatives available to them, since vouchers are not going to cover the entire annual cost of a child’s education anyway. They allow the well-to-do to increase their advantage over the less well-to-do, thus *increasing* the divide about which Mr. Brehm claims to be concerned.

    The practical effect would be to return to the early 1800s in terms of school funding. In that era, there were no genuinely *public* schools. The relatively affluent paid to send their children to boarding and/or “day” schools, or hired their own private instructors to teach their children at home. Everyone else relied on a parent or other relative, or perhaps a neighbor who was literate, to at least teach their children to read. It was – and could be again – the antithesis of “equal opportunity.”

    Speaking as a retired public school teacher, beating the drum of vouchers illustrates for me the intellectual bankruptcy of its supporters, many of whom like to mistakenly call themselves “conservative.” What they propose would go far to turn the country over to the interests of the current oligarchy, which already wields far too much influence on public policy.

    Of the many good points made in comments above, I like that of Karen Sandness at 5:44 pm the best. Those countries beating our collective brains out in international academic competitions are doing so with students who attend *public* schools, where they are taught, almost universally, by teachers who are *unionized.* Interscholastic sports are fun (I was a head coach for 15 seasons), but do nothing to further the academic mission of schools at any level, including K-12, but also at the college or university level. Those same beat-our-brains-out Europeans let fans and participants fund sports by financing “club” teams, that may or (more often) may not be affiliated with a particular school, but either way, those teams receive no – zero – taxpayer funds. I should add that they do *not* routinely interrupt or dismiss classes early so that students can attend “pep rallies,” whether those students are fans of the sport du jour or not, or whether their parents want their tax dollars supporting activities in which their child does not want to, perhaps cannot, participate.

    One difference that deserves its own series of articles, I’d argue, has to do with motivation. On most of the planet, children and – especially – parents view education as an *opportunity,* not a burden. Only among certain segments of the population here is there a lot of whining about the cost of education – a refusal, for example, to make sure that classes are small so that there’s plenty of individual attention to each child, which research shows is critical and crucial to academic success, and/or to pay salaries to teachers commensurate with their own training in relation to the rest of the work force.

    In addition, only here is there widespread belief – among sizable numbers of students – that going to school represents a burden, rather than an opportunity. I had students who came into my class in September from a foreign country as high school juniors, with English vocabularies of perhaps 300 words, and who left my class the next June able to read and – especially – write American English better than 90% of the other kids in the class, who’d gotten a 15 or 16-year head start. Those immigrant kids were taking advantage of an opportunity which, in many cases, wasn’t available to them in their parents’ home country, while their American counterparts had already been seduced by the constant barrage of advertising to think that sports are important in some way, and that one’s personal self-worth depended upon buying things that were “cool.”

    Unless Mr. Brehm can demonstrate that teachers in any of the Twin Cities’ school districts routinely provide different and inferior or factually inaccurate materials and concepts to minority students than they do to majority students, I’m going to have to argue that at least some of the chasm that separates the academic achievement of some groups of students from other groups stems from the students themselves. A case can be made that American history curriculums that fail to deal with slavery, the treatment of the continent’s existing native population by European, and later American, settlers, and the systematic legal and political subjugation of women may deserve the label of “inferior” or “factually inaccurate,” but it’s my understanding that, outside of Texas at least, that sort of white male one-sidedness isn’t much practiced any more. And that’s a single subject in the humanities. It’s not English, it’s not math, it’s not biological or physical science. Pointing fingers at “the school” because some kids haven’t learned to read or perform simple mathematical calculations is beyond counterproductive. All the school can do, all the teacher can do, is provide the student with the opportunity to learn something of the subject being presented. It’s up to the student to take advantage of that opportunity.

    • Submitted by Mike martin on 12/12/2015 - 10:47 pm.

      why are MN students different?

      Mr. Schoch you seem to be blaming black students for their poor performance

      If school systems in other big cities like LA, NY Chicago can educate black students that are “unmotivated, poor, live in single parent home, move often etc. so they achieve & graduate at rates close to white students why can’t Mpls. do the same?

      White liberals either blame the students or say we need to spend more money when trying to explain why black students fail more in Mpls. than in NY, LA Chicago etc.

  13. Submitted by joe smith on 12/10/2015 - 08:06 am.

    The current system is broken, I don’t hear one person here coming up with a solution besides not to compare private vs public schools (not fair) or spend more money. How about giving the folks who truly care about the children, their parents, the choice of sending their own child to the school that best fits him or her with a voucher. I always get a charge out of the folks here who claim to know better than the parents what is good for a child that is not their own.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/10/2015 - 09:38 am.


      The pittance received from a voucher is not enough for “parents to send their child of their choosing” and is nothing more than a means to undermine political opposition. If conservatives cared about improving education they would do so in a manner that benefitted all, not just those who fit their idea of deserving, and they would support all schools, not just those that fit their idealogical bias. In short we don’t believe you, think you are playing politcal games with the futures of innocent kids, and don’t deserve serious consideration as partners in ACTUALLY improving educatuonal outcomes. Hopefully that was clear enough to understand.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 12/10/2015 - 11:45 am.


        Vouchers should reflect the amount of money the schools in your district cost per student. Inner city folks would have the highest amount of money to help their children attend the school that is best for them. I understand the need of liberals to keep the system as is, but it is broken. Give parents a chance to improve their children’s chances by picking a school that fits them. Schools will then compete for the students instead of just being granted the money per student depending on where they are located. That is clean and clear and ACTUALLY helpful.

        Saddest thing about this argument is some folks continue to believe they know what is best for their neighbors child. Parents know and deserve the right to do what is best for their child, just like you do for yours.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/14/2015 - 10:27 pm.

          You’d think we didn’t already have public school choice

          in Minnesota.

          Southwest High School is considered one of the best in Minneapolis, and it is located in the upper middle class neighborhood of Linden Hills. If you ride the #6 bus early in the morning or after school lets out, you will see African-American, Latino, and Somali youth at the stop that serves Southwest.

          Parents can even send their children to a suburban school if they wish. Minnetonka advertises for out-of-district students.

          When my brother’s family moved from St. Paul to Woodbury, they kept their older daughter in fifth grade in her St. Paul school so that she wouldn’t have her educational and social life disrupted in the last year of elementary school. It was not a problem, although it might have been in some other states, where students who want to attend a district in which they are not resident must pay tuition.

          So in Minnesota, at least, parents who don’t like their local school can look around for another one at no extra cost. The Minneapolis schools, at least, do compete, and there are dozens of charter schools available in addition to the standard public schools.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/15/2015 - 02:37 pm.

            Free Choice for Many

            I agree that Open Enrollment, Freedom to Physically Move to a Better School / District, Intra-District Transfers, PSEO, etc are all available, that is why I am usually hesitant to support vouchers. The reality though is that the poorest families and those children with the least capable or responsible parents do not benefit from this freedom of choice. (often transportation / effort is required from the Parent)

            Now magnet schools with full district busing like RDale’s Spanish Immersion and Stem schools are a good alternative, however the Parent’s need to know to apply, when to apply and there are usually limited spots. (ie RDale Magnet demographics never have matched the district’s)

            As for Charter’s, with Education Mn and their Politicians working hard to keep Charter funding at 1/2 of status quo public schools, it is hard to see many of them being a great alternative for the most unlucky of children. And even worse, tax payer money is used to build the public school buildings. Yet when a district does not need that building anymore, they have the authority to not sell it to a public charter who may have use of it. (what a monopolistic waste)

            As for vouchers, I think they would need to be set based on each child’s situation. (ie normal, ELL, ADHD, more severe special needs) If that could be done, then they would probably work great.

            • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/16/2015 - 10:53 am.

              How could parents who can’t figure out how to move

              their children to a different public or charter school be able to evaluate private schools? You’re saying that evaluating public options is hard, but evaluating private options is easy?

              Unless, of course, the family has their heart set on sending the child to a religious school.

              Are vouchers a stealth attempt to receive government support for religious schools?

              If so, the advocates of vouchers for religious schools may want to think again. There are countries where religious schools receive government aid (the UK is one of them) or where religious charter schools are permitted (Canada).

              In both countries, religious affiliation is low compared to the U.S. Really low.

              In addition, aid for religious schools in Northern Ireland exacerbated the split between Catholics and Protestants, since they not only grew up in different neighborhoods but attended completely different schools. If you recall the program from years ago of bringing Northern Irish children for vacations in Minnesota to get away from the violence, the children were astounded to learn that their host families had friends of different religions and that Catholics and Protestants could attend the same public schools.

              The British are also finding out that their long-standing government support for Christian and Jewish schools is not quite so attractive when it goes to Islamic schools that espouse radical teachings. (Not all do, but they have no legal way of distinguishing the good apples from the bad apples.)

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/16/2015 - 01:26 pm.


                Having equal funding for charters and / or vouchers would make it much easier for poor folk to have good school choice.

                Moving to a “good neighborhood”, driving the child(ren) to a “good school”, etc are beyond the financial capability of many North Mpls, Brooklyn Park, St Paul, etc student families. (ie property is usually real expensive in good neighborhoods with good schools)

                Why are you against making the traditional public schools compete more?
                Would you support using government policy to pressure all low income families to buy Apple products? (make them a near monopoly)
                Would that be good for those families and the most unlucky of children?

                • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/16/2015 - 05:17 pm.

                  Why are you against making our public schools the

                  envy of the world? I agree that more money is not the answer, but if we dumped most of the administrators, got rid of varsity sports, used the savings to hire enough teachers to reduce class sizes to private school levels, and treated teachers like professionals, with high salaries and plenty of autonomy, we’d see improvements. In other words, we could make the public schools more like private schools. And these schools would be free to every child and teenager, irrespective of family income.

                  As I noted above, the countries that are leaving the U.S. in the dust have almost exclusively public systems with unionized teachers. In Japan, private high schools tend to be for students who can’t pass the entrance exams for the public high schools.

                  Why could the poor parents whom you consider to be incapable of putting their children on a bus or driving them to a better public or charter school suddenly become capable of doing so if the school were private?

                  Besides, would the top private schools even want to take voucher students? Would the public want to pay $23,000 per child for kindergarten or $27,000 for grades 1-12?

                  Never mind poor parents. Middle class parents don’t have that choice now.

                  I happen to know some parents of school-age children in Minneapolis. They are educated, intelligent people, and they have been quite pleased with what is offered in the public and charter systems. The only exceptions are those who are willing to shell out for a religious education.

                  Rather than wasting money on vouchers, use the money to cut class size in half in the poorly performing schools and give experienced teachers extra pay for teaching there. Have curriculum guidelines and expectations, but leave it up to the teachers about how to achieve them.

                  Have you ever been a teacher, Mr. Appelin? If you have, you know that not every teaching technique works with every student. The value of a small class is that it allows the teacher to get to know the student as an individual and figure out what makes that student tick, what sorts of approaches that student will respond to, and what is missing from that student’s life outside school.

                  That’s what we need for the underachieving students: teachers who will have the time and the autonomy to work with each student individually.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/17/2015 - 07:46 am.


                    “treated teachers like professionals, with high salaries and plenty of autonomy, we’d see improvements.”

                    I think you forgot some other things that true professionals have. They have to PERFORM very well and consistently on an on going basis or they are fired. They usually have very few employee generated work rules that constrain their effort. Usually their compensation is based directly on their performance, not on the number of years they have been in a position or what degrees they have.

                    Do you think Teachers are ready to give up Tenure, Steps, Lanes, Work Rules, Termination Constraints, Seniority based job choice, etc and all the other things that most professionals do not have?

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/17/2015 - 08:58 am.


                    Maybe the Unions in other countries are more focused on ensuring only the most qualified productive Teachers get to stay in the classroom and work with kids. Our Unions seem to be obsessed with time served and degrees, which are definitely not good indicators of capability, performance, work ethic, dedication, flexibility, organization, etc.

                    Our Unions fight to allow the highest paid Teachers to have their choice of school. If the Union was dedicated to helping the unlucky kids, they would ensure the “best and most highly compensated” teachers were working in the schools where the kids really need that capability and dedication. Remember Beth’s article regarding where MPLS’ highest paid Teachers work… (ie not the challenging schools)

                    As for “extra money”, there would be no extra money required. That is why the Status Quo Public School system is so anti-voucher and anti-equal funding for charter schools. They know that if that happens and the Parents choose to go else where… Their revenues will decrease. No strong monopoly wants to be pulled into a competitive situation where they need to offer better quality / performance for the same or less money.

    • Submitted by Eric Andersen on 12/10/2015 - 11:36 am.

      Parents Know Best??

      Many parents do not know what is best for their kids. If they did and had the means to do what is best for their kids we would not have an achievement gap.

      There are many parents that can barely take care of themselves and definitely cannot take care of another human being.

      The solution is the answer to this question:

      How does society address the needs of children whose parents cannot or will not meet their children’s needs?

  14. Submitted by Eric Andersen on 12/10/2015 - 08:57 am.

    Address the Real Problem

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

    1. biological(food, sleep, shelter)
    2. safety
    3. belonging/love
    4. self-esteem
    5. cognitive needs

    Each level requires the one before it. If a lower level need is missing the levels above it do not happen.

    Doing well in school is #5. Can you expect a student to do well on a chemistry test if they do not know where they are sleeping that night? Or they did not have anything to eat since lunch the day before? Or they face physical or emotional abuse at home?

    The solution is that public schools in poor areas need a lot more resources to address needs 1-4.

    Comparing public schools(who must take everyone) to private schools that cherry-pick the very few poor children who are having their 1-4 needs met proves absolutely nothing.

  15. Submitted by John Appelen on 12/13/2015 - 11:40 am.

    The Bigger Question

    Why does our society allow people to have kids if they can not or will not meet these simple requirements?

    I agree that it will be hard for Public Schools to succeed if they are full of Parents / Students that do not meet these simple requirements. So how do folks here want to address this?

    I don’t think keeping families who responsible and fulfilling the family accountability pledge trapped with those who do not is the answer. Thoughts?

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/14/2015 - 12:32 pm.


      What color shirts should the shock troops stealing children away from their parents wear? Godwins law aside, I believe you to be quite well aware of the impossibility of this idea, so why don’t you try something actually feasible. Or perhaps you’d prefer we liberals advocate the removal of all conservative children from their parents in the name of “fitness”, after all thems that wins gets to make the rules right?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/14/2015 - 05:13 pm.

        Root Cause

        You can seek to fix a problem by attacking it’s symptoms, however it usually does not work. It is much more effective to address the root cause.

        Case 1: The public, private and charter school systems work great when there are mature, engaged, responsible and capable parents at home. (preferably 2)

        Case 2: The public, private and charter school systems typically fail when there are immature, not engaged, irresponsible and/or incapable parents at home. (often 1)

        Now physically moving to within a better school’s boundaries, open enrolling, going to a magnet school, going to a charter school and going to a private school are all ways in which Case 1 families strive to escape Case 2 families. Vouchers are another way we could help Case 1 parents help their children.

        Do you disagree with any of this?

        Now what to do with the Case 2 children is a different issue. If you don’t want to work to reduce their numbers, what do you recommend?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/14/2015 - 11:12 pm.


        One can either try to treat a symptom or cure the root cause. No one needs to take kids away though in some cases that may be best for the child(ren). The key is to reward being responsible parents and punish irresponsible parents. (more at G2A)

        My Conservative readers flipped when I recommended Teachers grading Parents. Then we adjust their child tax credit and or welfare checks based on that.

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