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Dramatically more dropouts among state’s online students

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Bachmann gets plenty of advice; state poverty stats; farm payments targeted; ferreting out fraud; U’s sweet SweeTango victory; and more.
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There’s something to be said for classrooms. MPR’s Tom Weber reports: “A new audit released Monday from the Office of Legislative Auditor finds enrollment in online courses is booming. But it also raises concerns about how well those students perform in that setting, and also how the state regulates the entire venture. … students are less likely to complete courses they’ve started, and more likely to drop out of school altogether than students in traditional classroom settings. Two years ago, 25 percent of 12th graders in online schools dropped out, compared to just 3 percent in traditional schools.”

Ed Rollins was dispensing more only-lightly varnished wisdom about Our Favorite Congresswoman Monday. Michael D. Shear of The New York Times blogs: “In an interview on MSNBC, Mr. Rollins told Andrea Mitchell that Mrs. Bachmann does not have the money or resources to compete with her better-financed rivals, like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. … in citing Mrs. Bachmann’s resource problem, Mr. Rollins was acting more like a television analyst than a campaign spinmeister. By doing so, he put his finger on what may be Mrs. Bachmann’s biggest roadblock to actually winning the Republican nomination and the White House. … The real question may be: Why is he saying it now?

MPR’s Mark Zdechlik is reporting that Iowa’s base wants to see a lot more “normal” from Our Gal. “[Pastor Terry] Chapman, one of an early group of key religious leaders helping to propel the congresswoman’s presidential bid before the straw poll, says he thinks Bachmann should follow the lead of another tea party favorite for some guidance. ‘Sarah Palin, you know, she was on a fishing boat. She had on rubber boots. It endeared her to people because they said, ‘She’s normal,’ Chapman said, adding that connecting to voters that way will be key to winning the Iowa Caucuses next year. ‘Walk out in that pasture full of manure,’ Chapman said. ‘It’s one person out there, but you touch that one person and he drinks coffee the next day and he says, ‘That woman’s real.’ ” … Maybe not as real as the stuff on the ground, but properly marketed to the right demo and …

I wonder what factors are at play here?  Christina Wessel at The Twin Cities Daily Planet writes: “Minnesota is starting to lose its great reputation. With the release of the U.S. Census Current Population Survey (CPS) on Tuesday, we can look back and see that 2000-2010 represents a decade of decline for Minnesota. The CPS offers a preliminary look at state-level trends. Our poverty rate and level of uninsured may still be below the national average, and our median income remains above the national average, but we are headed in the wrong direction. Poverty in Minnesota is on the rise. Over the last decade, the percentage of Minnesotans living in poverty has risen from 6.5 percent to 10.8 percent, according to preliminary statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. That means one out of every ten Minnesotans is living below the poverty line (a stunning $22,113 for a family of four). With the threshold so low, it’s not surprising that families with incomes above the poverty line still struggle to meet their basic needs. Sadly, many are living with that reality: one out of four Minnesotans is surviving on an income below 200 percent of the poverty line ($44,226 for a family of four). We are also seeing a dramatic drop in median income in the state.”

Ten billion is awfully close to being real money. Jim Spencer of the Strib reports: “The deficit reduction plan President Obama introduced Monday will kill a farm subsidy that paid nearly $10 billion to Minnesota farmers from 1995 to 2010. In addition, the president’s plan shrinks federal contributions to crop insurance programs and a land conservation program in the state by tens of millions of dollars per year. … The president was referring to so-called ‘direct payments’ that go to farmers based on crops they planted in past years. The payments are automatic and don’t depend on commodity prices or demand. Critics call the subsidies money for nothing.”

The Strib also editorializes on President Obama’s version of “tax the rich”: “[T]here’s much to like about the balance of tax increases and spending cuts in Obama’s plan — as far as it goes. But unfortunately, neither Obama nor his Republican critics have been willing to make the case for the kind of sweeping reform that would create a more sustainable, fairer federal tax code. Given the campaign calendar, don’t expect that kind of ambitious overhaul to take root, and don’t expect the Obama plan to become law. Yet real tax reform is what’s needed — and it’s what will still be needed when the 2012 election is over, whoever wins. As the U.S. economy continues to deleverage, taxpayers at all income levels and corporations large and small must share some of the pain if we are to sustain the level of government services and quality of life that Americans demand. … Many economists argue that broadening the tax base by limiting deductions and closing loopholes could allow a switch to lower rates but still generate more tax revenue.”

Martiga Lohn of the AP has a Q&A with the guy responsible for ferreting out fraud in state programs. A sample: “As inspector general for fraud, waste and mismanagement in state health and welfare programs, Jerry Kerber has his eye on a huge chunk of Minnesota’s budget.
AP: How much is recovered from fraud and waste each year?
Kerber: I would say in the vicinity of $12 million (by the state and counties). There’s more money that’s actually recovered, but it gets complicated because some of it is through big global settlements (negotiated by the federal government).
AP: What will the 150 people working for you do?
Kerber: One of the things I’m looking forward to is directing our licensing inspection activities to follow the money a little more. We’re buying, as I said, $11 billion worth of services out there. Some of those are licensed services. So let’s find out who we’re buying services for before we go out to this licensed program. … There may be some opportunities here to reclaim some payments.
AP: How much of this will be data-mining as opposed to other ways of finding fraud, such as complaints or tips?
Kerber: There is a real interest in data-mining. We have some staff right now who look at those kinds of things and run reports. They’re looking for anomalies — double-billings for the same period of time or the same client.”                                                       
It’s not football, but a win is a win for the U. A lawsuit has moved to a settlement that upholds the school’s exclusive licensing of the SweeTango apple. Steve Karnowski of the AP explains: “A lawsuit challenging the University of Minnesota‘s exclusive licensing deal for its hot-selling SweeTango apple is ending with a victory for the school and the cooperative that markets the new variety nationwide, although more producers will be able to grow the fruit … The university awarded exclusive SweeTango rights to Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake City, which organized a cooperative of growers across the northern states and southern Canada to market the variety. More than a dozen other growers, mostly in Minnesota, sued last year, saying they were frozen out of a lucrative deal.”

Another AP story notes that Target is among big retailers buying into the “iCircular” app for smart phones … created by the AP. “ICircular is meant to be the digital equivalent of coupons and other promotions that are inserted into the print editions of weekend newspapers. Those ads are among the most popular parts of Sunday newspapers. A study by the Newspaper Association of America found nearly three-fourths of readers check advertising inserts, mostly to find out about sales. The initial group of 40 newspapers adding iCircular to their phone apps includes: the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News and San Francisco Chronicle. The phone apps of the newspapers that have agreed to use iCircular reach a combined audience of about 5 million people. Target Corp., Macy’s Inc., Kmart, Toys R Us and J.C. Penney Co. are among the 20 retailers committed to running ads in iCircular. Both the newspapers and retailers are trying to figure out how make more money from the explosion of increasingly sophisticated phones that have morphed into miniature computers during the past five years.” Yeah … that’s what I want to riffle through on a phone.