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Minnesota House votes to scrap seniority-only rule for teachers

The GOP’s campaign to rid Minnesota’s schools of what I assume are hundreds, if not thousands, of incompetent teachers continues. The Strib’s Kim McGuire says: “Seniority would no longer be the only factor dictating teacher layoffs under a plan approved Thursday by the Minnesota House of Representatives. Sponsored by Rep. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, the legislation scraps the seniority-only provision in state law and replaces it with a system based on licensure, teacher performance and tenure. Under Petersen’s bill, teachers rated as ineffective would lose their jobs first, from least senior to most senior within that category. Opponents of the tenure change argue that it would encourage districts to lay off older, more highly paid teachers to save money. They also worry that without state seniority protection, layoff decisions would be left to administrators who might make arbitrary decisions that play to favorites.” But … that would be like, you know, human nature.

In St. Paul, Mara Gottfried of the PiPress covers the City Council’s decision to cough up $90,000 for a guy apparently mistakenly beaten by the cops: “Craig Spelbrink was wearing a red shirt when he said two St. Paul police officers beat him in a parking ramp. The shirt’s color had caught the attention of an officer who wrote in a report that he’d just received word that a robbery suspect in the area was wearing a red shirt. But another officer wrote in his report that the witness had said the robbery victim was wearing a red shirt. ‘According to one of the officers’ accounts, they basically tackled the victim of a robbery,’ said Jeff Storms, an attorney who represented Spelbrink and his friend, Robert Geistfeld, in their federal lawsuit against the officers. The St. Paul City Council approved Wednesday a $90,000 settlement to Spelbrink of Savage, Minn., and Geistfeld, of St. Paul.”

The Strib has more to say about the feds’ investigation into how the state is handling Medicaid payments: “There’s too much money at stake, and too little understanding of how the state pays the plans, to let that momentum flag. Legislators should have dived headlong into the issue last spring after UCare, one of the health plans that manages public patients, unexpectedly gave $30 million back to the state. … In 2010, Minnesota paid an average of $441 per month, per Medicaid managed-care enrollee, to the state’s four big nonprofit health plans: Medica, Blue Plus, HealthPartners and UCare. In Michigan, the average monthly amount paid to four big plans was $283. In Wisconsin, where Baumgarten had analyzed only 2009 data, the amount was $298. There was also a striking difference in the annual operating margins of the plans on Medicaid managed-care enrollees. In 2010, in Minnesota, the average annual operating margin was 8.9 percent; Michigan’s 2010 average was 2.4 percent, and Wisconsin’s 2009 average was 2.6 percent.” Those are very curious numbers.

Did you catch The New York Times’ story on how companies, like Target, can data-mine highly personal information on their customers? Like, for example, if youi’re pregnant? Writes Charles Duhigg: “Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: ‘If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that?’  … as Target’s marketers explained to Pole, timing is everything. Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way. Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. … Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy. ‘If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,’ Pole said. ‘We want to know everything we can.’ ”  

In D.C., Strib reporter Kevin Diaz says: “U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who has been swimming upstream to stop a $700 million “mega” bridge across the St. Croix River, took her fight Thursday to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, where she got a chance to cross-examine Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. … With Bachmann having recently suggested that bridge proponents like her ‘have the Obama administration on board,’ McCollum asked Salazar if that is indeed administration policy. ‘That is not my understanding,’ Salazar said. Referring to a recent delegation meeting with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Salazar continued, ‘My understanding is that Secretary LaHood and I offered to work with the congressional delegations from both states to see if we could find a common ground based on the alternative which you have proposed, and the alternative that other members of the congressional delegation have proposed.’ Salazar also did not back off previous testimony by Interior officials suggesting that the proposed span would have an adverse impact on the river.  ‘Our position remains unchanged,’ Salazar said. ‘A wild and scenic river is a wild a scenic river.’ ”  Salazar can expect a call from the National Association of Realtors.

The White Earth tribe is making serious noises about their plans for a stadium-boosting casino. The AP story says: “White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, at a Capitol news conference, said the 20,000-member American Indian tribe — the state’s largest — has desperate needs in health care, education and housing on its rural reservation about 250 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The tribe wants state lawmakers to vote to let them open a casino in the much more heavily populated Twin Cities, which Vizenor said would raise enough money to both alleviate tribal poverty and cover a taxpayer share of a stadium project that’s likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. … Most recently, the [Vikings’] chief legislative allies have indicated the state’s portion would come from new tax revenue raised by authorizing electronic games of chance in bars and restaurants. Under that scenario, the local government where the stadium ends up, the  city of Minneapolis — or another local government, if the stadium ends up elsewhere — would also pay a share from local tax proceeds. But Vizenor said the casino would raise enough money to cover the entire public share, both state and local.”

The court case of the 36-year-old English teacher and his affair with a 17-year-old student produced interesting copy for the PiPress’ Emily Gurnon. She writes: “A former teacher at Spectrum High School in Elk River agreed with a prosecutor Wednesday that he was ‘emotionally vulnerable’ the summer he had sex with a 17-year-old student. Matthew Ellsworth, 36, taught the girl in his English classes in fall 2010 and spring 2011. After the school year ended, he no longer considered her his student, he testified at his trial Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court on a charge of criminal sexual conduct. That spring and summer, he was struggling to cope with his mother’s terminal cancer. He and the student became friends, but nothing romantic happened between the two of them during the school year, he said. In late June or early July, he said, she met him at his St. Paul apartment to discuss her pet-sitting for him. They talked about his mother’s condition. ‘I got emotional and started crying, and she hugged me and tried to console me, and then she kissed me,’ he said. ‘I was hesitant,’ Ellsworth said. ‘I said, ‘We can’t do this. We have to wait until you’re 18.’ Being emotionally vulnerable ‘had a lot to do with’ the affair, he said. ‘Did you see yourself as a victim?’ asked prosecutor Lawrence Schultz. Ellsworth hesitated. ‘Only in the sense that I was very adamant about waiting (to have sex) and she was very forward in her come-ons.’ ” Is Nabokov on the reading list in Elk River?

First Lumberjack Days’ money problems, now this … Mary Divine of the PiPress reports: “The organization that runs the Washington County Fair owes the state of Minnesota more than $120,000 in back sales taxes. But its president said Thursday that the lack of payment is a misunderstanding and he will work out a payment plan with the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The fair paid sales taxes until 2002, said Dan Dolan, who has been president of the Washington County Agricultural Society since 2006. At some point before the 2002 fair, fair officials were told they no longer needed to pay them, he said. ‘Our minutes simply say, “We’ve been advised that we no longer have to remit sales tax,” so we didn’t pay it from 2002 to 2009,’ he said. ‘So then in 2010, they came out and said you owe us back sales tax. Surprise, surprise. ’ “

Interesting exchange on Cathy Wurzer’s MPR radio program Thursday: “Host Cathy Wurzer sat down with Hamline University law professor Joseph Olson, who supports the [expanded Castle Doctrine] bill, and Dennis Flaherty, the executive director of Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, who opposes it.
Wurzer: Dennis, what do you not like about the proposed changes in the castle doctrine?
Dennis Flaherty: Well, Cathy, it is probably the most sweeping and unnecessary legislation that has come before the Legislature in quite some time. It goes way beyond what has been called the castle doctrine. It makes changes to who can carry guns in the state of Minnesota. This proposal, if passed, would allow permits from every state in the nation to be valid in Minnesota. Secondly, it prevents police officers from taking into custody any firearms except in an arrest situation. But officers all over our state are going to domestic disturbances or with mentally incompetent people where there are guns involved. Right now, we will take those guns until the tempers go down, until problems are dealt with.
Wurzer: Joe Olson. This has happened in the past, obviously in the recent past, where an officer has gone into a domestic violence situation. And those are very iffy, dicey situations often times. If under this bill, the individual in question has a gun, might the officer be in danger because this individual thinks the officer is encroaching upon his or her dwelling?
Olson: No. The officer can disarm the individual. There’s a Supreme Court case that allows that. This doesn’t change that at all.”

Right. But does the officer disarm the drunken abusive spouse before or after the guy unloads the full clip?                           

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by Tom Clark on 02/17/2012 - 08:14 am.

    A question for Salazar

    Why exactly is MnDoT’s preferred bridge proposal, which is virtually the same type of bridge and same location, that was approved by the National Park Service in 2005, harmful to the scenery of the river? Just saying that a river is a river is a river isn’t a sufficient answer. Does the National Park Service now have it’s act together with respect to how it judges scenery, or will it be unable to render a judgment that a judge will not again find arbitrary and capricious? If not, I suggest that Congress now act to resolve the impasse that the National Park Service has mired this process in.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/17/2012 - 08:27 am.

    Follow the money

    There’s something about Betty McCollum being so strongly opposed to this bridge that doesn’t pass the smell test. Betty’s intellect has never been her strong suit, and when all her MN congressional colleagues support it, even the liberals, you have to wonder what her “incentive” is and where it’s coming from.

    • Submitted by Tom Clark on 02/17/2012 - 09:07 am.

      The opposition’s motivation

      isn’t ideological as much as it’s geographical. Both McCollum and Keith Ellison have gone on record as opposing MnDoT’s preferred alternative. Both represent the urban core of the Twin Cities, a constituency that seems to have little interest in a bridge they won’t often use. Other Minnesota Democrats, like Tim Walz, don’t oppose the MnDoT bridge however and it’s not likely that the House will be persuaded by McCollum’s opposition to oppose what the Senate has already passed.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2012 - 09:14 am.

      Motive may be giving too much credit.

      Dennis, knowing Rep. McCollum as well as I do (she’s my Rep.) I think you may be over thinking her behavior. When considering what attracts Betty’s attention, experience has taught me to keep it simple.

      Bridges are made of shiny metal.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/17/2012 - 01:30 pm.

        Simply pathetic

        that MinnPost posts such a comment by Mr. Swift.

        “Bridges are made of shiny metal.” ?

        This is nothing but a gratuitous insult that should be dismissed out of hand by the moderator. All too frequent behavior of Mr. Swift.

        Trying to encourage a diversity of opinion does not include accepting comments that have no other intent but to insult and denigrate.

        Sad, indeed.

    • Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 02/17/2012 - 09:28 am.

      Do you have information to share about Betty’s incentives? I didn’t think so. But apparently Minnpost will continue to publish your insults and innuendo.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/17/2012 - 12:46 pm.

      I am a little surprised

      that MinnPost puts up such comments.

      Suppose I wrote:”Mr. Tester’s intellect has never been his strong suit.”?

      And by the way, Mr. Tester, Ms. McCollum’s position is supported by a lot of liberals, although not necessarily in Congress. Do you know what a wild and scenic river is? Can you say: “Oink, oink”?

      For a loud and influential voice on the matter, I commend your attention to the work of a famous local blogger, Karl Bremer, author of “Ripple in Stillwater.” Karl has semi-pro chops having received a Page One award from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists for “best use of public records.”

      Karl is the one who turned over the Michelle Bachmann rock, among other famous accomplishments. During Ms. Bachmann’s brief flame-out as a presidential candidate, Karl was the go to guy for the national media. You are probably aware of his book: The Madness of Michelle Bachmann? Liberal enough for you?

      For a little information on the environmental damage that the Stillwater Bridge will do as well as links to other lefties who oppose the bridge, see for example:

      A River of Misinformation (and related posts)

    • Submitted by Jeff Klein on 02/17/2012 - 09:58 am.

      Are you actually supporting this?!

      Seriously? The king of fiscal conservation is supporting a billion-dollar bridge when there is existing infrastructure to be fixed? When there’s a freeway bridge six miles south of the proposed site already? When this is a grotesque subsidy to people dumb enough to commute from Wisconsin to Minneapolis, burning fuel and wearing down roads? Conservatives scream bloody murder at every penny spent to try to improve our state, until someone proposes a gigantic and unnecessary bridge that will only serve to induce more expensive sprawl and then you turn the discussion into an attack on the congressperson who opposes it because she’s liberal and therefore evil? You imply impropriety with no evidence to speak of. And to top it off, you question her intelligence – you, the member of the party of the willfully and proudly ignorant Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

      Will wonders never cease!

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2012 - 08:46 am.

    Eyes of the state are upon you

    I realize Democrat legislators are greatly in indebted to Education Minnesota, but I hope they are aware that at least a few of the parents of the hundreds if not thousands of kids that have been doomed to lives of functional illiteracy as a result of the union’s shenanigans will be watching to see if finally, after all, even leftists will put our kids’ best interests ahead of those of themselves and their allies.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/17/2012 - 09:51 am.

      Let us hope that LIFO is vetoed by Gov. Dayton

      Mr. Swift-

      The current bill is a disaster as anyone who actually reads it will immediately recognize.

      I am glad that a discussion is taking place on this matter, but the solution is not yet another ALEC script.

      And your usual anti-union whining “hundreds if not thousands of kids that have been doomed to lives of functional illiteracy as a result of the union’s shenanigans” is getting absurd.

      We’ve talked about Finland already.

      It is easy to kick down a barn, it takes a carpenter to build one. Because we have problems with our schools does not mean that you have the solutions. You have had your chance in the past at an elective post on the school board in St. Paul. Even with the GOP endorsement, you did not even make it through the primary.

      Do you ever ask yourself why?

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2012 - 02:33 pm.

        Gleason, I feel your pain.

        I understand why unchallenged tenure is a very important issue for you, and I’m sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s going to happen.

        Here’s wishing you the very best of luck.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2012 - 02:49 pm.

        Tenure had a good run of it!

        Bill, I understand unchallenged tenure is a very important issue for you, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but LIFO as job security is going the way of the fabled buggy whip.

        But look on the bright side; there’s always Finland, right?

        As I responded to the question you take every opportunity to ask, my campaign was targeted by the Saint Paul Federation of teachers because I was proposing some of the exact same, common sense reforms that are making their way through the legislature right now. I threatened the status quo, therefore I threatened the union’s control of SPPS.

        As several news sources are essentially reporting even staunch union supporters are now in agreement, albeit grudgingly, that what I was saying back in 2001 was correct.

        I guess you could say I was ahead of my time.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/17/2012 - 10:05 am.

      Proper use of adjectives

      RE: ” Don Effenberger on December 20, 2011 – 3:00pm.
      We’ll do our best to prevent the use of Democrat as an adjective in the comments.”

      As a person apparently intensely interested in the value of a good education, I would hope Mr. Swift would appreciate that when used as an adjective, the proper spelling of the third word in his comment is “Democratic”.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/17/2012 - 12:59 pm.

      Let’s try this again

      I was under the impression that MinnPost was going to stop permitting the use of “Democrat” as an adjective when – as in Mr. Swift’s post above – the use of “Democratic” is both more appropriate and less pejorative.

      For those who may be unaware of the pejorative use of “Democrat” as an adjective, here is an article on the subject:

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2012 - 10:01 am.

    One more thing

    Supporters of teacher’s unions:

    If you want to help save the union, you really should be supporting this bill too.

    No one can have missed the fact that the public has reached the end of it’s patience with the decline of the public school system, and if you think that this is just a bump in the road for the future of collective bargaining, you’re only fooling yourselves.

    This measure, in and of itself will not solve the crisis, but it’s a common sense, solid first step that has wide public support.

    If you do not wish to see Education Minnesota stripped of it’s authority completely, you’ll contact Gov. Dayton and tell him to support LIFO reform.

    The Governor’s office number is 651-201-3400

    • Submitted by Bill Kellett on 02/17/2012 - 01:31 pm.

      Teachers Unions

      The anti teacher union stance of some commenters is understandable because they believe unions are plain evil because they drive up costs. This fire the poor teachers first arguement I believe is really just another way to lower costs and has nothing to do with quality education.
      A better discussion might be how can we improve education outcomes. Firing teachers doesn’t seem to me to be a logical way to achieve that goal. Maybe it will get lower costs, but that is not certain. If I were a teacher I don’t think I would consider staying in a profession where every raise I received put me closer to the street.

  5. Submitted by scott gibson on 02/17/2012 - 10:52 am.

    I’m sure that’s correct

    Am I to understand that the union is fully responsible for students being functionally illiterate? I’m sure the students and their parents bear no part in the responsibility for any of this. I am equally sure that competent teachers are always able to reach every disinterested or absent student. It’s all on the teachers, always, isn’t it? We’re just making widgets here in schools, aren’t we, Mr. Swift? I defy to prove your unfounded comment about the teachers’ unions.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2012 - 02:36 pm.

      Scott, perhaps you missed it

      To quote myself: “This measure, in and of itself will not solve the crisis, but it’s a common sense, solid first step ..”

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 02/17/2012 - 11:11 am.

    Protecting students and teachers

    As with everything else in life, teacher-administration-school district relationships are far more complicated than questions of seniority. Last hired – first fired has never made any sense in what was once considered a profession in which results, good or bad, last a lifetime. But tenure is an important protection for teachers, particularly those who teach in areas in which controversy arises. Do you not use an unpopular novel because it may offend someone with power over your position? Do you teach science or give time to religious beliefs masquerading as science?

    According to Nickolas Kristof, one district may have found a collaborative way to begin addressing these issues. I recommend the piece to all.

  7. Submitted by Rich Crose on 02/17/2012 - 12:19 pm.

    Big Brother is not the government

    What Target knows about you is absolutely scary.

    Massive databases of your shopping record, video facial recognition that tracks you from the moment you walk in the door and follows you around the store to learn your shopping patterns, hidden mini cameras watch you look at sales displays to see if they’re effective or not.

    If you absolutely must shop at Target, wear a baseball cap pulled low and veer through the children’s wear and housewares to buy your gallon of milk –and always pay cash. Check the back of your receipt to see what they know about you.

  8. Submitted by Pat McGee on 02/17/2012 - 01:27 pm.

    Target’s data mining

    I saw Target’s article on data mining. Perhaps Tea Partiers should be more afraid of big corporations than big gubmint.

    That said, Target consistently sends to our household the most wildly off base coupons you could ever send. We may use credit or debit cards at our rare trips to Target but we’ve not bought a diaper or formula or baby food in over 25 years and that’s all we get coupons for from them.

  9. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 02/17/2012 - 01:38 pm.

    The bridge across the St. Croix

    Rep. McCollum is right on about stopping the boondoggle proposed to replace the Stillwater lift bridge.

    Is there a need for a new bridge? Probably. But the need seems to be generated by Wisconsin residents that work in the Twin Cities. So why is this not mostly Wisconsin’s problem? All information I’ve read seems to have the majority of the cost coming from non-Wisconsin sources (i.e. Minnesota $$$ and Federal $$$). And Wisconsin is so broke it’s stealing settlement money to balance its’ budget from homeowners that were screwed out of their homes by the big 5 banks.
    What happened to living within your state budget means, Gov. Walker? And if Gov. Scott Walker is so against the spending of federal government dollars, why is he willing to take their money to build this bridge?

    Keep in mind there was a much less costly alternative (I believe the sum was about $350 million less) that would have a much less negative impact on the St. Croix, would not dump excessive traffic into downtown Stillwater, and would still address the need for a new bridge.

    And it would leave Minnesota with more state funds to repair other bridges in roads in the rest of the state.

    Of course, maybe our two US senators are playing inside baseball with Rep. Michele Bachmann–forcing her to go for the earmark for this overpriced boondoggle, when her Stillwater constituents are lining up against it. Careful what you wish for, Michele, you just might get it.

  10. Submitted by Tom Clark on 02/17/2012 - 02:41 pm.

    Bridge costs

    From MnDoT’s current project cost estimate, Minnesota will fund $320-$380 million while Wisconsin will fund $250-$310 million for the project. Of that total, MnDoT and WisDoT will fund $251 million each, or 41%, of the total project costs. Most of the remaining costs will be covered by each state’s normal allocation of federal highway funds. FYI, the reason why Minnesota’s costs are greater is that the cost for approaches & intersections on the Minnesota side is $42 million more than Wisconsin’s are.

    As for it being Wisconsin’s problem, keep in mind that it’s a Minnesota employer, Anderson Windows, that depends on workers from both Minnesota and Wisconsin at its plant in Bayport.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/17/2012 - 03:11 pm.

    Mr. Tester, can you open a sentence without insulting someone?

    There’s nothing wrong with Betty McCollum’s brain or her and Keith Ellison’s ability to differentiate between a good idea and a bad one.

    The freeway-sized bridge proposed by MnDot and Senator Klobuchar would involve more jobs, but had to receive an exemption from the regulations that protect the St. Croix, probably because it would obliterate both the “wild” and “scenic” aspects of the view.

    The big bridge would cost $574 million to $690 million. The smaller bridge favored by McCollum and Ellison and described in their bill, the “Fiscally Responsible St. Croix River Crossing Authorization Act,” was proposed by a local group called the Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership. The smaller bridge is completely adequate in size.

    The big bridge would create more jobs, but the smaller bridge would cost $180 to $296 million less, saving money needed for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges throughout the state.

    • Submitted by Tom Clark on 02/17/2012 - 03:58 pm.

      Alternative E, aka the “sensible” bridge

      The “sensible” bridge is located where the proposed alternative E bridge was during the last go-round of the new St. Croix bridge process, and it was rejected in large part because the location on the Minnesota side has a major intersection located in the narrow strip of land between the river and the bluff near to where the Oasis Cafe is. The visual impact to the river (and the environmental impact) due to that was greater than the alternative that was selected (and that the National Park Service also approved at that time), which is the one that MnDoT now thinks is best to meet current and future transportation needs.

      The costs of the “sensible” alternative also doesn’t include additional right-of-way acquisition costs, and is only a two lane bridge, which given the bridge’s length is a problem when stalls or crashes occur and lanes are blocked.

      FYI, the “wild” part of the St. Croix River doesn’t begin until you are north of the Arcola sandbar. Below that is the scenic part.

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