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DFL senators propose ambitious education plan

Plus: pleading for a four-day school week; how vaccination rates in Minnesota stack up; fighting over Edina’s history of racism; and more.

Free breakfast! The Strib story on the state Senate’s hefty education bill, written by Ricardo Lopez, says: “Free school breakfast for kindergartners through sixth grade, free student eye exams, free preschool for all 4-year-olds, more school counselors and more money to fix up aging schools could all come to pass under an ambitious package of education bills proposed by key DFL senators Wednesday. … The free breakfast bill, sponsored by Sen. Alice Johnson, DFL-Blaine, would apply to all kids up to the sixth grade, regardless of family income. Dayton’s proposal would limit free breakfast to those in third grade or below. Even that would take in 83,000 students at a cost of $28 million for two years.”

In the PiPress story by Christopher Magan there’s this: “Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, who chairs the House Education Finance Committee, said some of the programs Democrats have prioritized for increased spending have merit, but she would rather let individual districts make decisions about where to spend the money. If Minnesota is going to increase education spending, don’t dictate how districts, each with unique needs, spend that money, she said.”

The AP looks at the state’s counselor-to-student ratio: “Democrats in the Senate included universal preschool, workforce development and free community college in their early priorities this year. The new bills, focused on counselors and programs offering college credit to high school students, will meet dire needs statewide, their authors said Wednesday. The American School Counselor Association ranked Minnesota’s ratio of 782 students per school counselor in the 2010 school year third-worst in the country. Schools also struggle to hire nurses, psychologists and other support staff, said Sen. Susan Kent.”

Meanwhile, Don Davis of the Forum News Service has a different angle on education. “Nearly a dozen Minnesota school districts launched four-day school weeks as a means to save money, but as state officials say they need to return to five-day schedules, school officials, teachers, parents and students pleaded with a state House committee Tuesday to let them keep the policy because it has proven to be an improvement in many ways. … People from the Lake Superior, Blackduck and Ogilvie school districts joined in the plea, saying that their students do better because they have longer class periods in a four-day week and one day is available for students to do extended projects.”

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Still fascinated with vaccinations? David Montgomery of the PiPress says, “Most Minnesota students go to schools with very high vaccination rates, but a few small districts have clusters of unvaccinated children. Minnesota law requires students to be vaccinated but allows parents to opt out of the requirement for medical or philosophical objections. Overall, fewer than 3 percent of Minnesota kindergartners opted out of all vaccines last year, but some school districts have no unvaccinated students while one charter school had 20 percent of its small class opt out last year.”

At MPR, Bob Collins looks at a Wall Street Journal story and says, “The Wall St. Journal today has assembled state-by-state data for the percentage of 19-to-35 month olds who have had their MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shots, and for a state that regularly finishes near the top of these types of surveys, Minnesota is a surprising 31st with 90.8%, well behind border states Iowa (11th), Wisconsin (16th), North Dakotas (25th) and South Dakota (17th), according to the 2003 statistics.” It must be the surge in Libertarians. 

The consensus is that the FCC move declaring the internet essentially a public utility is quite enlightened. But Keith Ellison wants to take it a step further. City Pages’ Ben Johnson says, “Rep. Keith Ellison thinks mobile broadband like the 3G and 4G you get on your phone deserves the same net neutrality protection the FCC is considering granting traditional wired broadband. If the FCC approves net neutrality, internet providers would be barred from charging companies extra for an exclusive high-speed internet connection. Net neutrality aims to keep the playing field level between the Googles and Netflixes and basement start-up companies. Ellison co-authored a letter with California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters delivered to the FCC yesterday arguing protection should be extended to mobile broadband too, because communities of color disproportionately rely on it.”

What can you that hasn’t been said a million times before? Tad Vezner of the PiPress reports, “Two vehicles drove around “Thin Ice” signs Wednesday evening on Lake Minnetonka and broke through, though all the occupants were able to escape without injury, authorities said. … Hennepin County officials noted that the vehicles’ owners were responsible for recovery and towing, which ‘typically costs several thousand dollars.’

We’re in the Top 10! Kristen Leigh Painter of the Strib says, “Minnesota made the top 10 list for new LEED-certified space in 2014, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual ranking. Last year, Minnesota certified 39 projects totaling more 9.5 million square feet of real estate to LEED standards, the most recognized and widely used green building rating system. The rankings are based on a per-capita square footage using 2010 U.S. Census data, with Minnesota certifying 1.79 square feet of LEED space per resident in 2014. This helped lift the state from its No. 10 position in 2013 to No. 9 last year.”

Someone’s whitewashing Edina on Wikipedia. John Reinan at the Strib says, “Edina’s racist past is the focus of an ‘edit war’ on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that’s become the world’s go-to research site. Eight times last summer and autumn, a university student added information about the city’s history of racial exclusion to Edina’s Wikipedia page. And each time, the same anonymous Wikipedia reader/editor removed the information. … Edina’s Country Club neighborhood, built between 1924 and 1944, is often cited by historians for its racially restrictive deed covenants. Homebuyers in Country Club had to agree they would never sell their property to anyone ‘other than one of the white or Caucasian race.’ Nonwhites also were barred from living in Country Club unless they were domestic servants and residing in the household they served.”