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No improvement in Minnesota students’ math and reading scores

Plus: state considers continuing lawsuit over health care funds; Senate candidates Smith, Housley talk Trump at Fair; Pence visits Minnesota for American Legion conference, fundraiser; and more.

Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis
Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

Says Erin Golden in the Strib: “The latest round of test scores from Minnesota schools show no improvement in math and reading and little movement in the state’s persistent achievement gap for students of color — but state education officials are downplaying the results, saying they don’t provide a full picture of student or school performance. Despite years of work to boost test scores and reduce disparities between student groups, statewide reading scores remained flat for the third year in a row, with 60 percent of students meeting state standards for proficiency in the 2017-18 school year. Math scores declined, with 57 percent of students meeting state standards, down from 59 percent a year earlier.”

An MPR story says, “Even as Minnesota officials celebrate the restoration of $85 million in federal health care funds this week, they are considering whether to continue suing the federal government. In December, the Trump administration abruptly withdrew subsidies which the state expected to use to fund MinnesotaCare. Just over 70 percent was returned Wednesday. Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said her staff is discussing what to do next. ‘We have until September 21 to decide whether or not we are going to re-open the lawsuit, to continue to litigate’, Piper said.”

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At Bloomberg Hanna Levitt writes: “Wells Fargo & Co. is investigating employees in its investment bank for alleged violations of its expense policy after they tried to get the company to pay for ineligible evening meals. The lender has already fired or suspended more than a dozen staff members for allegedly doctoring receipts to allow them to expense the meals, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify. … Wells Fargo has been dealing with a Federal Reserve-imposed growth ban requiring it to clean up its act to the regulator’s satisfaction before the bank can increase assets beyond their end-of-2017 level. Since the order — Janet Yellen’s final act as the Fed’s chair — took effect, the list of the bank’s lapses has grown to include unnecessary foreclosures and a U.S. inquiry into its purchase of low-income housing tax credits.”

Says Dan Browning in the Strib, “A Little Falls, Minn., man who is serving two life sentences for killing two teenagers who were burglarizing his home in 2012 has filed a ‘notice of appeal’ with the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging that a brief closure of the courtroom denied him his constitutional right to a public trial. The notice Wednesday is the latest in a series of legal filings by Byron Smith to have his convictions overturned. Byron Smith had argued in a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court that the trial court judge denied him his right to a public trial because he briefly closed the proceedings to spectators and the media before the opening statements to discuss some evidence.”

In the Grand Forks Herald, Barry Amundson says, “After scouring 187 lakes in Minnesota, a team of 225 trained volunteers found only one lake that had the invasive algae called starry stonewort. It was Wolf Lake in Hubbard County in north-central Minnesota. During a follow-up survey in the lake, DNR invasive species specialists found a one-third-acre bed of starry stonewort at an undeveloped access off a township road. Boat inspections have been expanded and treatment options are being considered, along with more follow-up surveys to watch for the invasive algae in other parts of the lake.”

In the Duluth News Tribune, Katie Pinke reports, “This week, Iris Westman celebrated her 113th birthday. Westman was born in 1905 and is a 1928 graduate of the University of North Dakota. As the oldest living North Dakotan, she still owns and rents out some of the family farmland she grew up on, possibly making her the oldest living farmer in America. ‘I still have a farm. Yeah, I am a farmer!’ says Westman … .”

Out at the Fair, MPR’s Mark Zdechlik reports, “[Tina] Smith and [Karin] Housley have been offering voters dramatically conflicting visions as they’ve been campaigning at the Minnesota State Fair. Smith drew enthusiastic applause at the DFL booth talking about President Trump’s possible legal problems. ‘Nobody is above the law in this country, not any of us here in this pavilion and not the president of the United States.’ Housley, a state senator from St. Mary’s Point, appeared at a rally with Trump earlier this summer in Duluth and backs the president. ‘I do support his policies. I don’t know if I’m a fan of his style, but his policies are working,’ Housley said, pointing to the strong economy and low unemployment rate.”

Stribber Kelly Smith reports, “Vice President Mike Pence visited Minnesota on Thursday — his second stop in the state this month — to reiterate President Donald Trump’s support of veterans at the American Legion’s national conference and attend a fundraiser for the state’s Republican Party. In an afternoon address to a Legion crowd of several hundred people at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Pence said that Trump is an “ally and champion” for veterans and ticked off the work his administration has done on behalf of them, such as improving access to mental health services.”

The Star Tribune’s Dan Browning writes: “An ad hoc group of Prince fans is gathering signatures on a petition they plan to present next month to state and federal law enforcement demanding a grand jury investigation into the musician’s death from an accidental overdose of painkillers in April 2016. State and federal authorities concluded their investigation this year without issuing any charges.”

Gone. The Winona Daily News’ Tesla Mitchell writes of Hokah, Minnesota’s best-known attraction: “Como Falls is destroyed. The damage done by torrential rainfalls Monday night into Tuesday washed away an entire hillside to the right of Como Falls, a waterfall on Thompson Creek, making a whole new path for the water that no longer flows over the falls. The rainfall totals didn’t set records in Hokah … but the damage to the park is much more severe, police chief Bob Schuldt said. ‘This is two or three times worse,” he said.”