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Letters: why Minneapolis teachers are underpaid, COVID-19, and appreciating abortion providers

Our weekly(ish) roundup of letters from MinnPost readers.

Teachers and supporters picketing outside Justice Page Middle School.
Teachers and supporters picketing outside Justice Page Middle School.
MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig

Take the education fight to the Legislature

Minneapolis Public School teachers have every right to strike. They were deprived of meaningful pay increases in both 2019 and 2021. Who is the power broker in this situation? It is not the school board — and certainly not Superintendent Ed Graff.

Only the governor and state legislature can provide the funds teachers are demanding. Local school boards just hand it out. They exist solely to oversee the districts, and have no power to raise money. Any increase teachers receive now would be trivial, and taken from other areas of MPS, which is already in a deficit.

I volunteered with Adriana Cerrillo, Director of District 4 on the Minneapolis School Board, during last year’s budget negotiations to avoid the present situation. When the State Senate GOP proposed defunding public education, a small group of parents, teachers and civil servants from around Minnesota banded together. We phone-banked, wrote letters and took to social media to pressure those blocking attempts at funding schools. While teachers did not receive funds for a meaningful raise, the catastrophe of cutting $600 million from schools was averted.

Politicians are only as powerful as their ability to unify voters. Pushback from a broad, geographically-diverse coalition is enough to make any senator blink. Had enough people joined in to pressure their Republican senators last year, teachers would likely not be striking today.

The GOP wagered that their constituents would put up with underfunding schools. They were right. The power, then, lies with those voters. If we are serious about improving public education, we must make these voters understand how funding cuts hurt everyone. Then we have to organize with them to oust any politician who opposes us. The districts of Senate Education Finance and Policy Chair Roger Chamberlain (38) and former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (9) are logical starting points.

Or we could just yell at a superintendent.

—Michael Wellvang, Minneapolis

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The COVID-19 fight isn’t over

Recently, local and state governments have started to ease COVID-19 rules. And while I am so happy that we seem to be through the worst of another wave, I am writing to remind readers that, for many, the fight isn’t over.

While my COVID symptoms themselves were quite mild, the infection sent my immune system into overdrive, and my body began attacking itself. I developed a fever and pain so severe that my parents admitted me to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with something called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).

For me, this has been a nightmare that just won’t end. A year later, I still have some strange symptoms, and I don’t feel like my health has ever truly rebounded. I rarely feel 100% and everyday tasks can pose massive challenges. And while MIS-C is relatively uncommon, I know I’m not alone in feeling the detrimental long-term side effects of COVID-19. Around the world more than 100 million people are estimated to feel the long-term side effects from the coronavirus. It’s very unsettling to not fully understand this disease and the way it will impact me going forward.

If we want to ensure that young people like me have the brightest futures possible, we need more research into the impacts of COVID-19 and other understudied illnesses like MIS-C. I hope our lawmakers agree and oppose legislation that stands in the way of pharmaceutical research and innovation. Measures like prescription price fixing could ultimately prevent this crucial work, and for the patients with chronic illnesses, like me, this could be disastrous.

—Rachael Busch, Mankato

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Appreciation for abortion providers

On March 10, 1993, an anti-abortion extremist murdered Dr. David Gunn, a Florida-based abortion provider . To honor Dr. Gunn’s life and work, and all of the courageous, compassionate people who provide abortions, we observe the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers on the anniversary of that tragic day.

This year, with abortion rights hanging in the balance and access significantly diminished in states around the country, it’s more important than ever that we celebrate the amazing doctors, nurses, and staff members who provide abortion services.

We have already seen a radical abortion ban put into effect in Texas and copycat laws considered in states like Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, and Ohio. It looks like the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, which would likely result in abortion becoming illegal in 26 states.

But we know abortion is essential health care. Abortion access is important to me because my physical and economic health depended on being able to control when and if I had children. Too many of my peers in high school in the 1960s had forced adoptions, abandonment by their own parents, or forced marriages. The fact of their pregnancies meant no college for them. I was very lucky that my own unwanted pregnancy happened in 1974, so I was able to have a safe legal abortion by a real doctor.

Eight in 10 Americans agree that abortion should remain legal. This National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, I want to thank abortion providers everywhere and make it known that abortion should be safe, legal, and accessible to everyone.

—Kit Ketchum, Edina

MinnPost welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Interested in joining the conversation? Submit your letter to the editor. The choice of letters for publication is at the discretion of MinnPost editors; they will not be able to respond to individual inquiries about letters.