Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gone fishing . . .

Back in a few days.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Geoff Michel has a challenger . . .

A note to Spotty from Patrick at Minnesota Republican Watch:

A brief article, available at :

Lifelong Edina resident Andrew Borene is exploring a DFL candidacy for state Senate District 41 in the November 2006 election.

Borene, a former banker and U.S. Marine intelligence officer filed his campaign committee with the Minnesota Finance Board and has begun raising money to aid in his campaign for the DFL nomination for the November 2006 race.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, currently represents the district which includes Edina and portions of west Bloomington.

Borene has established a Web site at

I'd recommend a visit to the web site, it's very well done.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Senator Michel scores 100%!

The Taxpayers League of Minnesota gave our senator a 100% rating last year. That means, among other things that the senator:

1) voted to confirm Cheri Pierson Yecke as education commissioner,

2) voted for school vouchers, which would exacerbate public school funding problems, including in Edina and Bloomington (see Spotty's Vouchers Smouchers post about the constitutionality of vouchers schemes in the state of Minnesota),

3) signed the no taxes ever, I really mean it, cross my heart and hope to die pledge,

4) voted against even a modest increase in the minimum wage, and

5) the list goes on, but Spotty urges you to go read it for yourself.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Not much news . . .

Things are pretty quiet at the Legislature, although you can be sure there is a lot of activity under the surface. Spotty doesn't have anything to report about the senator.

Look for a new installment of You will be known by the company you keep. It should be posted in a few days.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

You will be known by the company you keep.

Part One

At least that's what Spotty's mom always used to say; Spot thinks she was right. Spot has written before, here and here, about Geoff Michel, his commitment to public education, and his commitment to Cheri Pierson Yecke. In summary, Spotty says that you can tell a lot about what Senator Michel thinks about public education, and what he is willing to do to support it, by looking at the people he hangs around with. Geoff Michel is tight as a tick, and Spotty knows from ticks, with the governor.

One of the governor's signature appointments was Cheri Pierson Yecke as Education Commissioner; the governor brought her to Minnesota from Virginia because of her knowledge of No Child Left Behind, or No Child Left Unscathed, as Spotty likes to call it. NCLB is designed to prove that all public schools are failures, for the purpose of turning the citizenry against them and causing public education to lose public support and funding.

In the previous posts, Spotty refers to a St. Paul Pioneer Press article where Michel voices strong support for Yecke. Please also consider the following from Minnesota Public Radio:
"In the wake of Commissioner Stanek's withdrawal [for making previously undiscovered racist remarks, Spotty], I think the Senate DFL is going to be emboldened to ask more questions and create more of a circus, and I'm sorry about that," Michel says. "I think that does a disservice to education in Minnesota, and most particularly, it does a disservice to a well-qualified appointee who should have been confirmed last year."
Well, as Spot's readers know, Cheri Pierson Yecke was not confirmed by the Minnesota Senate as Commissioner of Education, and she has been exiled to the Center for the American Experiment, that local sheltered workshop for unemployed conservatives. This all in spite of our senator's eloquent pleas both in the Education committee and on the Senate floor. But from his vantage point on the Education Committee, Michel could certainly see what Yecke was up to.

In recent days, Spot has discovered an article in the City Pages newspaper that anyone concerned about public education in Minnesota should read. In Built to Fail, the author provides a great description of how NCLB works, and how it is designed to make sure that all public schools get failing grades, sooner or later. Here's a couple of the opening paragraphs:
So it was quite a surprise last year [2004] when [Edina Superintendant Ken] Dragseth received a call from Minnesota Commissioner of Education Cheri Pierson Yecke, informing him that Edina had been put on the state list of schools that had failed to make "adequate yearly progress" under the terms of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The reason? State records showed that three of the 53 students categorized as "Asian/Pacific Islander" in the Edina system had not taken the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments test, putting that subgroup below the 95 percent participation level required by nclb. As it turned out, the three students had taken the test--bureaucratic error was appealed in time to remove Edina from the failure list. But Dragseth is still rankled by the experience.

"We have 7,200 kids in our district. The reality is, if just a few kids in a certain subgroup don't show up for the test, the whole district can be classified as failing and put under restriction," he says. "That's just asinine. I tell this to parents and they say it can't be so, but it is. I'm an old math teacher and statistician, and I know when I've been had."
Can't you just hear the condescending satisfaction in that harpie Yecke's voice when she informs Superintendent Dragseth that the school system had not made adequate yearly progress? As it turned out, the problem was with the Commissioner's office, not the school district, and it got fixed.

As the article goes on to report however, Rochester was not so lucky. At Franklin Elementary School a similar foul up in the Commissioner's office occurred, but it did not contest the error within the 30 day appeal period. So, the Red Queen refused to take the school off of the inadequate AYP list. Does this really sound like an genuine effort to improve education? It doesn't to Spotty.

Failure to make AYP in successive years has escalating consequences:
Under the terms of NCLB, which President Bush has called "the cornerstone of my administration," all of the nation's public school students must be tested in reading and math every year in grades three through eight, and at least once in grades ten through twelve. Any school receiving federal Title I money (ostensibly earmarked to improve the performance of disadvantaged students) faces increasingly harsh sanctions if its test scores fail to meet state-defined standards for making adequate yearly progress. After two years of AYP failure, the school must offer students the option of transferring to another public school in the district and bear the cost of transportation. After three years, the school must also offer low-income students tutorial services through a public or private agency approved by the state. After four years, the school district must take corrective actions such as removing personnel or changing the curriculum in the school. And after five years, the district is obliged to blow up, or "restructure," the school by replacing most or all of its staff or by turning over operations, as the U.S. Department of Education puts it, "to either the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness."
This is also taken from the City Pages article.

NCLB divides a school student population into many subgroups, and each one must make AYP, or the whole school fails for the year. And as alluded to above, participation for each group in the test must be at least 95%, or the school fails for that reason alone. Say you have one subgroup, students eligible for reduced cost lunch, or special education students (who have to be served under federal law too, remember) that doesn't get its chin up to the bar, the whole school flunks. Who wants to play Captain, May I? with Cheri Pierson Yecke?

NCLB will get you in the end if not before. As the article states, in nine years, a school has to be perfect or it fails:
For those schools lucky enough not to have enrolled a measurable amount of students in at-risk subgroups, or through Herculean effort somehow manage to otherwise avoid being put on the list of failing systems, NCLB simply cranks up its testing standards. The required proficiency rates for math and reading will inexorably climb over the next decade until, in 2014, we arrive at the theoretical endgame, where the only options are failure and perfection.

That's right: Every student in every subgroup must be proficient on every assessment in order for schools and districts to be in compliance with NCLB.
This is a recipe for disaster, a bloody unmitigated disaster.

Now apologists for the senator will say, well, he didn't enact NCLB, and he offered a resolution to postpone application of NCLB to high schools. Well, his resolution didn't pass and education policy is still chased and harried by the governor and the jackals who are tight with him, and Spotty says that includes Geoff Michel.

As we head toward elections, GM will try offer his useless resolution and moderate talk to make the voters forget his eager support for the governor's executioner and the $185,000,000 he helped wring out of education during the last biennium. Spotty says don't let him get away with it.

Spot is going to rerun this post every couple of weeks until he thinks every resident of the district has read it, so dear reader, you might as well start passing it around to shorten the process.

More about the gimmicky 65% solution . . .

This from the June 4th Star Triune op-ed page:

Rep. Karen Klinzing's bill to put 65 percent of every operational dollar into "regular instruction" appears to be another unfunded mandate.

The word "classroom(s)" appears 14 times in Klinzing's May 27 Commentary page article but only once in House File 616. "Regular instruction" appears four times in her legislation but not once in Klinzing's commentary. Yet the bill requires that 65 percent of operational expenditures be for regular instruction, not for classrooms.

Money spent on severance pay and ongoing insurance benefits for people who don't work for the school district is called regular instruction if the person used to be a regular classroom teacher.

Special education and vocational education are not regular instruction. Capital outlay revenue does not cover the cost of maintenance and repairs so operational dollars are used to fix roofs and parking lots. Klinzing's legislation says the operational costs for special education, vocational education, maintenance, food service, community service and administration cannot exceed 35 percent of the total operational expenditures.

If a student with special needs moves into a district, special education expenditures will go up. HF 616 requires regular instruction to go up also because of this additional special ed student. Some special education students cost a district $60,000 a year or more.

Get sued for cutting a special education program so 65 percent of your operational budget is spent on regular instruction and your legal fees go up along with the settlement for not following the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and your nonregular instruction expenditures go up. Again, HF 616 says you have to increase your regular instruction budget.

Add a vocational program and regular instruction has to go up, which means districts will be reluctant to add, or even maintain, vocational programs. Bus fuel, in a district with an area of a couple hundred square miles, goes from $1.25 to $1.95 per gallon and regular instruction has to go up.

It will probably be better to run a poor food service program at a loss than a profitable one with higher expenditures, even if a profitable food service generates the revenue to pay for itself, because the higher expenditures for a profitable program force regular instruction expenditures to go up.

Community service programs, which generate the revenues to pay for programs, will also require higher regular instruction expenditures under this legislation unless a prudent district cuts out the programs.

HF 616 is a Catch-22 that will drive up the cost of education.

Bruce L. Montplaisir is superintendent of the Lewiston-Altura School District.

The 65% solution is a national conservative gimmick that is floating around as another way to prove that public schools are failing, and play gotcha with the districts, just like NCLB. It has appeared in several states, first in Arizona Spotty recalls, where its legislature ultimately rebuffed it.

As most of Spotty's readers already know, Tim Pawlenty jumped on this bandwagon in the final days of the regular session. And Geoff Michel, that great champion of public education, or so he says, jumped right with him. Spot has written about this before.

Spot says that Geoff Michel will be known by the company he keeps That sounds to Spotty like a great theme for his next post!

Friday, June 03, 2005

From Spotty's perspective . . .

Several days ago, Spot asked readers to say what they thought that Ron Erhardt and Geoff Michel had in common. Mitch wrote to say they both wear neckties in public, but no one else could think of anything apparently.

For Spot's admittedly different perspective, the biggest thing they have in common is that they are both bipeds. Spotty is a quadruped, of course, so he notices things like this.

Ron Erhardt and Geoff Michel have different philosophies on transportation and education finance; Erhardt actually wants to provide some. They differ on amending the constitution to prohibit gay marriage; Erhardt is against it; Michel would vote for Michele Bachmann's "defense of marriage" amendment.

Ron Erhardt is a steadfast opponent of shall issue conceal and carry handgun legislation; Michel is a political opportunist who was originally for the idea, then changed his mind, sort of, when he saw the issue going against him in the district. He still voted to permit handguns in retail establishments, like Southdale, and hospitals and nursing homes.

Geoff Michel gave himself a political lobotomy when he signed the No New Taxes Ever, I Really Mean It, Cross My Heart and Hope to Die pledge; Ron Erhardt did not.

Perhaps most important, Ron Erhardt does not while away his days polishing the governor's apples.