September 30, 2022

Bapn Edu

Science is worth exploring

Education, crime, the city of Orono

Table of Contents

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

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Did any of the mental giants who negotiated the Minneapolis teacher layoff policy regarding race (or the previous seniority rule) ever consider the kids and the “product” they are receiving? (“Controversial means to a worthy end,” editorial, Aug. 27.) The dues-paying members of the union should be demanding what is best for the kids. Should they not be taught by the best-performing teachers regardless of race? I can’t believe the teachers who do belong to racial minorities are particularly thrilled about getting preferential treatment. This is not a policy that would fly in the corporate world — for all kinds of reasons!

By the way, has any consideration been given to determining what the pool is of certified, licensed, minority teachers available to teach? Efforts to diversify and recruit minorities for teaching positions (or any profession) is wasted effort and money if folks of color are not choosing to enter the teaching profession.

W.W. Bednarczyk, Minneapolis

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I quote from Saturday’s paper in the editorial and opinion pages:

“Research has shown that all students (and especially kids of color) benefit from having teachers of various backgrounds, racial and otherwise. Learning from a teacher of color can lead to higher academic performance, better attendance and higher graduation rates among students in that demographic, according to a study by the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute” (“Controversial means to a worthy end”).

Also:

“Students repeatedly ask for teachers who look like them and understand their cultural background” (“Protecting teacher diversity is key,” Opinion Exchange).

Are they actually suggesting we have segregated classrooms?

Ron Wobbeking, Savage

•••

The agreement between Minneapolis schools and the teachers union that protects teachers who are nonwhite from termination due to lack of seniority will be ruled unconstitutional in my opinion. The solution that doesn’t ever seem to be addressed is the concept of tenure in our schools.

I have never understood why education should be unlike any other industry that provides jobs. What public or private corporations, big or small, guarantee their employees tenure? If we wanted to have a level playing field, removing tenure is a good start. Tenure can protect teachers, both white and nonwhite, who are poorly performing. Parents should be able to have satisfaction knowing that the educational system can remove poorly performing teachers from the classroom, but tenure makes it very difficult for that to happen today.

The other issue Saturday’s editorial raises is money. Like many other policies we have seen over the past 65 years, the easy answer to solve problems is just to provide more capital, and like waving a magic wand, the problem will be solved. Many of us know how that has worked.

The backlash we have seen in recent years for poorly performing urban schools is the continued migration to private and religious schools as well as charter schools. I would expect that trend to continue. Competition is a good thing and can prevent any institution or individual from getting complacent.

In summary, protecting any class at the expense of others isn’t good policy. Giving all an equal opportunity should be paramount, but if that precept has been violated it needs to be corrected.

Kip Knelman, Paris, Ky.

CRIME

I’ll give the Star Tribune credit with “A night in Minneapolis” (front page, Aug. 28) — a game attempt to bring people out again, but it won’t work.

In fact, the only thing that will work is when Mayor Jacob Frey follows the city charter, and a judge’s order, and hires 300 more police.

Oh, sure, Twins and Viking games and big concerts won’t suffer, just the regular people who make the city go. Until they feel safe, Minneapolis will continue to die.

I wonder if the Star Tribune staff even gets this?

When the rest of us read a that woman was shot to death in broad daylight in front of downtown Target, you couldn’t drag us downtown.

The worst part is that it is going to get worse before it gets better; Frey will drag his feet as long as humanly possible, thereby losing more and more veteran officers.

Write another article when the Minneapolis Police Department can respond to noninjury 911 calls again, and I’ll consider coming back downtown.

Rob Godfrey, Minneapolis

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The article titled “Justice ‘by ZIP code, not fairness” (front page, Aug. 21) revealed that the restorative justice process can and does save lives. Restorative “diversion” is about understanding how the harm done affected others, taking responsibility to make it right, and getting support to change. Criminalizing behavior in the current juvenile “justice” process does none of that.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman made a harmful and misleading statement that “Diversion, in my view, has never worked for the most serious crimes. … Many of these kids, particularly the repeat offenders, need significant consequences.” I disagree. Restorative justice is about breaking the cycle of offending. My experiences working with young people and adults who have committed serious crimes and been through restorative process is more powerful than punishment alone. The data from the University of Minnesota clearly indicates that this restorative process is a “significant consequence” that makes a difference.

Recently, while working in Anoka County as the executive director of Mediation and Restorative Services, I experienced the resistance and often rejection of restorative justice by the county, as stated in the article. Anoka County has restorative justice services available at no cost for all youth. Why does the destiny of a young person depend so heavily on the lack of understanding of the adults in charge? State Rep. Sandra Feist’s proposed legislation is a start to expose these punitive systems. We must follow up with broader financial support to educate our community and provide restorative justice for all young people — not just some!

Carol Markham-Cousins, Minneapolis

ORONO

Orono Mayor Dennis Walsh is being disingenuous, deceitful or both with his statements alleging that “… we have not had to raise our tax capacity in 10 years” (“Stirring up the waters in Orono,” Aug. 24).

When Walsh took office in 2017, the city levied $5,205,280 in taxes. Today, under his watch, the current levy is at $6,944,777. That is a 33.4% increase by my math. The city’s current debt load is $18.3 million; it was $8.7 million when he arrived.

If Walsh continues to insist on foolish ventures such as decoupling from the historical fire services agreement with Long Lake, which will add more expenses to the bottom line, he will force Orono and its citizens to pay yet more taxes next year and the following years.

It’s bad enough that his vulgar mockery of citizens and authoritarian manner during meetings continues, and that the alleged land deal he made with his Planning Commissioner Bob Erickson (approved by the council) reeks of corrupt, political favoritism. But to claim he is a fiscally responsible, even likable servant of the people of Orono is a falsehood. It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic, especially the way he has put our city in a bad light again: landing his council on the front pages of the Star Tribune, with sensational photos to underscore the tenor and mismanagement of his dysfunctional public meetings.

Gabriel Jabbour, Orono

The writer is former mayor of Orono.