Archive | September, 2011

Don’t forget: Leidiger voted to cut K-12 first

As we’ve noted previously, legislative Republicans have taken great pride in their K-12 education funding “accomplishments” during the last session.

But we shouldn’t forget what happened early in the session when the Republican caucus was working on bills without the restraint of worrying about what was acceptable to Governor Dayton.   House File 934 was the omnibus education finance bill.

During the run-up to the first passage of the bill in March, Rep. Mark Buesgens of Jordan brought an amendment to the floor of the House.  The Buesgens amendment would have cut the per-pupil funding rate by $15 and reduced funding for early childhood education — what would have been a total of $25 million in cuts over the next two years.

The amendment went down to defeat by a rousing 112-16 count.  Among the 16 who voted in favor of these cuts:  Rep. Ernie Leidiger of Mayer.

So, if you hear Rep. Leidiger talking about his votes for increased education funding, make sure to ask him why he first voted for K-12 education cuts earlier in the session.

(h/t Bluestem Prairie and Winona Daily News)

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2011-12 VFW essay competitions announced

The Veterans of Foreign Wars have announced their 2011-12 essay competitions.

For 9th-12th graders, the Voice of Democracy program wants essays on the topic “Is There Pride in Serving in Our Military?”.  6th-8th graders compete in the Patriots Pen program, with the topic “Are You Proud of Your Country?”.  More information and entry forms can be found on the national VFW website.  The two programs have a combined prize pool of $250,000 in scholarships and savings bonds for winning essays.

Completed essays should be returned to Chaska VFW Post 1791, which is located at 620 Creek Road.  The entry deadline is November 1.

Vote for Athletic Park to help it win a $125,000 grant

Chaska’s historic Athletic Park was selected as one of 25 Twin Cities sites competing to win up to $125,000 in grant money as part of American Express’s Partners In Preservation program.

Winners will be selected by an online vote on Facebook.  You can vote one time per day between now and October 12.  Tell your friends!

To vote:
1. Go to www.Facebook.com/PartnersinPreservation.
2. “Like” the page.
3. Find Chaska Athletic Park in the list of sites.
4. Cast your vote for Chaska Athletic Park.
5. Repeat tomorrow!

Athletic Park is currently in 5th place — let’s keep the votes coming!

Math gap between Chaska and Chanhassen high schools narrows

Much was made of the 2010 MCA II math test results for 11th graders, the first such standardized testing for the Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) since the opening of Chanhassen High School.  The test results showed an alarming 27-point gap between the two schools that caused significant community reaction and action by the district to improve math performance at Chaska High School.

Earlier this week, the results of the 2011 tests were released, and the gap between the two schools has narrowed to about 17 points.  The narrowing of the gap represents a good news, bad news situation.  On the plus side, performance at Chaska High was up six points over 2010.  But, performance at Chanhassen High dropped four points from last year.  Chanhassen continues to run well ahead of the state averages, while Chaska remains just slightly above average statewide performance.

Reading results for 2011 were also released this week.  Grades 3-8 and 10 were tested last year, and District 112 was consistently about 10 points ahead of the state average and was solidly in line with neighboring districts.

 

Ernie Leidiger grovels to Bradlee Dean [UPDATE #2 9/15]

The good folks at DumpMicheleBachmann call our attention to Rep. Ernie Leidiger’s appearance on Bradlee Dean’s radio show on September 3.  There, Leidiger totally recants his criticism of Dean in the wake of Dean’s controversial appearance giving the invocation near the end of the legislative session.  You can also listen to the complete interview on Dean’s website, with Leidiger appearing at about the 25 minute mark.

It’s truly sad to see my state representative groveling to a person like Dean.

[UPDATE]:  Three key takeaways, if you don’t want to sit through the entire interview.

  1. Leidiger admits to attending a screening of Dean’s “My War” documentary.  Previously, Leidiger had said he was only familiar with Dean’s school presentations.
  2. Leidiger agrees with Dean on the need to protect children from the “homosexual agenda”
  3. Leidiger says there’s nothing “radical” about Dean or his ministry.

Check out our other coverage of the Leidiger/Dean fiasco:

Original post regarding House invocation

Dean’s July response to Leidiger

There’s also a lot more to Ernie Leidiger’s freshman term in the House than just this incident.  Read our Ernie Leidiger archive for more.

[UPDATE #2]:  For some history on Bradlee Dean and racial issues, see this post from DumpMicheleBachmann.  Just this past weekend, Dean said this:

“We hear people talk about our forefathers like they were bad [unintelligible]. Of course, you are hearing that from the left only and you are hearing that from black folk, so on and so forth, they use the excuse of slavery.”

Yes, one can only wonder why “black folk” would think slavery might be a demerit on the records of the founding fathers.  This is the kind of person Ernie Leidiger is now proud to associate himself with.

America’s small small-business sector

Everyone likes to talk about small business as the engine of the country’s economy.  Well, it may come as a surprise to find out (via WonkBlog at the Washington Post) that the U.S. has the smallest small-business sector of the 25 largest economies in the OECD.  Only 34.1% of American workers are employed by firms with 50 or less employees.  Most OECD countries have about half of all workers working in small businesses, while Greece leads the pack with about three-quarters of workers employed by small businesses.

Why would the United States lag other countries so noticeably?  There’s many potential explanations — the U.S. has one of the most mature modern corporate cultures in the world (note that other countries near the bottom include similar countries like the U.K., Germany, and France).  Some researchers have pointed the finger in another direction, though — towards the availability of universal health care.

By de-linking employment and health care, people in Western Europeans countries are more free to pursue building their own business because they don’t have the burdens of health care for themselves (and their employees) to consider.  One has to wonder how much the labor markets in our country have been distorted by our inability to break to link between health care and employment.

 

3 reasons to be wary of GOP attacks on local school boards

In recent days, we’ve seen Minnesota Republicans ramp up rhetoric against school boards who have put levy referendums on the ballot this November.  It’s expected that there will be over 130 such ballot questions this November, from all corners of the state.  This would be the largest number of school levy referendums in a single year in state history.

Unhappy with what such a spate of referendums would imply about state levels of funding for education, several of them have started to spout off.  For instance, Rep. Pat Garofalo, the chair of the House Education Finance Committee said “Unfortunately, we have some school boards that are using people’s generosity to engage in the fleecing of taxpayers, and that’s just not acceptable.”  He’s threatening — along with other members of the House Republican caucus — to publicly attack particular referendums they think are out-of-bounds.  Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Drazkowski recently urged voters in his district to oppose referendum votes in the Lewiston-Altura and St. Charles districts.

Garofalo and Drazkowski both cite changes in the recently-passed budget as making such referendums unnecessary — specifically a $50 increase in the per-pupil formula in each of the next two years and one-time increases in compensatory funds.  While I’m not here to pass judgment on any of the merits of a specific district’s referendum, what is clear is that such attacks by Republican politicians on locally-elected school boards are hypocritical on many levels.

First off, locally-elected school boards don’t have the variety of accounting tricks and gimmicks at their disposal the same way Republican politicians like Garofalo and Drazkowski do.  They don’t have the ability to shift when they pay expenses at their whim like the politicians in St. Paul have done each of the last two sessions.  And despite the happy talk from Garofalo and Drazkowski, the implementation of the additional school shift will do far more damage to school district finances than can be recouped through the changes to the funding formulas.  Here in Carver County, the Eastern Carver County School District will see a net loss in funding of $3.6 million over the next two years because of the Republican budget.  Total state borrowing from public schools now totals over $2 billion.

Second, Legislative Republicans who chafe under federal mandates are now passing that same treatment down to local officials.  Garofalo trumpets the need for local control of schools, but now threatens to stick his nose into the business of school districts outside of his home in Farmington.  Since when does he know better than the folks in, say, Thief River Falls about their local needs?  Drazkowski, meanwhile, has supported legislation that would stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota and a constitutional amendment that would allow state nullification of federal statutes.  Drazkowski and Carver County’s own Ernie Leidiger backed a bill that would have mandated a pay freeze on teachers.  Funny — Garofalo, Drazkowski, and Leidiger all bleat about their support for “local control” of schools on their websites.

Finally, the notion offered by Garofalo that most of these districts are looking for additional funds is just flat-out not factual.  If you look at the list complied by the Minnesota School Boards Association, most of the levy questions are actually renewals of existing levies, which would maintain existing tax levels, not increase them.

[NOTE:  I have not taken a position on the District 112 technology referendum as of yet and will not until I see additional information on specifically how the levy dollars are intended to be used.]

Coming soon to a ballot near you: District 112 Technology referendum

The Eastern Carver County School Board approved placing a $1.9 million annual technology levy on the ballot in November.  The Board voted unanimously in favor of the measure.  More on this to come before the election.

District 112 joins several other area districts with levy questions going before voters this fall, including  Delano, Eden Prairie, Edina, Richfield, Watertown-Mayer, and Westonka.  The Waconia School Board will vote next week on a proposal to put plans for a new elementary school on the ballot.

Feeling a little Surly? [UPDATED]

After its successful drive last legislative session to get approval to build a “destination brewery”, the Surly Brewing Company is moving forward on identifying potential sites for the building.  According to the Star Tribune, one of the cities stepping forward as a suitor is Chaska.

Don’t get your hopes up yet, as Surly’s current home — Brooklyn Center — is expected to make a strong pitch to keep the brewery.  Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was one of Surly’s biggest cheerleaders during the legislative session and city staff have already reviewed 20 potential sites with Surly officials.  But if nothing else, it’s good for Chaska to be in on the conversation and it demonstrates the city’s aggressiveness is pursuing new, unique opportunities for economic development.

[UPDATE]:  The Chaska Herald reports the city is pitching the Chaska Building Center site to Surly officials, so far to no response.

Ortman, Hoppe and Leidiger have lots of time for hobnobbing with donors, no time for you [UPDATE]

We’ve spent a lot of time lately chronicling the Carver County GOP’s misadventures with their shooting clays fundraiser slash influence-peddling auction targeted at lobbyists.  But let’s not forget that Senator Julianne Ortman is prepping for a September 21 fundraiser in St. Paul with tickets starting at $100 a person.

Maybe Ortman and her House colleagues Joe Hoppe and Ernie Leidiger should grace the general public with a town hall meeting so they can hear what the public — and not their patrons — have to say.  By my calculations (and open to correction if I am wrong), our Carver County legislative delegation hasn’t held a town hall meeting since 2007.  If Hoppe were any more low-profile since the session ended, he would be underground.

[UPDATE]:  There’s been a good back-and-forth with Jim Sanborn in the comments below.  Sanborn is correct that Senator Ortman has been attending many local city council and school board meetings over the last month, and she had the highest level of visibility of the delegation at the various community parades and festivals this summer.  It should also be pointed out that the $100 donation for the Ortman fundraiser is the “recommended” donation, not a requirement.

To reflect that, I have changed the featured photo on the post.

As noted in my most recent comment below, however, I stand by pointing out that both the auction and the Ortman fundraiser target people outside of the district for fundraising purposes.

In the 2010 election cycle, 70% of Ortman’s itemized individual contributions came from outside the district, and she raised more money from Political Action Committees than her DFL State Senate opponent AND the DFL State House candidate in 34A combined.  Given the grief that DFL candidates receive for the funding they get from union PACs, it seems worthwhile to point out the other side of the coin.

And I will continue to call for our legislative delegation to hold a town hall meeting.

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