Monthly Archives: February 2018

Parkland Strong: Let’s Walk Out With Our Kids, March Behind Them, And Shut Up About Adult Agendas

This afternoon my son called home from college. He went straight past hello, to “There’s a crisis on campus.”

My heart had filled with ice water and I was halfway to my knees in the nanosecond before he cranked out the rest of the sentence: “There’s an ice storm coming and everything’s going to shut down.”

In that instant where I imagined my toe-headed baby was waiting for the shooting to stop, all I could see was the scrim of blond curls that bobbed along on his toddler explorations. Not even his face, just that gold halo.

How many families last week answered calls and texts that didn’t resolve with the closure of the dining hall? (Including, in a shattering piece of journalism, a family that at first feared the Broward County Sheriff’s Department was calling about their child, only to have that replaced with the horror that in fact the call was about shooter Nik Cruz, who they had taken in at their son’s request.)

When my firstborn came home from kindergarten and told me his class had learned what to do if he was at a friend’s house and there were guns, I broke a little inside.

When I got a robo-call the next year reporting that a child had brought a gun to school and carried it into the lunchroom, I broke a little more.

The robo-call I got when a former student brought rifles – plural — to middle school? Broke, broke, broke. Continue reading

Item World: The St. Paul Teachers Contract Settlement Edition


While we wait to find out what’s in the proposed contract settlement between St. Paul Public Schools and its teachers announced Monday morning, let’s visit about a few associated items, shall we?


Does anybody remember the coup de gras leaders of the current St. Paul School Board delivered to former Superintendent Valeria Silva? Recruited, funded and swept to electoral victory by the teachers’ union, the first thing they did upon taking office two years ago was to settle the last contract talks by granting raises of 2 percent in each of the next two years, to the tune of $21 million. On top of the contract’s automatic “step and lane” increases, which cost an additional 2 percent to 4 percent a year.

This of course exacerbated the district’s shortfall, which the new board majority believed could be made by up by cutting fat at the administrative level. They didn’t like the budget Silva presented, sent her back to do it their way and when the river of superfluous money failed to appear volunteered to buy out her contract. They didn’t have cause to let her go, so the cost of this maneuver approached $1 million.

And so how bitter is the irony that in recent weeks these same relative board newcomers have found themselves pleading publicly that there is no money? And that their 2016 decision in fact compounded the size of the shortfall today? Continue reading

It Ain’t About the Money

Could This Year’s Twin Cities Teacher Contract Talks Have More to Do With the Unions’ Survival Than With Steps and Lanes?


Have you read the sundry proposals and counterproposals on the table in the noisy and contentious teacher contract negotiations underway in Minneapolis and St. Paul? I have, and there are some doozies in there.

Like a Minneapolis Federation of Teachers proposal to require the district to ascertain whether anything it buys – carpeting, toilet paper, light bulbs – contains any element produced by a company with a relationship to the Koch brothers.

I mean, I don’t like the Koch brothers either, but this strikes me as absurd. Even if it didn’t run counter to laws and policies requiring competitive bids, how would Minneapolis Public Schools implement it? And how much, in a year where there’s a $33 million deficit, would it cost to start screening products to find out who produced their various components?

I mean, some of the items on the list attached to the proposals are enzymes.

I’m going to scooch out on a skinny, skinny limb here for a second and venture that the ugly name-calling, the pie-in-the-sky demands and the political theater aren’t about the money.

There isn’t any. Whether there should be is a political question rightly to be debated, but the reality is the districts don’t have it to give. Both have labor-friendly boards – not to mention board members who work for local unions or did before their elections — that presumably would love nothing more than to float all boats. Continue reading