No band, no music, no art, no soul, no future, Unless

After reading an AP story (link from WCCO) I wrote this column in one sitting. This is my weekly column for the Sunday, June 28, 2009 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I’m posting it on publication day because I want the conversation to begin Monday morning across the Iron Range.

No band, no music, no art, no future: Unless
By Aaron J. Brown

A June 22 statewide AP education story published in this newspaper reads as follows:

“ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — There’s no band anymore at Nashwauk-Keewatin Schools. Art and music classes are history, too. Almost a quarter of the teachers were laid off to fix a deficit.”

The shear alarm of these facts going on in our backyard is part of the reason I’ve been critical of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s style and philosophy in fixing the state’s budget problems through unallotment and funding shifts. (My fervor has profoundly angered some frequent commenters on my blog). But there are further hard truths. No school district that fails to offer at least two of the three in band, music and art should even bother operating. Immediate consolidation should be sought under any such circumstance, and Range districts – not just N-K – are notoriously slow and parochial on these matters. The loss of advanced and cultural curriculum will just keep happening until they do.

What a pathetic state of affairs in the Iron Range education community, and I mean that in the literal Greek – an emotional experience of suffering. A lot of people I talk to are sad and resigned. That’s not helpful. A lot of other people I talk to are angry and don’t know where to direct that anger. Also unhelpful. The easy answer would be to attack the governor, but he’s not running for re-election. The 2010 governor’s race is vitally important but too far off to solve our current problems. I would contend that the best place to spend anger is in organizing for a common cause.

Now is the time for a Range-wide K-12 educational plan that sees to it that our schools are as cost-efficient as possible and that no child is deprived of the arts, advanced courses and important life skill training that nurtured four previous generations of Iron Rangers. Consolidate, pair and share, whatever it takes. What are our values for education? What are the things that no child should go without learning or experiencing? These things are so much more important than buildings or institutions.

Once we’ve established a way of doing this, once we’ve innovated, Iron Range schools can better protect themselves from the rebuke of suburban conservative ideologues that hold the Iron Range in such contempt. We will stand on stronger footing to argue for a better funding structure in the 2011-12 biennium. Remember the standard handed down to us from generations of Iron Rangers: No matter your name, your ethnicity, your part of town, your parent’s job, you deserve a world class education and the opportunity to reach the highest rungs in our society … if you work hard and innovate.

The funding many of us wanted for education has been denied to us. We will suffer as a result and cannot maintain all of excellent programs and courses that students deserve. But we don’t have to suffer further through inaction. Now is the time for educators, administrators, leaders and citizens to plan for fewer schools and better curriculum in the short term. Immediately. Not just one district, but all of them.

Fewer districts, fewer buildings, more teachers, more courses. If you are a school board member, administrator or parent, take heed and take action. You don’t have to. But this continuing decay of our children’s future will proceed regardless.


Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog His book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. Anonymous says

    Oscar Wilde’s comment about some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing seems the case here.

  2. Anonymous says

    Good to see this kind of passion around an issue, a good issue. It’s what made the Iron Range a great place to grow up, to get a quality education, to move away and compete in the world…and gratefully say – “I’m from the Iron Range”.

  3. Anonymous says

    I’d be afraid of consolidation only because of the mess I’ve seen happen in Duluth. When you bring in 3rd party consultants you get big city answers to small town problems. The loss of these programs is horrible but is it worth the loss of identity for these small towns?

  4. Anonymous says

    No way around it, economy of scale, leverage, is needed for smaller programs to survive. Nothing wrong with that. Exposing students to a broader world sooner has it’s benefits…

  5. What can someone who doesn’t have kids do to help this situation? Seriously. I’d love to help, but have no clue and no apparent street cred without kids other than the obvious fact that I’m paying more taxes for other people’s kids to go to school 😉 I have energy and time – send me in a direction and I’ll go. Argh, I’m going to go write my own dang blog about this now 😉

  6. Toni Wilcox says

    You are sugar coating it a bit Aaron. Even with band, music and art programs why should area schools exist period? I’m not familiar with data from the east range, but not a single school district in Itasca County meets the state average in reading at the 8th grade level. The “achievement gap” isn’t just between our children living in poverty and those in better off families-there is an achievement gap between our students and the state. Merely consolidating to make the same poor education cheaper is less than our kids deserve.

    I’m sure this stance is even less popular than yours, but I think it’s time to admit our schools aren’t doing the job now and haven’t been for a while. Consolidation may be a necessary short term solution to at least keeping the doors open, but I hope we’ll use the current crisis to do more than that.

  7. Ross Williams says

    There is a lot of evidence that larger, consolidated schools actually provide a worse education than smaller schools. You end up with some kids spending several hours a week on a school bus instead of in class. And they lack the social support that smaller schools get from engaged parents and other members of the community.

    What is needed is not using meager resources more efficiently. What is needed is more resources to provide the same level of education our parents provided for most of us.

    It doesn’t matter how much you save for retirement if we can no longer produce enough of the goods and services you want to buy. The next generation better be more productive than this generation, just as this generation is more productive than our parents. We will all pay for the current failure to invest in making the next generation more productive.

    I think the real reason for declining support for eduction is a desire to punish teachers unions by their political opponents. Cutting spending reduces their members and puts pressure on local school districts to restrain increased wages and benefits. The fact that students and the rest of us are the ultimate victims of that short-sighted vendetta seems have gotten lost.

  8. Thank you all for your excellent comments. It seems you have all hit on important aspects of this debate.

    The most ideal solution would be an adequately funded public school system that allowed communities to maintain their local schools with reasonable class sizes and competitive curriculum. That’d be my first choice.

    We didn’t get that in the last budget. Realistically, the earliest we could is 2011, and that’s a best case scenario as the next governor — DFL or GOP — will inherit a massive budget deficit even worse than the current one. I wish that a hunger strike or even a planned riot would solve the problem, but our infernal society doesn’t accept such things. So, we are stuck with what we have.

    N-K, or Greenway, or the St. Louis County Schools (of which I am an alum) operating without globally competitive curriculum is detrimental to a generation of students, a generation of student like I was — poor, non-college educated parents. I had the benefit of a small, local school with small class sizes that helped me incalculably. I used to think it was the school, but more recently I think it was the teachers and the attention. And anyway, I had a one hour bus ride and survived. Indeed the bus ride was as much an “education” as anything else.

    I used to think that consolidation was a sin, and now I don’t. We have to work in the world we live in for the world we wish for, not the other way around.

  9. Ross Williams says

    “N-K, or Greenway, or the St. Louis County Schools (of which I am an alum) operating without globally competitive curriculum is detrimental to a generation of students”

    I think you did miss at least one of my points which was that a consolidated schools are actually less likely to deliver a “globally competitive curriculum”. The negative consequences to the quality of the students’ education far outweigh any educational benefits that can attained with savings from financial efficiencies.

    “We have to work in the world we live in for the world we wish for”

    I think we need to make the world the kind of place we want to live in and we want to leave to future generations. Yes, there are pragmatic concerns with what is possible. But designing an education system to operate under the current financial constraints is accepting failure. If anything, consolidation demands more resources just to maintain the current quality of education.

  10. Excellent editorial, Aaron.

    Hearing Pawlenty mouthing nonsense about former rival SC Gov Sanford, from a speaking tour in Arkansas, over the weekend angered me some more. Meanwhile reports statewide testify to the catastophe this Governor is unleashing – by his unallotments and withholding/deferring school and health funds.

    But I agree, anger and future politics aren’t enough right now.

    My kids, and my wife and I, benefited greatly in our schooling because of Teachers, not facilities.

    Music – choir and band directors. Athletic coaches. Spanish teachers. Library Club (where we met, introduced by an outstanding librarian)

    Advanced Placement coursework for the kids from gifted and talented Teachers.

    Gymnastics coaches. A Percussion Specialist serving several districts. Jazz Band. Grades 7-12 in a New Math experimental curriculum.

    I live in the Aitkin District, ISD-1. My grandkids learn out of state. But I have never voted against a school levy, or failed to investigate candidates and vote in local school board elections. Ran once and lost; decades ago.

    As for right now? Organize and brainstorm priorities. Search for alternative short-term funding sources to keep good programs – and hope – alive.

    Leave the NEA, MEA, EducMN, GOPDFL politics alone. It just gets everyone lost in fighting old wars and predjudices.

    Remember, It’s the Kids. Lose one term or one year of opportunity, and it is gone forever from their developing lives.

    What can You do now to make sure the Fall term gives kids the “best learning possible?”

    (my campaign slogan for that 1981 election)

    Best Learning Practices start with parental involvement and volunteering. Musicians, Artists, Athletes, Woodworkers, Foresters, Farmers, Poets, Writers, and Broadcasters – all can take a temporary part-time assignment for a semester.

    What is working well in other areas? How to insure that 2011, 2012, 2013 funds increase?

    Maybe the best schools will get better with fewer “curriculum specialists” and assistant principals, but more inspired teachers.

    School district turf battles are inevitable. One neighboring district overbuilt. Another had funds stolen.

    Citizens are not “patrons.” We are voters, parents, and relatives of our children.

    We all need an attitude adjustment about our present obligation to the third and fourth generations.

    -Gord Prickett
    The Golden Gopher from KAXE

  11. Anonymous says

    To those of you suggesting that throwing more money at the school system is the answer…show me the data.

    It’s the classic liberal solution this problem but it doesn’t work…

    Look it up.

  12. Look what up? Could you can the “look it up” business on every political post I write, Anon? It’s troll-like and doesn’t suit your sensibilities.

    Ross, I do understand your point but what you describe is not a politically realistic option for 2-4 years, if ever. So is it worth substandard schools in the short term while we wait for the poliical stars to align? On the Range I think we could operate fine on 3 big districts and as many schools as are supportable. A lot of the smaller schools could find new life as charter and specialty schools.

  13. Anonymous says

    Aaron…just trying to hold you accountable (and have you do the work) by having all speak with as much data as possible. There’s data out there which shows “dollars spent per pupil” doesn’t equate to a higher quality education.

    Blowhardness, retoric and going the way of those who yell the loudest isn’t the answer. If it were, Rukavina’s school district would be winning all state high school titles. It’s the truth that wins the day.

    I’ll see what I can find to prove the point..

  14. I think I know the study you’re talking about. George Will used it in a column some time back. It’s probably true that per pupil spending wouldn’t hold a direct correlation to student outcomes, but there are a lot of variables that come into play. For instance, the socioeconomic status of the students would matter, as would whether or not they have disabilities. Starving out Iron Range schools because of the geographic isolation and declining enrollment is certainly not a way to increase outcomes.

    I’m not as closed minded as you think, Anonymous. It will take combination of funding AND innovation to change the equation. In case you didn’t notice I’ve now floated a proposal to make Range schools more efficient. But without paying for the educational needs of the students, efficiency is just a nice word.

  15. Anonymous says

    More spending on education answer isn’t the answer –

    Minnesota $ 9,138….graduation rate 79.2%

    Washington DC $ 13,446…graduation rate 48.8%
    New York $ 14,884…graduation rate 68.3%
    Michigan $ 9,572…graduation rate 69.6%
    Delaware $11,663…graduation rate 66.0%
    Mass $11,981…graduation rate 75.9%
    Rhode Island $11,769…..graduation rate 72.8%
    Arkansas $11,460…graduation rate 71.9%
    Wyoming $11,197…graduation rate 73.2%

    Iowa spent $ 8,360 per pupil….graduation rate 80.7%
    North Dakota $8,603…graduation rate 79.0%
    Nebraska $8,736…graduation rate 78.7%

    And the list goes on…

    *Graduation Rate data – Education Week
    *Spending data – U.S. Census Bureau

  16. Interesting numbers but you can’t make a conclusion about what to do based on this. You have to cross this information with the curriculum, other expenses, population and student needs. I’d love to know why grad rates are better in Iowa than in Wyoming. I don’t think spending less is the reason.

    Here’s my million dollar (OK, not that much) question: How do we get a kid from north of Nashwauk to a school and prepare him or her to compete in the global economy of the future? The question is HOW not WHETHER. I’m not saying that spending more on the current system is the answer, or even necessarily possible. But not doing anything is unacceptable. And the answer will probably involve some new money, even though you don’t like that.

  17. Anonymous says

    The reason graduation rates are better in certain families, cities, districts and states…also many countries as simple.

    It’s family values, parental guidance and setting high expectations, nothing to do with money.

  18. Are you saying that families are 25 percent more secure in Iowa than they are in Wyoming?

    See, you are half right. I was blessed to have a reasonably secure home, at least during my early years. But my secure home and expectations did not teach me how to structure a sentence, use a computer or do math. Public schools make the difference in upward mobility and a naturally expansive economy.

  19. Ross Williams says

    ” I do understand your point but what you describe is not a politically realistic option for 2-4 years, if ever. So is it worth substandard schools in the short term while we wait for the poliical stars to align?”

    My point is that consolidation will make things worse in the short term and the long run.

    Consolidation is about how many high school graduates you can produce at the lowest cost. It has nothing to do with the quality of that education.

    Would more money mean that more schools could offer band, orchestra and art to students without excluding those whose parents won’t or can’t pay an extra fee? The obvious answer is, yes. So more money does have an obvious direct impact on the education students receive.

    Less money hasn’t reduced the number of bad teachers. It hasn’t reduced waste, fraud and abuse. It has simply reduced the quality of educational opportunities provided to students.

  20. Right, Ross, but that’s the paradox. Our local Range schools have declining enrollment and no immediate solution that involves additional money. N-K, as mentioned in the column (which is shorter than this discussion thread), is running without vital courses and programs for who knows how long. The most practical solution is to combine districts (not necessarily close schools, though that is a strong possibility if population loss continues) so that the opportunities you mention are made available. You could do it without consolidation (pair and share) but that usually ends up in a top heavy administrative structure.

  21. The enrollment has been declining since the 1970s. VHS had graduating classes of about 350 back in the early ’70s… less than 200 in the ’80s…

    “The most ideal solution would be an adequately funded public school system that allowed communities to maintain their local schools with reasonable class sizes and competitive curriculum.”

    “adequatley”? “reasonable”?

    Please, Aaron, define your terms.

    “We didn’t get that in the last budget.”

    How much more money would be enough? 10%? 20%? 30%?

    Ask not how much more money you want the government to take from others for you; ask how can you do more with the resources you have.

    Say it loud and say it proud, Aaron: Yes We Can!

  22. Several issues have been discussed, but only indirectly. Consolidation — first define, what does it mean? To simplify:

    If two districts are combined, but everything else remains the same, there would be, presumably, the same spending for everything except half as many administrators, hence, a savings of high salaries, plus some unemployment.

    If two schools or districts are combined into one school, then there should be a large savings from not having to heat and maintain one of the buildings, but most likely a higher cost of transportation and perhaps longer commutes. [The U of M, Duluth is currently working on a study to decrease school transportation times.] Some teachers, administrators, aids, custodians and secretaries would lose their jobs.

    If two schools can combine so that instead of very small class sizes the classes are in a more normal size range, then there could be money left over for some of the class choices that are now being cut.

    Quality of education: I do agree that new school buildings won’t improve education unless there is also some more innovative and effective teaching at the same time. This needs to go beyond the current ITV (interactive TV) classes being used in some of our schools. However, if a school is bigger than many of them are currently, then the teachers won’t have so many class-preps and might have more time and energy for innovation. Conjecture, of course.

    What hasn’t been address by the other comments is that some of our schools have had such a big drop in their census that class sizes have changed drastically. In some cases, that means small class sizes, so that the elementary grades are combined or the districts are dropping choices that used to be taken for granted in the higher grades. (Those great things that Gord mentions simply ARE NOT available in some of the schools now.)

    On the other hand, I’m told that in some cases, the drop in school census has meant that there are too few kids for two sections of a class, but an uncomfortably large number for one section. But for reasons of money, the district crams all the kids into one section.

    I attended the largest school in a 5 state area for high school. While there were a lot of class choices, we were given very few open hours in the day to take them. My kids attended a small town school here. I’m glad they did. There was more personal attention, even if there were fewer over-all choices. HOWEVER, they attended before the recent drop in census and funding.

    I think that schools need to be more than academic. I know my kids life and educational experiences were improved by all the extras. But NOW there is no home ec, shop, band, speech, school play, French, to name a few.

    I believe that we need to have schools that give our students a taste of areas of learning and life that they might not get in their homes. We need to do more than just “teach to the test.”

    If you care to dig out the info, here is how one of the districts did on the state testing: news paper article on line

  23. Anonymous says

    How long will we continue to do the same thing and expect a different result?

  24. Aaron,
    Thanks so much for starting this conversation! I would love to see a community-based, Range-wide K-12 educational planning effort get underway.

    For Anonymous and other detractors, Minnesota pays less per pupil now than in did in the mid-1990’s in inflation-adjusted dollars using the IPD, while at the same time having many more legal mandates pulling dollars from the classroom.

    I’m surprised people haven’t been talking about Governor Pawlenty’s defacto unallotment strategy in terms of the unraveling of the 1971 Minnesota Miracle. Investment in education had a lot to do with Minnesota’s prosperity in the latter part of the 20th Century. In the 1970’s, our parent’s generation had enough sense to see the value of local, rural communities and schools and set up the funding stream to maintain services statewide, both schools and local governments. It’s amazing to me we’ve allowed one person to undo a generation of effort.
    Let me know what I can do to help the Range define what it means to provide a 21st Century education to meet the needs of the global economy our kids will have to live and work and thrive in, and what it will cost to deliver it. To me, that’s the essence: what do the students need and what will it take to make it happen.


  25. “using the IPD”

    What? Smoke and mirrors? 3 Card Monte? Hyper-inflation adjusted dollars? I call BS.
    Minnesota has continually increased education funding above and beyond inflation and enrollment growth.

    Jennifer, I would recommend some remedial education on the history of education funding in MN since the 70s. Me thinks someone has been fed a liberal serving of talking points.

    The fact is, there was a time when education was locally funded and locally controlled. Oh Lord, what would we do without the Dept of Education?!?!?!? How did our kids survive?!?!?

    Mitch Berg over at Shot in the Dark blog has been doing an excellent series on charter schools in MN.

    So, ask not how much more money you want the government to take from others for you; ask how can we do more with the resources we have. Say it loud and say it proud: Yes We Can!

  26. Of course, schools cost more: the state (legislature, federal requirements (unfunded mandates), etc.) has put more requirements on the schools. Heating the schools costs more, beyond the rate of inflation. Health care costs have risen beyond inflation.

    Declining enrollment doesn’t cut costs very much, but the amount of money from the state does go down. A class size of thirty five might have one teacher. A class size of 19 still has one teacher. What happens when enrollment drops even more and that math or science class has only 12 students? Same costs. And don’t tell me that a class of 35 or more doesn’t happen because my daughter suffered through that one year in all of her classes. They divided the whole grade level, 75 kids, into just two groups to save money.

  27. K-Rod,

    >>I call BS.
    Odd, the IPD — Implicit Price Deflator — is the inflation index recommended by Governor Pawlenty’s Senior Policy Advisor.

    >>The fact is, there was a time when education was locally funded and locally controlled.
    Yes, but that’s no longer the case with substantially increased state and federal oversight on performance and dollars. Did you NOT want the US DOE to say we want to know whether or not how we’re spending the dollars is working? i.e., NCLB. Do you NOT want taxpayer accountability for results?

    >>Mitch Berg over at Shot in the Dark blog has been doing an excellent series on charter schools in MN.
    I personally am not against charter schools. What I am against is blanket statements without looking at the data.
    6/22/2009 – Education Chief to Warn Advocates That Inferior Charter Schools Harm the Effort
    Sam Dillon, New York Times
    The Obama administration has made opening more charter schools a big part of its plans for improving the nation’s education system, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan will warn advocates of the schools on Monday that low-quality institutions are giving their movement a black eye.

    >>So, ask not how much more money you want the government to take from others for you; ask how can we do more with the resources we have.
    Better yet, why not look at the projected economic and demographic changes and ask how can we do more with less?

    Core questions:
    Do you believe public education is a state or local obligation?
    (cf: the State Constitution, and ask yourself whether or not the small rural communities across Minnesota have the capacity to provide a 21st Century education given the rapid pace of technology and innovation in the global marketplace)
    Do you believe there’s a connection between a highly educated workforce and economic output?
    This isn’t about what you can do for my kids. It’s about the economic vitality of the state.

  28. “odd”
    I wouldn’t disagree with you on that. I use a skeptical eye when politicians start using “special” indexes. Why not simply take into account inflation and then look at the increases in spending over the years?

    “Did you NOT want the US DOE to say…”
    No, the Federal Government has no right to control state and local education. All of those bearacraps cost us a lot of money that would be better used at the local level.

    Local funding and local control directly mean the grassroots have the ability to demand accountablility. Writing Arne Duncan a letter, in comparision, would be a waste of time.

    MN2020 has made blanket statements against charter schools. See Mitch’s blog…

    “look at the projected economic and demographic changes and ask how can we do more with less?”
    I am not against that. But then why did you place the blame on less funding via unallotment when you said, “…Governor Pawlenty’s defacto unallotment strategy in terms of the unraveling…”

    I believe the more local funding and control the better; and get rid of the Dept of Ed bearcraprisy.
    One of the reasons charter schools do can so do well with much less is the involvement of parents and community. Very. Much. Local.

    We wouldn’t be able to point the finger and blame NCLB without the Dept of Education and the Federal government involvement. Would anyone propose the UN dictate how we educate the children?

    Ms. Crabtree and the community didn’t need a bunch of standardized tests to tell them if they were doing a good job of teaching the youngsters… and they didn’t need the Federal government telling them how to do their job!

  29. Ross Williams says

    “This isn’t about what you can do for my kids. It’s about the economic vitality of the state.”

    Exactly. The real question is not how much is enough, but at what point does investing more money stop bringing a better return. We aren’t even close to that level at this point.

    It ought to be obvious that a lot of people are more concerned about costs than they are whether we are providing a quality education to the next generation. Clearly more money can buy back band, music and orchestra programs. But those are only a few of the most obvious benefits.

    There is no doubt that education is going to change dramatically over the next few years. There are already school districts that offer online distance learning. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into lower costs. In fact, it may require greater investment than in the past to allow students to compete in a world with billions of highly educated workers in China and India.

  30. “Clearly more money …”

    No, throwing more money does not equate to better performance. If the inflation adjusted cost continues to rise, will you ever be able to tell us how much will be enough? $10k per student? $20k per student? $50k per student?

  31. >>If the inflation adjusted cost continues to rise, will you ever be able to tell us how much will be enough?
    Actually, that’s EXACTLY the right question — how much will be enough. An appropriate budgeting process would begin with a) what do students need to learn, b) what’s needed to make that happen (curriculum, textbooks, technology, teachers, etc.), and c) how much do those resources cost.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the way Minnesota sets the K-12 budget.

  32. No, the problem is that all we ever hear is “we need more money” each and every year. How much? MORE!

    Then people point the finger at the Governor (unallotment!!!) or the state government, crying that they didn’t get a double digit increase from just a year ago. Listen up folks, there are a lot of people that got a 0% raise this year. Just be glad you have a job! This Obama depression won’t end soon.

    “not the way Minnesota sets the K-12 budget”

    Finally we are getting somewhere.
    Why isn’t there any local control or funding? zero nothing nada… look to the state and do what they command.

    See what I mean, people need to stop acting like they are a dog on a leash waiting on every command from the state government.

    Class, are we starting to see where much of the problems lay?

    Reliant on the teat of big government is no way to go through life.

  33. Who is saying that Charter Schools do more with less? That’s not what the link said. And why did the first charter school in Mn, “up here” close? Although I can’t verify this, I was told that they paid the teachers rock bottom wages. Why would a teacher who has a job in a regular school take a big pay cut to go work at a charter school?

    Clearly more money…. Of course, if you don’t have certain classes, then hiring teachers for those classes does “improve” the education in that area. But throwing more money at something that is already funded is another matter. I think the posters were commenting on those areas that have been totally defunded.

    Then there is the area of text books and other curriculum items. When the school has social studies and history books that are 15 years old, CLEARLY more money can make an improvement. Maybe you aren’t aware just how desperate the schools are.

    If we want local control, then local taxes need to go way, way up, especially in those areas where there aren’t any factories. Yes, lets hope that state taxes go down in that case.

    Of course, a good way to cut school costs would be for all of us bloggers to get out of our chairs and go VOLUNTEER in the schools. One area retired pastor is coordinating a effort to get 80 volunteers into the two schools he lives close to. What to help?

    We could also ask the question of what is a teacher worth. Shouldn’t a teacher (or day care provider or nurse’s aide, who care for people, be paid better than someone who cares for machines? Not in our society.

  34. Sure, pick out a bad charter school or two to set up that strawman stereotype, eh PS.

    I still have my old calculus book; its over 40 years old, it would be a waste for me to go out an buy a new one.

    I think re-visiting those changes to where the taxes come from would make sense. It was obvious, at least to me, that shifting would increase all taxes in the long run.

    A teacher is worth what the market will bear. That is why we need more opportunities for charter schools and private schools to compete. It is not in the best interest of the teachers union to support competition. Why do you think MN2020 is trying to tarnish all the charter schools? What is so wrong with paying the best teachers with just a BA more than the mediocre MA +30?

    Pay attention class, that is another problem, people perform on how they are judged. Judging based on merit or judge based on how many college credits you paid for? Hmmmmmm

  35. Again, K-Rod, please read the details of the links and what I wrote accurately. The report listed and what I’ve heard about in other reports about charter schools is mixed across the board, and not just in this state.

    We just can’t compare what was 40 years ago and think it is the same today. I thought that my high school education was pretty good, useful, challenging, but when I went away to college, I soon figured out that I had had way fewer classes than my friends from Minnesota, yet I went to a school of 3600 kids for grades 10 – 12.

    Yes, a calculus book that is old might be still an excellent text, depending on if it were an excellent text book in the first place. That’s why I mentioned subjects that do change as time rolls on.

    Yet, I remember my kid’s 11 and 12th grade math books. My husband (math whiz) and I (almost math major in college) were surprised to see topics covered that we didn’t even have in college, but yet these books didn’t include calculus. We found it difficult to help our children with the math. Plus we didn’t know how to make the fancy calculator work.

    A teacher worth what the market will bear? Well, fine if there is good criteria BEFORE that person enters the classroom….Hmmmm, how could you do that? And would you have a bidding war? Probably not. Even baseball players that are called up after a good run in the minors don’t necessarily do will in the majors.

    If a charter school or private school has fewer dollars, then what do they use to bid on teachers? I do think that new teachers should have more mentoring when they first start. Excellent teachers could be paid or at least given time to help new teachers.

    While I agree in theory that just because someone gets that MA they are not necessarily a better classroom teacher than someone with less summer school, there is still the problem of evaluation. What qualities should be more highly valued? Some teachers are excellent with those kids going on to college who might be self-motivated anyway. Others might be good with the students with “fewer personal resources.” But these students might not get great test scores. How do you evaluate those teachers who help a child with the self-esteem issues or help the kids learn more life skills that make a big difference in the long run, but not short term on tests? American students don’t work very hard compared to students from some other countries. Should this cultural trait be blamed on the teacher?

    If we want to pay based on how hard a teacher works, whatever that means, then teachers in small schools should be paid more than teachers in larger school, where they probably have fewer preps per day.

    I am in no way defending the status quo without question, but just pointing out that the pluses of anything new or different always have some drawbacks.

  36. Hi Aaron (and everyone):

    Thanks for starting this discussion. I have been following and will add just a bit here to answer a question that was recently posted:, “Why would a teacher who has a job in a regular school take a big pay cut to go work at a charter school?”

    For me, working in a charter school means having more voice in the process. For nearly 10 years I taught in traditional public schools here, and though I very much liked the people, students, and surroundings, sometimes I just felt left out of the decision making process.

    If I had a great idea for a class I wanted to offer, it didn’t matter – I didn’t have the power to offer the class. If I had an idea about how to make the schedule different, it didn’t matter – administration made the schedule. If I really disagreed with a policy or procedure – I could think it was messed up, but I couldn’t do much more.

    Charter schools, when operated as originally intended, give teachers so much more voice in the entire school process. Sometimes that can be really scary – there’s no one to blame but ourselves if we fail – but it’s also really rewarding. It’s definitely been worth all the extra work to be able to have more voice in the school’s programming, policies, and culture.

    By no means do I think charter schools are right for every student or every teacher or every situation, but we do offer some students and families a tuition-free, public school choice that works for them. This fall we will have 120 local students in our 10th – 12th grade school, and we are so thankful for the parents and students who have supported us as we try to “do school” just a bit differently.

    Thanks again, Aaron, for starting this discussion.

    Amy Hendrickson
    East Range Academy,
    MN Public Charter School #4166, Eveleth

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