Teacher training, University of Minnesota funding, football, state investments

Kenneth Palmer

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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On Sept. 7, the Star Tribune published “Proposed teacher licensing update draws pushback.” While we appreciate efforts to inform the public about the newly proposed teacher licensing standards, the article itself contains serious flaws.

First, the content of the new standards is mischaracterized. The wholesale replacement of 125 existing standards — with seven new standards dedicated to race-consciousness and over 30 others that infuse education with race, automatic identity affirmation, systemic oppression and encouragement to be “agents of social change to promote equity” — is not simple cultural competency. It represents a sea change. For a regulatory agency to misrepresent its own rules so thoroughly is an abuse of the public’s trust.

Second, it is claimed that opposition to the new standards is “partisan,” and this is grossly misleading. The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which is mentioned in the story, is itself nonpartisan, and our membership includes people from across the political spectrum. We do not oppose the new standards because we are Democrats or Republicans, we oppose them because they are wrong for Minnesota.

Further, although the hearing referenced in the article featured over 300 attendees, opinions on the standards were not, as the article suggests, evenly split. Of those who testified, 84% (59 out of 70) spoke against the new standards. It is not right to ignore the potential partisanship of the proponents of the new standards, while attributing (without evidence) partisan motives to the opponents.

Opposition to these rules is neither misguided nor partisan: it represents ordinary Minnesotans’ rejection of ideology in the classroom.

Jeff Campbell, Plymouth

The writer is the leader of Minnesota’s chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.

TEACHERS

Would you allow someone with no medical training or license to perform surgery on you? Would you allow someone with no dental training to do your dental work? Of course not. However, unlicensed and untrained people are standing in front of students in classrooms across the country (“As teachers disappear, so do qualifications,” Sept. 14). Yes, there is a teacher shortage. The article states that the shortage is “driven in part by low teacher pay, cuts to school spending and decreased interest in the teaching profession.” Low pay, low budgets and lack of interest are all fixable problems. Maybe the article should have added “disrespect” to that list. Next to parents, teachers are the most important people in the lives of young people. Unlike many counties where teachers are revered and shown great respect, educators in America are greeted by the words, “Oh, you’re JUST a teacher.”

George Larson, Brooklyn Park

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The article about loosening educator requirements should have us all concerned about how this will affect our children, not to mention all the current teachers who have met the requirements to be qualified as educators. Although I realize the pandemic has put us in an unusual predicament, I can’t help but wonder where we would be if we had somehow realized the true value of our nations’ teachers.

Tracie Bosch, St. Paul

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

In last Friday’s paper I noticed that the University of Minnesota is planning on seeking a 15% increase in state financial support over the next two years (“U to seek 15% boost in money from state,” Sept. 9). Additionally a 6 to 8% tuition increase may be likely. Two years ago, the university proposed a 3.5% increase in state funding. I understand that inflation has taken its toll over the past couple of years, and evidently the university assumes that, because of the budget surplus, the state has money to burn. Why else would the university ask for this type of increased revenue after the regents approved a new $5.7 million video board for the football stadium? Although the plan is for the new video board to be paid for by donations, sponsorships and short-term debt through the university, to me it seems like bad timing at best.

At my annual salary review this year, I think I might ask my boss for a 15% raise because of inflation and because although I have a big-screen TV, I would like a bigger one. On second thought, I won’t do that — I would be too embarrassed.

Bruce Lemke, Orono

FOOTBALL

I wonder what a visitor from another culture might say after watching a high school football game, reading about devastating injuries, then reviewing recent research led by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Rochester Medical Center. The report stated:

“While only two players [at the University of Rochester] suffered clinically diagnosed concussions during the time they were followed in the study, the comparison of the post- and pre-season MRIs showed greater than two-thirds of the players experienced a decrease in the structural integrity of their brain.”

Our visitor might say, “Wait a minute, this activity is sponsored and promoted by educational institutions? Shouldn’t it be their goal to produce bright, healthy adults? And what’s this about getting bigger, faster, stronger so they can actually hit each other harder?”

James M. Dunn, Minneapolis

STATE INVESTMENTS

Making investment decisions based on whether a company is green enough? No investments in fossil-fuel companies?

I wouldn’t want people doing so handling my investment portfolio (“Climate change and state investments,” editorial, Sept. 13).

Only about 50% of crude oil is turned into gasoline. If a person looks up how many products are fossil-fuel based, they will be very surprised. It will takes years to come up with practical replacements.

The greenest state, California, just asked people to not charge their electric vehicles during the current heat wave. Not a good situation. They also increased their electricity on the grid by using backup gas generators.

There’s nothing wrong with moving to green energy, but it has to be in a way that makes sense.

England just approved restarting fracking. Fear of natural gas being cut off by Vladimir Putin has people in Europe fearing for their lives this winter. Massive amounts of trees are being cut down to prepare for the coming winter.

Cutting off fossil-fuel supplies and corporate funding of the industry is not the solution today. Anyone using that investment philosophy should be looked at with much skepticism.

Pryce Score, Kensington, Minn.

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I appreciated the Tuesday editorial about ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investment guidelines that might be adopted by Minnesota’s State Board of Investment (SBI). Before being so critical of “Republican-led states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Florida” as they seek to institute laws to punish companies attempting to squeeze fossil-fuel refineries and gun makers, the editorial writer should have checked the docket of the Minnesota Legislature.

Bills have been introduced in the Senate and the House — using the boilerplate language of bills in the three offending states — to prohibit boycotts of mining, agricultural, fossil fuels and lumber industries. If these bills were to pass, the SBI could not hold investments in any company that declines to do business with those industries, and the state of Minnesota could not enter into contracts with any vendor who boycotts those industries — a denial of constitutionally protected free speech rights.

Check out S.F. 4441 and H.F. 4574 and the legislators who sponsored those bills. Next time they are up for re-election, would you want to vote for them?

Lucia Smith, Minneapolis

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