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Why all the conspiracy theories and pearl-clutching in this year’s school board race?

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This has been the hottest school board race I’ve seen in 25 years of living in Minneapolis, with lots of conspiracy theories and pearl-clutching.

Many of my neighbors and friends see the furious posts on Facebook, with all the hysterical warnings about the imminent destruction of public education as we know it,  and are honestly confused. They ask me what the hell  is going on in this race.

So here’s what I tell them.

We put the school board race at the bottom of the ballot and often treat it like a homecoming king and queen contest. But Minneapolis Public Schools currently spends $784 million a year and employ 6,991 people….which I believe is more employees than the city of Minneapolis.

So we need to remind ourselves that we’re electing people to govern an operation that spends more than three-quarters of a billion dollars a year. That’s a lot of moolah and a lot of power and yet it’s also systematically failing with 70 percent of its enrollment, which is made up of low-income children of color.

This is our future workforce. So this is a problem.

Yes, poverty plays a huge role in the academic achievement gap. But dammit, our schools also need to do better by our students for the seven hours a day that we have them in our classrooms. I’ve spent 20 years as an active parent and public school advocate and I’m telling you: the current system is corrupt, wasteful, inequitable and hard-wired for mediocrity or worse. (more…)

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Four reasons why “liberal” conspiracy theories about Don Samuels and ed reform read so much like Fox News

courtesy paranormalhaze.com

courtesy observationdeck.i09.com

(revised on Nov. 1st to include the updated financial information from all campaigns.)

Sarah Lahm’s conspiracy piece about “billionaire and TFA”  money flooding in to support Don Samuels in the Minneapolis School Board race went national last week. Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss (a staunch opponent of ed reform) reprinted Lahm’s original piece from “In These Times.”

A few days later, some Minneapolis voters woke up to find Lahm’s article tucked inside their screen doors with this helpful note, “I noticed a Don Samuels lawn sign in your yard. This may be information you need to make a more informed decision.”

Key word here is “informed.”

Which is sort of funny because Lahm’s piece is so loaded with factual errors, omissions and conspiracy theories, I scarcely know where to begin. It mirrors the stuff we progressives roll our eyes about when we hear it coming from Fox News. (more…)

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Rebecca Gagnon, a bad deal & a choice in November

This has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad autumn when it comes to ethics and politics in Minneapolis.

For those of you who may not have been following the details closely (i.e. you normal people), here’s a quick review.

Three weeks ago, Minneapolis state senator Jeff Hayden made headlines for sitting on a non-profit board that misspent $875,000 of taxpayer funds on luxury travel, spas and golf outings. Hayden and his wife went on several of these lavish trips.

A few weeks earlier, Hayden and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion landed on the front page for allegedly threatening to withhold state funds from their own city school system —-unless the district gave a $375,000 no-bid contract to their pal, north side activist Al Flowers.

Senate Republicans have filed an ethics complaint. But the GOP doesn’t control the state Senate. And Hayden and Champion aren’t on the ballot this fall.

So what can Minneapolis voters do at this point? (more…)

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