Edina High School PreAP English 10

Are Academic Standards Being Compromised to Promote Social Justice in Edina Schools?

For several years, a group of Edina parents has been concerned about the content of the PreAP English 10th grade class at Edina High School. At an Edina School Board meeting this Spring, 2 students and 7 parents discussed concerns regarding the current PreAP 10th grade English class. One parent said the class didn’t meet Minnesota academic standards because the required readings were at a 5th grade level.

I asked the school board to provide me a list of the required readings for that class to see if this was true. This is an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

Required readings:

Title Author Lexile Level Reading Level Comments
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe 890 4-5 grade Covers the impact on Africa of European colonization in the late 1800s
Night Elie Wiesel 570 2-3 grade An autobiography about the Holocaust
Persepolis Marjane Satrapi 380 below 2nd grade Growing up in a Marxist family in Iran during the Islamic Revolution -- a comic book
The Road Cormac McCarthy 670 2-3 grade A father and son in a post-apocalyptic world
The Color Purple Alice Walker 670 2-3 grade A black woman in the 1930s who suffers incest and rape before becoming a woman who can be loved and respected.

Lexile scores measure the complexity of books and tries to match reading level with book level. 9th-10th grade scores range from 1050-1335. 6th– 8th grade scores are 925-1185. 4th – 5th grade scores are 740-1010.

Content also matters. While many of these are rated at 2nd – 3rd grade, the content of these books is appropriate for older students. Vocabulary also matters, as does grammar, and the ability to understand and analyze complex ideas and texts.

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Legislative Update by MN House Republicans

On Saturday, April 21, the House Tax Committee posted legislation (HF 4385) simplifying Minnesota’s tax code to fully benefit from recent federal tax reform and provide additional tax relief to middle-class Minnesotans. In addition to tax conformity, the centerpiece of our bill is a historic second tier income tax rate reduction.

MN_Capital_in_Snow_527x672.jpgAs a result of House Republicans’ proposal, more than 2.1 million Minnesota filers will benefit from a tax cut in tax year 2018. Highlights include:
•   Helping middle-class Minnesotans keep more of what they earn by cutting the second tier income tax rate from 7.05% to 6.75% by tax year 2020. This would mark the first income tax rate reduction in Minnesota since 2000.
•   Lowering taxes for people at all income levels by increasing the standard deduction from $13,000 to $14,000.
•   Protecting families by preserving a state personal and dependent exemption of $4,150.
•   Encouraging affordable homeownership by allowing a state-itemized deduction of up to $30,000 in property taxes.
•   Supporting hometown businesses and farmers by reinvesting extra revenue from corporate tax changes into Section 179 conformity and overall rate reductions.

In contrast to House Republicans’ proposal to simplify and reduce taxes, a new analysis conducted by the Minnesota Department of Revenue shows that tax changes proposed in the governor's supplemental budget would raise taxes on Minnesotans of every income level, and make Minnesota's tax code more regressive.

Federal tax reform presented a significant opportunity to simplify our state tax code. House Republicans’ goal from the onset was holding as many Minnesotans harmless as possible and preventing headaches for filers next year. Paired with surplus dollars, our proposal delivers broad tax relief to the middle-class including the first income tax rate cut in nearly 20 years.

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This Year MN Legislature can address School Safety, Drunk Driving, Tobacco and More

We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2018 legislative session, and I wanted to share an update about some of the important issues I’ve been working on at the Capitol for Edina families, taxpayers, schools and citizens this session.

Anselmo_403x274.jpgFirst, one of the top concerns Edina residents are contacting me about this session is guns and school safety. As a parent and a legislator, keeping our kids safe is a top priority. That’s why I am a co-author of legislation to strengthen background checks for purchasing weapons and am advocating for commonsense gun reform at the Capitol this year.

In addition to gun law reforms, the House is advancing a comprehensive $50 million school safety package to help keep kids safe. The plan includes an array of proposals, giving districts the flexibility to assess their unique needs and fund measures that will best serve their students and schools. That can include assessing and making critical security upgrades to facilities, hiring more school counselors, bringing in a school resource officer and providing critical mental health resources for students.

Legislation I’m spearheading is included in the proposal, funding suicide prevention training for teachers that will help educators learn how to engage and assist students who are experiencing mental distress. Keeping our kids safe is a priority we all share, and I think there are a number of commonsense ideas moving forward at the Capitol this session.

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A Textbook Power Move

On Tuesday, January 30th, the United States Senate finally confirmed Associate Justice David R. Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court to be the next member of the 8th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, after a long drawn out and contentiously partisan process that had begun almost 9 months before. On April 17th Governor Mark Dayton, in a textbook example of how to build long term Paul_Thissen_at_a_Podium.jpgpower without spending even the least bit of short term advantage, announced his appointment of DFL State Representative Paul Thissen to fill the vacancy on the Minnesota Supreme Court created by Justice Stras’s confirmation.

First of all, with his party in the minority, the Governor loses nothing meaningful from the DFL’s margins in the Minnesota House with the absence of Representative Thissen. Losing partisan votes by one more vote, when losing is preordained to begin with, is no less a position than he started with.

Secondly, Paul Thissen has represented House District 61B, one of the most rock-solid DFL strongholds in the entire state, since 2003. In fact, in the last three elections he has won reelection by more than 80% of the vote! His approval ratings by groups like MCCL, Minnesota Family Council and the Chamber of Commerce are at 0%, while groups like AFSCME Council 5 rate his voting record at 100%. As a result, the Governor has every right to assume that Representative Thissen will be replaced this November by an equally dependable DFL Progressive by the same voters.

Thirdly, the Governor increases the long term Progressive hold on the Minnesota Supreme Court to a nearly unassailable margin of 5 to 2! And with the Court’s mandatory retirement age of 70, and Minnesotans unbroken history of reelecting incumbent Supreme Court Justices, that dominance could conceivably be solidified all the way out to 2024.

The result of all this is that, at no political cost to DFL Progressives, an overwhelmingly Progressive Minnesota Supreme Court will be completely free to interpret the Minnesota Constitution as “a living and breathing document” that adapts and evolves with the times. In other words, a constitution that is anchored in nothing more solid than the Justices ebbing and flowing opinions of justice itself.


Are Bloomington Officials Doing Their Homework?

SD49_Budget_Info_Picture.jpgLast week's Bloomington Sun Current included an excellent guest editorial column by Pam Pommer. Pommer, who has a lot of common sense, is a Bloomington resident and graduate of Lincoln Senior High School.

Pommer starts out, “I’m increasingly frustrated lately with government officials enthusiastically implementing new initiatives but apparently before doing adequate cost/benefit analysis and asking tough questions:

“Can they be implemented now or do other things have to be in place first?"

"What if the program isn’t successful? What if it is too successful?"

“Can we afford it?”

Pam Pommer goes on to write from a very practical point of view about several Bloomington issues - water rates, organics recycling, curbside cleanup costs, plastics recycling, and the city’s promotion of a world expo in Bloomington.
If you haven’t read it, it is worth a look. CLICK HERE


Edina School Board Heard Parent, Student Concerns

education-2107914_640.jpgParents and students spoke February 1 to Edina School Board officials about continued concerns with the curriculum used for 10th Grade English, contending that the content was inferior, fifth-grade level, and that instructor-led classroom discussions were indoctrination and intimidation, not education.

Read more about the meeting at the Center of the American Experiment  CLICK HERE


Bloomington’s New Utility Rates are Unfair to Larger, Younger Families

Eldon_Spencer.jpg

Eldon Spencer, until recently the Bloomington City Council District 2 representative, expressed his concern about Bloomington's new water utility rates in a column posted in the January 7 Sun Current.  We are re-posting his column below.

The Bloomington Sun Current’s Nov. 30 headline noting “New rates offer added incentive for water conservation” should have been expanded with the words “for some Bloomington families.”

The Bloomington City Council’s unanimous adoption of a new rate structure with increased penalties for higher usage, without adjustment for household size, effectively punishes larger and younger families. Many of these families will be penalized despite having a real need to exceed the newly lowered 6,000 gallon per month level, above which the cost per gallon rises by more than 75 percent.

At the same time, the two-tier system provides scant conservation incentive to most single person or “empty nester” households, thus making the desired incentive structure both under-inclusive and over-inclusive.

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Why Musician Left Stage After Guest Artist's Insults

Manny_Laureano_trumpeter_by_Joel_Larson.jpg

The following is excerpted from posts by Manny Laureano, first trumpeter with the Minnesota Orchestra.  During a concert on December 2, Laureano walked off the stage after the guest artist, Rufus Wainwright, spoke out about “evil” Republicans.

Picture credit:  Joel Larson

 I did something that was fairly unusual for one of our concerts, especially a Pops-type show, so, it’s not like I didn’t understand there would be consequences of varying types… but, there comes a point where you can’t sit and bear it.

Wainwright is not someone whom I knew anything about until he showed up for rehearsal. I figured our director of Presentations had to know he has a big following of loyalists and that’s why we presented him, because we would have a big crowd. I had no ax to grind with this guy. I didn’t know him from Adam. I even went to my ultimate source for such things, the musicians of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and asked them about him. They had no clue other than he has a famous cover of “Hallelujah” from the movie Shrek. That’s how I went into it.

The rehearsals were fine, as he didn’t do any of his between-tune-audience chats. When he got to Cantique de Noel I was actually happy to hear him do it in French. I was less than happy when he 1) made it clear that he was only going to sing a Christmas tune because he was asked to (thanks for sucking it up and doing us the favor), 2) made a big deal about what a hero he was for singing it in a higher key and 3) decided it would be fun to translate the text so that they would have a double entendre that had as a punchline something about “falling on your knees for deliverance.” Funny guy. I was not among those that found it cute. Fine. I let it go.

The second half was the problem. Before the second tune in which I had an extended solo he found it necessary to rant about the recent and unfinalized tax bill. He was very upset about it and talked about Republicans as being “horrible people that had to be stopped” to the bravos and delight of his followers.

So, I stopped.

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The Economics of France Ave. Trail: A Bicyclist's Viewpoint

France_Ave_Trail.JPGMark Stoltz, a Bloomington resident, offers a conservative view on the economics of the France Ave. Trail. Mark enjoys biking and has been an avid cyclist in the metro area for the past 25 years

Years ago, as I was contemplating a career change, I enrolled in some prep courses for an MBA.  One class was Economics.  The professor kept asking us the essential point of economics.  Most of us responded with it's the study of supply and demand.  The professor kept asking the question over and over and with the class thoroughly stymied, he said, "Economics is ensuring that goods and services are put to their highest and best use."

Which begs the question of roadway, bike ways and the France Ave. proposal.  Are our financial and road way resources being put to their highest and best use when roads are remodeled to be bike friendly?

Here's what we know:

If we examine the proposal from a road way perspective, the four lane foot print remains.  The bike path isn't taking away lane miles like some programs do; they usually call that a road diet or traffic calming.  In Minneapolis, some of these bike lanes are causing more automobile traffic congestion and removing valuable street parking for cars.  The bike and walking path does have an existing, although much smaller, footprint.  It's been there for the past 25 years I have been biking around Bloomington. 

The trail, which serves both walkers and bicyclists, does need some repair.  Also, as a gentleman attending the open house noted, portions of France Ave uses a blacktop based curbing instead of concrete and the snowplows will break chunks of it off during the winter season. 

Which brings us to the proposal.  The goal is to provide more separation between motorists and pedestrians and cyclists.  The proposal would require a significant remodeling of the trail, especially when it comes to where it transits the 9 Mile Creek and Marsh area.

From a lane mile perspective, this is a costly project and has the potential of being invasive to property owners in the area. 

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Edina Neighbors Weigh In Against France Ave Skyscrapers

EstelleEdina.jpgBecause alert neighbors got involved, a recent developer proposal to build a 26-story building and 22-story building on the West side of France Ave at 69th Street (6900 / 6950) was not approved by the Edina City Council at a lengthy October 17 hearing. 

(Graphic credit - Ryan Cos.)

It appears this may not be the last time Cornelia neighbors, other Edina residents, City Staff and the Council themselves will suffer such undue stress. During the past 3 years, instead of saying “NO” up-front to out-of-scale projects that don’t conform to the Comprehensive Plan, the Mayor and Council have shown willingness to consider significant variances.

Edina’s Cornelia neighborhood began to develop in the mid 1950’s at the same time Southdale Center was being built.  From the beginning, City planners recognized the need to transition from the commercial interests along France Avenue and the residential neighborhood to the west. For the five blocks between 69th Street & Gallagher Drive, the Comprehensive Plan set upper limits on total height (4 stories / 48 feet) and density (30 units per acre). Over the last 60 – 65 years, the Cornelia neighborhood has not receded.  Nor has the need for a transition from the commercial to the residential gone away. The Cornelia neighborhood now has well over 1000 single-family homes and a collective real estate value easily worth $600 - $750 million.

The reasonably defined transition area that has served well since the area began to develop in the mid 50’s is still in place.   But it has increasingly been the target for developer requests for variances.

Part of this is due to a drive toward “affordable housing” goals as set by the Met Council and accepted by Edina’s strategic planning process. 

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