Salvaging the DFT’s reputation

I heard a report from someone who listened to MPR this afternoon that makes me smile.

It seems Tom Doer,the president of the state’s teacher’s union Education Minnesota left a terrible impression of Duluth schools. I have no idea why he should talk about this while he’s in a great fight to prevent the Obama administration from sending any money to Minnesota’s schools if it leads to any sort of merit based pay. Somehow of all the schools in the state he mentioned one in Duluth with a boiler that wasn’t working in the Fall and which had cold classrooms while he was visiting. Then he said this building did not have an elevator and mentioned that a man had to carry his
disabled wife up to the 2nd or 3rd floor for a conference.

I think there is little doubt he was referring to Lester Park Elementary which has been on top of almost everybody’s list of schools to fix up or replace for years. What he didn’t mention was that installing an elevator would have imposed a cost a little short of a half a billion dollars. Neither did he mention that this old hovel has enjoyed one of the highest rankings for education scores in the state of Minnesota. Neither did he mention the growing class sizes and loss of programs which the Duluth Schools are suffering as a result of a School Board myopically focused on construction.

I have a guess as to why the President of the State Teachers Union would talk about this peripheral little matter. One of Education Minnesota’s top old dogs, Frank Wanner, is intimately entwined in the drive to push the Red Plan. It would be a small favor to one of their own to give Frank a little cover on a statewide venue listened to by a lot of teachers. I don’t think that will help much. I was very intrigued that over the last year the retired teachers and school administrators I ran across were quite vocal about their distaste for the Red Plan. Perhaps the key word was “retired.”

In some ways the teachers have only themselves to blame. Had it not been for the Red Plan it would almost certainly have meant that voters would have voted for an increase in operational levies in 2008. That would have been something that would have helped our teachers but by then voters were just too sour about their treatment at the hands of the School Board.

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