News Day: St. Paul teacher layoffs / Court to Coleman: Pay up / Fletcher vs. Auditor / Taking weather out of MN / more

St. Paul teacher layoffs St. Paul is laying off 143 teachers, reports the Strib, with “116 non-tenured teachers let go for budget reasons, 26 non-tenured teachers let go for performance reasons, and one tenured teacher let go for budget reasons.” The district faces a $25 million deficit next year, and firing the teachers could save $6 million. St. Paul has about 3,500 teachers, and has laid off about 37 each year in the past.

The school district will also cut about 265 staff positions, including about 16 positions in central administration, according to the Strib. The district has about 2,800 staff positions.

So … how to tell the story? You could say the district laid off almost four times as many teachers as they do in a usual year. You could say that the district is laying off only four percent of its teachers, but almost nine percent of non-teaching staff. You could say that the economy is tough on everyone, and teachers should just suck it up. But the bigger story is the tragedy of enthusiastic, capable teachers out of a job — and students and schools who lose right along with them.

Court to Coleman: Pay up The MN Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the recount, but they three-judge panel ordered Norm Coleman to pay more than $95,000 in court costs to Al Franken. They have not yet ruled on attorney’s fees, which could add more to the total, reports the PiPress. The court said interest on any unpaid amount would begin accruing immediately.

Target Center strike Workers on the Target Center green roof went on strike this morning (June 11), over what they call unfair labor practices. According to their press release:

Since April, these workers along with Roofers and Waterproofers Union Local 96 have been demanding that Stock Roofing end unsafe and exploitive conditions on Target Center’s publicly funded green roof project. Workers have made sworn statements saying that Stock has forced them to work on Target Center’s roof without proper safety harnessing and other protective gear. The workers are also being shorted up to $20 per hour in violation of prevailing wage rules for publicly funded projects.

The Star Tribune reports: “Stock representatives have countered that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has visited the site and deemed it safe, and that roofers and landscapers are paid per their jobs.”

Fletcher: Did not! Legislative Auditor: Did, too! First, the Legislative Auditor said that the Metro Gang Strike Force could not account for 14 (or more) cars that it had seized. Then Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said he sent out deputies and that they found the cars and everything was accounted for. Not true, said the Legislative Auditor yesterday:

“We were particularly interested in following up on a statement made by the Ramsey County sheriff’s office in a memorandum dated May 28, 2009, which said: ‘3 (strike force) vehicles were turned over to Cars With Heart and then sold to private individuals,” Legislative Auditor James Nobles wrote in the letter released today. “We focused on this statement in part because, during OLA’s review, the strike force officer who managed seized and forfeited vehicles did not disclose that vehicles had been provided to Cars With Heart. …

“While known for facilitating contributions to charitable nonprofit organizations based on car donations, Cars With Heart is a private for-profit used car business,” the letter said. “And, according to representatives of Cars With Heart, its arrangement with the Metro Gang Strike Force did not involve an agreement to make contributions to charitable nonprofit organizations.”

But wait – there’s more. The Metro Gang Strike Force also Twin Cities Transport and Recovery some $9,878 for towing ans storage fees and, despite repeated invoices since September, has not paid up. And then there’s the $18,000+ in seized cash that is “unaccounted for.” Now the FBI is investigating.

Taking the weather out of Minnesota Minnesotans are passionate about weather – and now the feds are proposing to close down our weather service! Right now, Minneapolis has one of 20 weather centers at regional air traffic control centers. The new proposal (PDF) from the National Weather Service calls for consolidating operations in just two centers, one in Missouri and one in Maryland.

Poynter Online reports that air traffic controllers oppose the proposal, quoting the National Weather Services Employees Organization [PDF]:

“The NTSB determined that one of the major contributing factors in the Southern Airways DC-9 crash in New Hope, Georgia, April 4, 1977, was the FAA’s air traffic control system’s inability to disseminate hazardous weather information to flight crews on a real time basis.’

… “On April 18, 2007 Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Inouye wrote the FAA Administrator
a letter opposing consolidation plans because the Committee has grave concerns over the safety and wisdom of removing meteorologists from the ARTCCs.”

Bridge coming down The Lowry Avenue Bridge, closed since April 2008, will be imploded on June 21, reports MPR. Hennepin County officials say nearby residents will hear a loud boom, but warn that there is “limited visibility” and are asking the public to stay away from the site. Construction on the new bridge is expected to start in the fall and take about two years.

World/National Headlines

Extremist attack at Holocaust Museum A long-time participant in right-wing Holocaust denial and white supremacist organizations attacked in the Holocaust Museum in Washington yesterday, shooting down a guard before other guards shot him. James W. von Brunn, the shooter, remained hospitalized, but Stephen T. Johns, the guard he shot, died a short time later. Blogger Jeff Fecke writes:

I don’t see it as accidental that this is yet another in a series of shootings by conservative white males, striking out violently against the forces of multiculturalism. Whether it’s Scott Roeder killing a doctor providing medical care for women, or Richard Poplawski killing police because of his fear of the “Obama gun ban” and the influence of Jews, or this attack on Jews by a neo-Nazi, we’re seeing exactly the sort of desperate, searing, homicidal anger from the extreme right that we expected we’d see, once an African-American had the temerity to actually win the presidency.

Health care battle lines “Nowhere in the world is so much money spent with such poor results,” as in the U.S. healthcare system, reports the Washington Post:

For more than a decade, researchers have documented the inequities, shortcomings, waste and even dangers in the hodgepodge of uncoordinated medical services that consume nearly one-fifth of the nation’s economy. Exorbitant medical bills thrust too many families into bankruptcy, hinder the global competitiveness of U.S. companies and threaten the government’s long-term solvency.

The Obama administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are moving forward with plans for health care reform that would create “a new “public health insurance option,” which would compete with private insurers, reports the Washington Post. The powerful American Medical Association is weighing in on the other side, opposing any new form of public insurance. On the other side, “Physicians for a National Health Program, supports a single-payer system of insurance, in which a single public agency would pay for health services, but most care would still be delivered by private doctors and hospitals.”

The battle lines being drawn are old ones — public versus private. In the case of health care, “private” is a concept with many meanings. Even the public health insurance plans call for private delivery of health care, paid for by public insurance. The AMA and the insurance companies, on the other hand, want no public competition for private insurance companies. Among the arguments for public insurance is the higher expense of private insurance plans, as shown by the Medicare Advantage program, which pays private companies to provide care to Medicare recipients. The original theory was that Medicare Advantage would cost less, because “private” is inherently more efficient than “public.”

Instead, reports the Post, the White House says “Medicare pays the private plans 14 percent more than it would cost the government to care for the same people in traditional Medicare.”

1 Comment

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One response to “News Day: St. Paul teacher layoffs / Court to Coleman: Pay up / Fletcher vs. Auditor / Taking weather out of MN / more

  1. Ken Bearman

    Q: What does insurance add to health CARE?

    A: 20-30% in costs.


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