News Day: The Ax-Man cometh / SPPS stumbling out of the starting gate / Charter schools / Somali teens / Iran protests

The Ax-Man cometh Gov. Tim Pawlenty will announce unallotment targets – or something like that – at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the PiPress. This isn’t the actual unallotment, but rather an announcement of his plan. In theory, he’s still open to hearing other voices, but given T-Paw’s record on listening to people who disagree with him on budget issues, that’s not likely to move him off target. The likely targets? Local government, health care, higher ed, and fancy footwork with funding shifts for K-12 education.

T-Paw is legally required to present his plan to the four-member Legislative Advisory Committee “fr review,” but the committee has no power to reject anything. Over at MinnPost, Hamline University law professor David Schultz makes an argument that Pawlenty’s power to unallot is not total, citing “a basic rule in law regarding statutory interpretation:”

One should interpret laws to avoid absurd results and avoid conflicts with other laws. Here, if one accepts the governor’s reading of unallotment, it would mean he alone has the power to change fiscal priorities for the state or that he could use this power to negate laws establishing statutory authorized policies. One result is absurd; the other produces a conflict in the laws.

Stumbling out of the starting gate St. Paul Public Schools has made a slow start on the search for a new superintendent, with an RFP for a consultant on the search finally released yesterday, three and one-half months after the resignation of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. Though the official word is that the district plans to have a new superintendent in place this fall, it’s hard to see how that’s possible — unless there’s a truncated search on an accelerated timeline, with an in-house hire.

But that’s not the only problem facing SPPS – the interim superintendent named by the district is not licensed and the state refused to grant a variance. The interim is still serving, more than a month after the MN Board of School Administration said no. That’s a violation of state statute, according to the MBSA. No problem, according to the school board. Why not?

Note: Both of these articles on SPPS are my articles, published in the TC Daily Planet.

Charter schools: For better and for worse Doug Belden in the PiPress reports on a new national study of charter schools that shows that 17 percent of charters perform better than public schools, 37 percent perform worse, and 47 percent deliver about the same quality of education as public schools. Both nationally and in Minnesota, charter school students who are enrolled for at least three years show better outcomes.

In Minnesota, black students at charter schools showed greater improvement in reading than their public school counterparts. Overall, however, the specific report on Minnesota found that “The typical student in a Minnesota charter school learns significantly less than their virtual counterparts in their feeder pool in reading and significantly less in mathematics.”

The multi-year national study by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) focused on 16 states, and covered more than 70 percent of all U.S. students attending charter schools. It found wide variations in quality among charter schools. The study included detailed, separate reports on fifteen states and the District of Columbia.

CREDO director Dr. Margaret Raymond said in a press release:

The issue of quality is the most pressing problem that the charter school movement faces. The charter school movement continues to work hard to remove barriers to charter school entry into the market, making notable strides to level the playing field and improve access to facilities funding, but now it needs to equally focus on removing the barriers to exit, which means closing underperforming schools.

More on missing Somali boys Over at MPR, Laura Yuen has a riveting story from a Somali activist who says that she, and the head of her mosque, tried to stop two young men from leaving for Somalia. She saw the teens at a travel agency, and “something clicked in her mind.” She got copies of the boys’ passports from the travel agent to deliver to the boys’ parents with a warning message.

“That’s our culture, traditionally, in Somalia: If any adult sees you doing something wrong, that adult will act as your parent and will try to stop to inform your parent,” Ali said.

The mosque’s director, Omar Hurre, confirmed that he notified the parents about their sons’ travel plans. The parents didn’t believe it, he said, until he showed them the copies of the passports.

World/National News

Iran elections Protests continue, with BBC reporting seven protesters killed and a crackdown on media, including foreign media.

For a good analysis, check out Juan Cole. Also worth noting: local prof William Beeman offers an interesting take in MinnPost, but the article also warns:

Foreign journalists typically focus on Iran’s upper classes and connect with those who tweet, blog and frequent Facebook. But that is not by any means a cross section of the Iranian electorate. It leaves out Ahmadinejad’s base: the poor and the rural residents who are less connected with the world and less inclined to talk with strangers.

Debunking health care myths Over at MinnPost, Susan Perry is writing about the U.S. health care system all week, sharing findings from an article in the Annals of Surgery. She recommends reading the whole article, but since it appears to be member-only and I’m not a surgeon, I’ll just read her daily summaries. Day one: lots of stats debunking the myth that we have the best health care system in the world.

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