Bruce Klaehn, the Dover-Eyota schools superintendent, sent me a copy of an "open letter"-type column that he wrote and published in another paper recently. Rather than re-run a column already published, I told him I'd post it here.
First, the e-mail from Klaehn proposing the column, which is interesting by itself, followed by excerpts from the column, and then a response from state Sen. Carla Nelson, who copied me with her e-mail as well:
Dear Representative Mike Benson and Senator Carla Nelson,
Attached please find an open letter that I have submitted as my bi-monthly article to our local Dover/Eyota newspaper. As I shared it with our Board of Education and district staff members, I was overwhelmed by the support and appreciation I got for writing it and promising to forward it to you and the Governor. Many asked that we create a sign-on option, which I have opted not to do at this time. At the request of several people, I have also forwarded it to the managing editor of the Rochester Post-Bulletin.
I understand that you have an enormous task in trying to solve the budget issue and meet the needs of Minnesotans, and I do not suggest that task to be easy. What I do suggest is that a big part of why we are where we are today is due to partisan politics and a lack of meaningful compromise and collaboration among our elected officials. Mike and Carla, I strongly believe that is what Minnesotans want, and they are growing increasingly frustrated that it isn’t happening. I know you get rousing cheers from your supporters for taking your party’s side of the key issues, but many, many Minnesotans are not cheering. They are not cheering because our government seems to be getting more and more polarized, at the expense of our State and our children.
As my local representatives, I appreciate your consideration of this letter, and any efforts you can give to leading our State in a more collaborative and professional manner.
Bruce A. Klaehn
Supt. of Schools
Dear Gov. Dayton and Minnesota Senators and Representatives,
It appears that again in 2011, the theme of "Republicans vs. Democrats" is driving the work being done in St. Paul. Again this year, it seems the goal of most of you is for your political part to "win." One man's perspective is if that happens, Minnesota loses again. I believe the vast majority of Minnesotans would like to see you work together to meet the needs of all Minnesotans, including people of all levels of income, outstate and metro, our children, our elderly and our state employees. It seems as though many of you are interested in supporting or targeting particular groups of Minnesota...
Please understand that as you continue to wage this war against one another year after year, our state gradually deteriorates. Because of these wars over the past few years, K-12 education has gone without so much as even an inflationary increase, while now also being "owed" hundreds of millions of dollars by the state, which is constitutionally response for their obligations...
Spin it anyway you want, but regardless of who's fault this is, or reasons why, Minnesota is choosing to short-change its children...
PLEASE work together more. Listen to and respect one another with the intent of trying to understand each other's position, rather than advancing yours harder -- that will only advance polarization. Find some common ground...
Thank you for your note and letter in the Eagle.
You are correct. Minnesotans want and deserve government that works together for the best interest of our state.
I also share your frustration with the structurally unbalanced so called solutions from the prior legislature.
To date, the hearings for all my committees have had a flavor of compromise and working together. Two examples are the streamlining of permits and the alternative licensure bills.
You would have enjoyed the Local Government Committee Wed. evening. It was our third hearing on the photo id bill. We worked in a bipartisan manner crafting amendments that improved the bill. We didn't leave the committee room until well after 10 PM. Similarly, all of my bills have a DFL sponsor.
I think you will like our education proposals. These are just now being finalized. In a nut shell: no real cuts, greater flexibility in spending, more equitable funding.