Leave it to “real people,” as compared to lobbyists and government officials, to grab attention in legislative hearings.
Youths, especially, get lawmakers’ ears.
Natalie Resch was among Windom Area High School students who told Minnesota House and Senate higher education committee members that they should fight to maintain classes, taught by high school teachers, that provide both high school and college credits.
The senior said she will save $15,000 by earning 31 college credits before graduating from high school. And, she said, she is prepared.
“I can safely say I will be ready for college next fall,” Resch told legislators.
The classes that offer both high school and college credits include tests “at least five times harder than any I had taken before,” she added.
Windom math teacher Aniessa Sebring said instructors like her who teach “concurrent” classes have “been completely vetted by the university we are affiliated with.”
At issue is a plan by the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits colleges in 19 states, to require each college instructor to hold a master’s degree in the field he or she teaches or a master’s degree in another field and 18 credits in the field he or she teaches by 2017. That would include high school teachers who teach concurrent classes.
Commission President Barbara Gellman-Danley heard nearly four hours of testimony Thursday, mostly from those who oppose her organization’s plan. She said she will take what she heard back to her board. While promising to “work collaboratively on this,” Gellman-Danley made no promises that the plan would be reversed.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, has offered a potential remedy to the situation, which will remain alive when state lawmakers return to session in March. It would provide tax credits to teachers or teacher prospects to earn master’s degrees in the areas they teach.
“This is something I have been working on for the better part of a decade and this situation might help create some urgency,” said Urdahl, who taught social studies in the New London-Spicer district for more than 30 years. “Not enough of our teachers have master’s degrees and the vast majority who do are not teaching subjects related to it.”
Minnesota pulls in taxes
Minnesota is No. 4 nationally in pulling in more tax money since the recession of 2008 and 2009.
The Pew Charitable Trusts looked at data and reported a 17.9 percent increase in Minnesota tax collections since the end of 2008.
Of course, that pales in comparison to the 119 percent increase North Dakota experienced, thanks to its Bakken oil boom. While North Dakota tax collections have fallen off in the past year as oil prices tumble, the state still looks to be in good shape compared to many others.
Illinois and Colorado reported tax receipt increases slightly greater than Minnesota. Twenty-seven states are collecting less money, when adjusted for inflation, than during the recession.
While Republicans often said that lowering taxes would help businesses be more profitable and result in higher tax collections, the Pew numbers do not support that. Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin cut taxes since the recession, Pew reported, and collected less money. States such as Minnesota, Illinois and California raised taxes and reported more state revenue.
Pew does not take a stand on whether raising or lowering taxes is the best way to fill state coffers.
Averaging all 50 states, tax revenues are 4 percent higher than at the end of 2008.
“This means that states collectively had four additional cents of purchasing power for every dollar’s worth that they had in 2008,” Pew explains.
Franken plans book
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar released a book earlier this year, so now Sen. Al Franken plans his own.
The Washington media caught wind of Franken’s plans in recent days, but little is known about its topic or when it might hit bookstores. He has hired a lawyer to pitch the book to publishers.
A Star Tribune Washington reporter said the book is said to be a “psychological thriller” that draws from his background as a comedian and then working in dysfunctional Washington. The Minnesota Democrat has written five satirical books.
Klobuchar’s book, “The Senator Next Door,” was released this summer.
Crisis Link help ready
The new Crisis Link Web page can connect Minnesotans with urgent needs to state and other services.
MinnesotaHelp.info includes a link that allows people with urgent mental health, substance abuse, housing, health, job, transportation and other needs to find help. However, state officials say that those who face immediate danger should call 9-1-1.
“We want to make sure that people know there is a single place, the Crisis Link, they can go to get information and phone numbers for … professionals and agencies that meet a variety of immediate needs,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.
Crisis Link has an extensive listing of contact information for organizations, primarily government and nonprofit agencies, including suicide and domestic violence hotlines. It features an online chat service available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.