From MPR’s Tom Weber…
Gov. Dayton brought public school teachers to their feet in an almost campaign-style speech on Thursday, at the annual Education Minnesota Professional Conference at RiverCentre in St. Paul.
The governor told the gathered teachers that he fought for union rights and other education reforms during this spring’s session, and compared the results with those of Minnesota’s neighbor. “If you want to see what might have been in Minnesota, just look east to Wisconsin,” Dayton said, referring to Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts to curb collective bargaining rights and other union laws this spring.
“The attempts to… scapegoat dedicated public school teachers like yourselves for the failings of legislative funding and executive leadership is not going to happen, not while I’m governor of this state,” he said, to a gathering applause. He added he also would never allow the elimination of collective bargaining rights, making Minnesota a ‘right to work,’ or allow attempts to “destroy” public pensions.
Dayton called deep budget cuts to the University of Minnesota and MnSCU system “terribly misguided, terribly stupid, terribly short-sighted decisions” that could have been worse if union members like those gathered “hadn’t stood strong with me in saying ‘no’ to that kind of idiocy.”
Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher later noted that Dayton was the first sitting governor to appear at the annual conference since Education Minnesota was created in the 1997 merger of the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT). The teachers’ union endorsed Dayton’s bid for governor in 2010, but only after the group’s initial endorsee, then-House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, lost the DFL primary to Dayton.