The shutdown in three tweets (5×8 – 7/1/11)


There’s not a lot left to say about the government shutdown that hasn’t already been said — or is being said better elsewhere — so let me focus on 140 characters saying it.


It’s true that people may not consciously have said “I’ll vote for this person because he wants to raise taxes and I’ll vote for that person because he doesn’t,” but that was the net effect because enough people did. And that’s what happens when people vote on things other than issues (a problem with the way the media covers elections, but that’s another story for another day).

Here’s the legislative results (House) in the 2010 election. The deeper the shade, the more support for the particular party (red for GOP, blue for DFL).


Here’s the support map for the governor’s race.


It doesn’t matter that the general colors don’t change much, the shades do and in close elections, that was enough to create the split government with each side insisting that you gave them a mandate.

In his MPR commentary today, John Wodele blames the insiders who dictate the choices you get on Election Day:

But in the general election a funny thing happened. Voters chose both. They elected a “no new taxes” legislature and a “tax the rich” governor, solutions that by themselves – as nearly every nonpartisan economic expert tells us — are no solutions at all.

But woe to the elected official in either party who would compromise for the good of the people. Or, for that matter, go against party leaders and propose a more substantive solution — a comprehensive and balanced solution that would include spending cuts, increased revenue from consumption taxes, a short-term surtax tilted toward the highest earners (but also middle to high earners), and the always promised but never quite achieved reform of government services.

Tweet #2:


You can’t go to a state park? You can’t pee between Hudson and Fargo? That’s an inconvenience; an unhappy inconvenience, to be sure, but an inconvenience it is. They’re also the most telegenic aspect of covering the story and — for the most part — the people inconvenienced may more closely mirror the readership/viewership/listenership of the news organizations telling those legitimate stories.

But it’s important for us to note that even with the judge’s order the other day requiring “essential services” to stay open, there are more essential services — life and death — that aren’t

Tweet #3:


The shutdown is now in the hands of the professional spinmeisters. In three extraordinary news conferences last night, both sides tried to limit the amount of insight into the negotiations. One side said they were close to a deal, another side said they weren’t.

So it fell to the Capitol reporters to challenge them to answer questions with facts and they shrank from the challenge in order to stay on the message.

It started around 9:30 last night with this news conference. Note the question-and-answer portion (paying particular attention to the one at 3:36) that was cut short even though there were more answers being sought.

Not much was working right up at the Capitol last night; the exception was the Capitol press corps.

We in the media spent hours and hours trying to explain what was behind the initial budget stalemate at the Capitol. MPR’s Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom then did it well in a little under three minutes.

And finally, for now, colleague Jeff Jones offers this historical note:

Looks like the Governor gave his speech last night in the Governor’s Reception Room underneath the huge mural of the Battle of Gettysburg, which — as it happens — began exactly 148 years ago today (July 1-3, 1863). It’s a seriously creepy piece of artwork, but the reason it’s there is to honor the 1st Minnesota Volunteers who, in that battle, suffered the highest casualty rate of any regiment in U.S. military history…before or since. 83% of the troops who charged Confederate lines were killed or wounded. Only 47 men came back.


The investigative Web site, ProPublica has just made it easier to compare one school with another in Minnesota and in most other places in the country. In so doing, it exposes the sad reality of education that some kids have access to programs that others do not, and the lifetime price they pay for not having that access.

The tools uses data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which tracks Advanced Placement, gifted and talented programs, and advanced math and science classes.

“While we found some relationship between the proportion of minority students at schools and access to programs, we found the strongest relationship with the percent of students getting free- reduced-price lunches,” the group says.

Here’s the tool.

Here’s an example of what it can tell you: I selected Woodbury High School and Harding High School in St. Paul, and came up with this comparison.


From there, you can break it down even further, and compare the results with similarly-sized high- and low-income schools…


Within each school, you can also find the racial breakdown of its students.

If the programs and courses in this data were available to all students, the group says, there would be no relationship between poverty and the proportion of students in those programs. “But our analysis found that in some states, more than half of the change in enrollment in certain programs can be explained by an increase in the percentage of poor students. That means that higher- poverty schools do not have the same access to programs.”


Here’s a message I received from “last winter” this morning:

Hey, NewsCut readers: How do you like me now?


Nice Ride has expanded to St. Paul. Twenty stations are being added.


Jack Agüeros, a New York poet with Alzheimer’s disease, has lost the ability to read and write, but still has moments of lucidity.

Here’s a 2008 story on Mr. Agueros when he first started the fight no one wins.


With no budget agreement between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislators, state government shut down at midnight last night. Today’s Question: How are you experiencing the state government shutdown?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The shutdown.

Second hour: The shutdown.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: The shutdown.

Second hour: From the Aspen Ideas Festival, award-winning reporter Robin Wright on the “Arab Spring.”

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Marine scientist Ellen Prager

Second hour: The roots of American gardening.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Shutdown Day #1 coverage.

  • vjacobsen


    I just looked up two of our local schools. My daughter was a kindergartner this year; she started the year in one school where she was out of district. After a few very frustrating months (mostly with administration, but even the teachers were disengaged), we pulled her and put her in our neighborhood school. We were INFINITELY happier with the level of involvement and instruction in her new school, despite the fact that she is by far in the minority as a white student (23%), or that most kids get free or reduced lunches. We looked at numbers before we enrolled her last year, but it turns out that numbers aren’t everything. She thrived in her new school, and I don’t regret the choice for a minute.

  • Eric

    The press conference clips don’t seem to have the question and answer portion in them that is referenced in Bob’s comments.

  • It will be an inconvenience for me, for now, to have the state shutdown. I feel bad for those for whom its an immediate and painful hardship.

  • derek

    The school comparison tool is neat but it seems to ignore I.B. classes and only recognizes AP. That seems like a bit of an oversight as I.B. is a more rigorous and beneficial program I think.

  • danny

    AP courses are an indicator of how much money a school has, but not an indicator of how good a school is. Let’s not make AP courses more important than making sure every student learns the basics. My school didn’t offer AP courses, and I still managed to get a PhD from one of the best schools on the planet.

  • Seems like that tool misses a key accountability component. I believe Saint Paul and Minneapolis get some of the highest per pupil funding in the state. Perhaps the tool should also include contact information for the administration and school board so we can all call and ask why things are this way. How do some school perform so well on less money? We should be asking those administrators for help instead of blindly throwing more money at schools that are falling behind.

  • Bob Collins

    I think the answer *may* be that it’s easier — and less expensive — to educate a monolithic group of white, middle or upper class kids than a group that’s….ummm…. not.

  • kennedy

    Agreeing with Eric, but think a phone call to parents may be a more direct line to a key ingredient for succes or failure.

  • kennedy

    Educating a monlithic group would be easier. Race or socio-economic standing is not the correct grouping.

    If students have similar knowledge level of the subject and are motivated to learn, it will be easier to teach that group efficiently (better results with less effort/money). If a group of students have widely varying levels of knowledge and motivation, it will be more difficult to teach effectively.

    Race and socio-economics may be related to the latter. A relation, however, is different from causality.

  • Christin

    #1 I saw the tweet last night regarding the difference between suffering & inconvenience. I couldn’t agree more that we must remember that this shutdown drastically impacts the working poor. I am frustrated I cant bring my kids to Itasca state park,but at least I know I can pay for their care while I work, and that I do not have to choose between groceries & paying the day care tuition. Child care subsidies make it possible for those working families who are struggling to make it pay check to pay check to maintain employment. It empowers families, both parents & children.

  • @Bob – I agree that demographics play a role in a student’s success. But how much of a money differential is enough? For example, Minneapolis gets about 30% more per pupil than Edina. Maybe it’s not enough, I don’t have that answer. I do however feel asking if that extra money is working.

    @Christin how long should we pay for someone to have children? Again, maybe paying for child care or early education is the right thing to do, but should people be chided for asking how much is enough? The government needs limits, just like we do. We can’t have the government subsidize everything we do, so we need to prioritize what is important…as.well as what the government is able to do. Government is not unlimited.

  • Vivian

    “I still managed to get a PhD from one of the best schools on the planet.”

    A PhD Danny? Well congradulations!

    It’s encouraging to hear this every one in a while, that is, a child who gets a public education can still do well in college.

    What I find most eye catching about your post is the lack of superiority and humbleness in your tone. That in itself is inspiring.

    I tried to get my son into Central. He took a day off of school to shadow to make sure it was a good fit. I had his application in early but due to the extension of the registration period-from late March to late April which caused an increase in applicants, they had a ‘lottery’ drawing of who gets in and who does not. 150 students were cut from the 700 student limit and my son was one of them.

    He will attend a school outside of our district which will cause some difficulties but I think will be worth it considering the alternative choices within our district.

  • Vivian

    @ eric

    government spends a whole lot more on wars.

    Perhaps they can dig around underneath that same couch cushion where they found that extra change for military spending and put it to better use?

  • Jamie

    Eric: You have to click on Bob’s link in the paragraph BEFORE the 2 posted videos in order to get to the question-answer part of the press conference with Republicans (mostly Amy Koch). It’s a third video.

    It’s interesting, Bob, that you note Tom Scheck’s dogged questioning during that press conference (he WAS good). But the portion of it that MPR has chosen to play during news breaks is just the part that’s about Republican SPIN which doesn’t include much real truth. It leaves listeners with the wrong impression.

  • Rick

    I think that the better question that we should ask the administrations that are falling behind is not why they need more money to do worse but what we can do to help. It’s places like this that need the most help from the communities to help improve things. While throwing money at the school might not help in all cases, maybe what they need is someone who can spend some time coaching or doing after school programs. Maybe if instead of more money for the schools (although I do think that is needed), more time should be spent to help.

    The expression it takes a village to raise a child has been ignored and everyone spends time focusing on what is best for them right now. What might be hard today, might be better for everyone (including you) 10 years from now.

  • Joel Gingery

    Thank you, Chris Gilbert and Molly Bloom! Very nicely done. Would you like to take it a step further and explain why medical costs are escalating?

  • Vicky Harris

    The ProPublica tool is frustrating for someone from outstate, as many schools are not included. (There is a note that only schools with over 3000 students are included, which is a fairly large district – well over 200 students per grade level.)

  • Thanks for pointing us to the ProPublica stats on AP classes and school districts. While I don’t pretend to know whether poverty levels relate to educational opportunities, I’ve often wondered why some schools offer more AP classes than others. I still do.

    I went to the website and plugged in Faribault Senior High School, the school my children attended (one still does). Students are offered only four AP classes.

    Just 15 miles away in Northfield, students can choose from 14 AP classes.

    Fourteen vs. four.

    I have been frustrated with the lack of educational opportunities in Faribault. Yes, I could have enrolled my children elsewhere, but I prefer they attend school in the community where we live.

    Fewer AP classes locally means less opportunity to be challenged and to earn college credit, thereby saving parents, and students, money.

  • Eric

    @Vivian … while federal and state roles are largely different, I agree with you 100% that we spend too much money in too many places that are unnecessary. The war on terror ignores the lessons of Vietnam. The war on drugs fights the wrong people. Government has a lot of money, a a decent chunk of that is spent poorly.

  • Chris N.


    I would like to see exactly where that extra money is spent before saying that it’s being wasted. Take for example the fact that in the city schools far more students get subsidized breakfasts and/or lunch. That costs money, and would not be as large a cost for schools in wealthier areas.

    My wife was a substitute teacher in some of the Minneapolis schools, and one thing she noted was that some schools require a more substantial crew of hall monitors. My understanding is that these folks are more like professional security guards, and that can’t be cheap either. That’s another cost that better-off suburban schools don’t have.

    I think it would also be informative to ask how much worse those schools would be doing if their per-pupil funding was any less than it is now. I don’t mean to say that administrations shouldn’t be held accountable for wasteful spending and ineffective programs. They definitely should. But we don’t have the whole picture here to make informed judgments on.

  • Hillary

    Audrey, it’s just a guess, but I’d assume that AP classes are more expensive to teach. The teacher has to be trained, they require more expensive books, the science classes require lab equipment, etc. Even more cost if the school subsidizes test fees for students who can’t afford them.

  • kennedy

    There is a measurable achievement gap. Adding AP courses doesn’t seem like an efficient way to serve those who are failing to meet minimum standards.

  • Vivian

    @ Eric

    //@Vivian … while federal and state roles are largely different,

    for the National Guard too?

    I am bothered by your lack of concern for other human beings especially the wefare of children including teens.


    The ‘no child left behind’ testing scores are hardly a decent measure in determining whether to fund AP programs or not fund AP programs.

    Your achievement gap could be the result of poor teaching skills and as a result, disinterested students.

  • kennedy

    The question is not whether or not to fund AP programs. Since resources are limited, the question is “Which programs will better serve the student body?” If 20 students need ESL classes and 2 need AP english, which class should the principal offer?

    This is directed at the original statement that a uniform student body is easier and more efficient to educate. It’s true.

    Check spending per student to get a different picture. Minneapolis and Saint Paul school districts spend roughly $13,500 per student. Lakeville and South Washington County (Woodbury) school districts spend roughly $8,800 per student. (2009 data)

    A low count of AP courses does not necessarily mean a school is underfunded.