Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board's March 23 piece — "The U must do more to cut costs" — seems largely underpinned by the faulty logic of wish-o-nomics: expecting that expenditures should go down despite inflationary increases in the costs of goods and services. Not only is the board's claim disconnected from reality (i.e., the University of Minnesota competes for talent in a market), the premise that cost-cutting is the solution to achieving a healthy and vibrant U is a popular misconception that is damaging to the institution. It is a scapegoat for the real problem of dramatic declines in state support, which have accelerated since 2008. Minnesota had been among the states leading the nation in per capita investments in higher education in the 1990s, now it is a middling No. 20.
Taxpayers need to ask their legislators and governor what more the U could deliver to Minnesota — in terms of jobs filled, doctors trained, tuition dollars saved — if state support had continued at its prior levels? And, what are they doing to reverse course?
Colleen Manchester, Minneapolis
The writer is a professor at the U.
What teaching gets you
After reading "Pay teachers a living wage" (Opinion Exchange, March 24), I had to agree on the surface that teachers do not have the easiest job in the world. However, there are some statements in the article that could have been expanded on. The commentary says that "new teachers likely enter with significant student loans. In short, it's difficult to begin a teaching career and have a family, unless the teacher's partner has a second full-time income." I am sure that is accurate. But it's not a problem unique to the educational field. Most graduates I know graduate with student loans, some very significant, and most entry-level jobs do not pay enough for a person to have a family unless both partners work.
The comment that "teaching is mentally and emotionally strenuous" resulting in "a dynamic and stressful work environment" again I am sure is true. In my 50-plus years of working, most of my jobs have been "mentally and emotionally strenuous." It's the nature of work.
In contrasting a teaching career to my sales career, I noticed a few omissions/benefits that teachers enjoy.
Time off. Teachers on average get 13 weeks, including 11 paid holidays. In my job, after 30 years, I get four weeks and six paid holidays.
Job security. The teachers union negotiates benefits, salaries and intervenes in problems that may result in discipline or termination. If I don't meet my goals, I am looking for a new job. If I want an increase in my benefits or commission, it is my responsibility to fight for it.
Retirement/pensions. According to the website Teacherpensions.org, teachers contribute about 7.5% of their salary to retirement. After 25 years with a final average salary of $70,000, they would receive a pension representing 47.5% of their salary at retirement. I have a 401(k) that includes no employer contribution.
All jobs have positives and negatives. In my job, I love the challenges, victories and defeats. The positives far outweigh the negatives. I am sure that the majority of teachers love their jobs.
However, like most opinion pieces, without the entire picture presented, we do not get an objective, accurate assessment.
Bruce Lemke, Orono
The recent surge in actions to ban books in school and public libraries reminds me of my seventh-grade social studies teacher. We were doing a unit on Russia, at the height of the Cold War. He told us that one of the weaknesses of autocracy was the banning of books and the ideas they contain. Autocrats are fearful of citizens encountering ideas that challenge their rule. In the U.S., he told us, we did not ban books. We trusted our citizens to be able to evaluate critically a range of ideas. To emphasize this, he brought to class a book of Marxist writings, including "The Communist Manifesto," and let us borrow it to read if we wished. I did. The manifesto wasn't very long, nor that hard to read, although I'm sure my teenage self missed a lot. I did not become a communist. What did happen was that I was energized by the trust placed in me by adults that I was free to go anywhere in the world of ideas, free to evaluate complex and controversial concepts on my own. It brought home forcefully the value of living in this society.
Why do we want to rob our youths of this today? Fearfulness of ideas is anathema to growth and shows a lack of trust in our own children.
William S. Cordua, River Falls, Wis.
ANTON LAZZARO TRIAL
No one noticed visiting teens?
While following the Star Tribune reporting on the Anton Lazzaro trial currently in progress, one has to wonder how Hotel Ivy security staff and others could not notice the female teenagers frequently visiting the 19th floor ("Sisters testify Lazzaro paid them for sex," March 25).
Where does "mind your own business" end and "if you see something say something" begin?
Christine Lewis, Minneapolis
Slow down, please
In the time of Trumpism, and as a lifelong moderate-leaning Democrat, I never thought I would utter the following statement. If the DFL in Minnesota refuses to take a more moderate stance, my plan is to cast votes for the federal offices (president, House, Senate) and stop and vote for nobody beyond that.
The Minnesota DFL has done the biggest money grab in the history of the state. This, at a time when Minnesotans are struggling with high inflation. Keep in mind, inflation itself is being driven by a confluence of issues. This includes supply chain shortages, a shortage of workers with boomers retiring as well as a nonexistent immigration policy, among other things.
The problem I have at the state level is with spending a more than $17 billion surplus and not addressing things like eliminating the tax on Social Security and returning a small amount in the form of rebates to a limited number of people. This feels like Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic telling all of Minnesota that she knows how to spend your money better than you do.
In addition, Minnesota is failing to address the crime problem. Short or nonexistent sentencing for violent offenders doesn't deter crime. Sentence these offenders to longer terms and invest money in preparing and rehabilitating them for the outside once they've earned their release. This would do wonders to improve property values in high-crime areas, thus allowing working poor in those areas to live in their neighborhoods with pride and a reduced fear of violence.
There's a lack of an opposition party with some of the crazies on the right. QAnon, election deniers, isolationists and conspiracy theorists make the GOP a nonstarter for someone who values science, empathy for my fellow man and intelligent thinking when it comes to how politicians govern.
Until the DFL starts to understand how to govern, to trust Minnesotans and allow them a level of freedom for how to spend their own money, I am done supporting it with my vote.
Jeff Berg, Dayton
The snow's been hiding a lot
While it is exciting that spring is coming, now is the also the time we see all the trash that has been snow-covered during our long winter. In this state of 10,000 lakes and many beautiful rivers, too much of this trash will end up polluting our waters if not cleaned up. I urge all reading this to do your part, and encourage others, too, to pick up as much trash as you are willing and able. If you are a homeowner, perhaps you can start with the trash in the street in front of your house. Perhaps carry a bag while walking and pick some up while exercising. Anything is a start and appreciated.
Dave Councilman, St. Louis Park