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The Minnesota Legislature invented charter schools, with good, bad and indifferent results around the country, and a fundamental flaw. The law should have funded and required mandatory state auditors, the lack of which is now melting down numerous charters in the state ("Charter schools scramble for audits," Jan. 20). This is not a small detail. Since the law went national, charters have been founded by idealistic teachers believing they have a better way, by entrepreneurs seeing an opportunity and by charlatans and rip-off artists. The idealistic teachers were never accountants, and the other groups needed solid accounting oversight to prevent the pilfering of public-school dollars.

Actually, the current meltdown reveals a second serious flaw in charter schools, the presumption that only the charter operator suffers when bad ones fail. But when they do fail, their students do not vanish but are suddenly dispatched to local public schools, which are required to take them in, disrupting both the charter students and the public classrooms. At minimum, legislators should provide funds for the Department of Education to provide all charter school auditing functions as a cost of the charter, so teachers can teach, and preventing at least some the education disasters underway now. Better yet would be a thorough accounting of the pros and cons of the charter law itself.

James P. Lenfestey, Minneapolis


I recently read with interest the article outlining the accounting problems facing Minnesota charter schools. During my perusal of the article I was reminded of one of the original intents of the charter school legislation. That is, to create laboratories for new educational methodology and innovation.

I was hired by St. Paul Public Schools the same year City Academy started up in St. Paul — 1992. I retired in 2007. Since there are now 180 charter schools in Minnesota, there must have been nearly 100 when I retired.

I must have attended hundreds of meetings locally, statewide and nationally during my tenure — myriad topics regarding curriculum/instruction, motivation, physical/chemical health, discipline and school/home collaboration were presented in scholarly detail. Never, not one time, do I recall being informed of any new innovation originating from a charter school.

Surely, with 180 charters in Minnesota and likely thousands nationwide, proponents of the movement would be proud to publish a list of innovations over the past 30-plus years. Am I missing something here?

Paul Grehl, Sioux Falls, S.D.


What matters most: people are fed

I really hope I am missing something. The Jan. 21 article "Feeding homeless folk fills TikToker's feed" talks about Josh Liljenquist's work in providing food for unhoused people. As I understand it, Liljenquist and his partners distribute food to hungry people. Because his motivation is not 100% philanthropic and because he films his activities and makes money off of social media (TikTok, Facebook and YouTube), there are organizations that are criticizing his efforts. I understand the comment from a representative of Sanctuary Supply Depot that the people he gives food to "are in vulnerable situations, and the power dynamic means they may get filmed because they're desperate for the food and supplies." But I don't understand a comment later in the article that "None of this is solving the problem."

People are hungry; free food is being provided. Does it really matter the motivation behind solving this problem?

Bruce Lemke, Orono


General Mills could step up

General Mills has a great opportunity to reverse itself and to continue its tradition of being a player in social justice in the Twin Cities ("General Mills closes on-site day care," Jan. 23). All they have to do is keep their child-care center open and allow non-employees and low-income families to bring their kids to the center. Child-care facilities are struggling throughout the Twin Cities, and this is a chance for General Mills to step up and help subsidize child care using their already well-established facility. All of society benefits when children flourish.

Nancy Anderson, Plymouth


Regarding "We've got to stop dismissing state-funded child care" (Jan. 17): Once upon a time, there was federally funded child care in the United States. According to an Atlantic article on the subject from 2015 titled "Who Took Care of Rosie the Riveter's Kids?" federal and local funding was "allocated by an amendment to the Lanham Act, a 1940 law authorizing war-related government grants, [and] child care services were established in communities contributing to defense production." Established in late 1942, it was a tool to relieve anxious mothers women in the defense industries and keep tabs on all the kiddies. As author G.G. Wetherill said in 1943, "The hand that holds the pneumatic riveter cannot rock the cradle at the same time."

At first, the government discouraged mothers from leaving the home and going to work. The War Manpower Commission had declared that, "The first responsibility of women with young children, in war as in peace, is to give suitable care in their own homes to their children." But with an acute labor shortage precipitated by so many men going into the armed services, female labor became a necessity trumping the societal norms. From the Atlantic article: "By late 1944, a mother could send a child of two to five years of age to childcare for 50 cents per day" (approximately $7 in today's money). It didn't just help working mothers. The article cites a study by Arizona State University's Prof. Chris Herbst on the long-term effects of World War II-era child care, saying there was "a substantial increase in maternal employment, even five years after the end of the program, and 'strong and persistent positive effects on well-being' for children."

After the war, a plethora of constituencies, including social-welfare groups, early-childhood educators, unions and working mothers fought to keep the program. Even then-President Harry Truman lobbied for funds to extend the program long-term but was rebuked by Congress. And that's the way it has been ever since.

Today, around 64% of women who work have children under age 6, and "America's work-family policies don't even come close to those that existed near the end World War II, when only about [10%] of mothers with children of those ages were working," according to the article. In these times, when so many families need two incomes simply to afford a house, it beggars the imagination that our esteemed politicians are unable to muster the will to reinstate a service that is such an obvious benefit to society. Are we going to have to wait for another war?

Gordon B. Abel, Minneapolis


Proper technique is still a mystery

The article about British tea in Thursday's paper reminded me of a time when I was on a sabbatical at the University of Birmingham, England ("U.S. scientist brews up a storm by offering Brits advice on making tea," Jan. 25). I had an officemate, a very pleasant fellow named Alan. One dreary afternoon I decided to go the pantry and get a cup of coffee. I asked Alan if I could get him something. "Yes, Petah, I would like a cup of tea." Well, I went and nuked my coffee. And also made him his tea (PG Tips, as I remember), using the best Minnesota technique I could. I heated the cup, the water, steeped the tea, etc. When I got to Alan's desk, all he could say was (something like), "This tea is bloody awful! Where did you learn to make tea?" He then left to make his own. I never made British tea again. I still have absolutely no idea what I did wrong.

Peter Smyth, Eden Prairie