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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 29 2010

Minnesota Political Notebook: Horner suggests Minnesota teachers start early

ST. PAUL – Governor candidate Tom Horner of the Independence Party suggests that instead of starting schools early, as 25 southwestern Minnesota districts did, they should only send teachers in early.

Horner said that school districts should have teachers return to work before Labor Day and move all in-service days possible to that time, before students begin.

“Reserving as many days as possible from September through June for classroom instruction should be the highest priority of the state, Education Minnesota, teachers, families and students,” Horner said.

Classes normally do not begin until after Labor Day, in a large part to give the state’s tourism industry a boost through the traditional end-of-summer holiday. Not only does it allow families to travel, it allows students to keep their summer jobs through the holiday.

State law allows schools to seek permission to begin early, and this year 16,000 students are back in school two weeks before others around the state.

Mayors interested

Greater Minnesota mayors are paying close attention to the governor’s race.

“Over the past eight years, Greater Minnesota communities have been cut over $1 billion and the results have been a 64 percent increase in property taxes, and cuts to critical community services,” said Hibbing Mayor Rick Wolff, newly elected Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities president. “Greater Minnesota simply cannot remain competitive in attracting or keeping families, businesses and our young people if we continue making our cities less attractive places to live.”

Wolff said it is essential for the new governor, who takes office in January, to support Local Government Aid, state payments made to cities. “Without the program, property taxes will skyrocket and there would be drastic cuts to police, fire, libraries and other services.”

Not a full freeze

When is absolute not absolute? In politics, absolutely.

Part of Horner’s budget plan calls for a state hiring freeze as of Jan. 1, so a reporter asked the candidate whether it was an absolute freeze.

“Short term, absolutely,” he responded. “The next governor is walking into a crisis turnaround situation.”

So does that mean a Horner administration would not hire commissioners and other top employees that governors usually pick? “No. No. Come on.”

Horner said that he would retain “reasonable means” to build an administration by hiring his own people.

Usually, a hiring freeze means that no one is hired, even if a person leaves a job. But Horner defined a freeze as “no net increase.”

Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com