Which Students do Experienced Teachers Choose to Teach in Minneapolis Public Schools?

Please don’t read this if teaching CRT has been banned in your jurisdiction.

One of my hobbies is reporting racist trolls that harass Rep. Ilhan Omar and other female politicians of color. Through this, I’ve read more replies to Rep Omar’s tweets than most people and have picked up a few themes.

One of those themes is that Rep Omar is, somehow, unAmerican if she criticizes anything about America. However, a more mature view would be to understand that people can criticize something out of love. They can love it not just for what it is but for what it can be.

In that spirit, let’s talk about the Minneapolis Public Schools.

As I understand teacher compensation, teachers are paid based on a combination of educational attainment and years of experience. Here’s the salary chart from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ website.

In a nutshell, teachers with more experience and/or more advanced degrees (and/or credits) earn more.

Racial Disparities

Minneapolis and Minnesota public schools are known for two things: great schools (for white kids) and large racial disparities. To create great schools for ALL kids we need to close the gap.

Granted, the educational challenges faced by public schools go far beyond what schools should be asked to address. There are major disparities in income, housing stability, mental health issues, lead poisoning, air & noise pollution, etc. that all contribute to disparities.

But, what can we control? Whether we’re ethically deploying our resources.

That brings me to this:

That is a chart comparing how much the average teacher in each elementary school in Minneapolis makes plotted against how many white kids attend each school. Here’s that data by quartile.

We’re paying teachers more (due to their experience and education) to teach our school district’s white students.

My kids attend a school with the 5th highest teacher salaries in the district. The teachers are awesome. They are paid, on average, $18,670 more per teacher per year at the 5th lowest paid school in the district.

We hear that it’s unfair that schools in SW Minneapolis have so many additional resources due to the wealth in that part of town allowing for large PTO budgets. But, it’s not the PTO that’s paying the highest-paid teachers in the city to teach in that quadrant.

This is our system working as designed.

How does that compare to schools that have few of the resources outside the classroom that are found in SW Minneapolis?

This is our system working as designed.

Yes, the district needs more money. Unfunded or underfunded mandates are wreaking havoc on public school budgets across the state. But, we also need to take a serious look at how and where we’re deploying our most highly educated, experienced, and paid teachers.

The system is working as designed when highly paid teachers gravitate towards schools with more resources from outside their classrooms.

Here’s the full list to (hopefully) fuel your outrage:

Solar vs Dairy Land Use

A tweet highlighting this solar farm showed up in my feed and it got me thinking about what kind of revenue a piece of land can generate as a solar farm compared to a dairy farm.

It’s my understanding that this is a 6.5MW solar farm on land that used to host a dairy farm.

Is Milk Dying?

Milk consumption has been steadily declining in the US, but overall dairy product consumption has still been increasing due to increases in consumption of dairy products (butter, cheese, etc.) so this doesn’t appear to be a case of lower demand for milk forcing dairy farmers out of the business. And milk prices appear to be strong.

Since milk doesn’t appear to be dying, let’s look at what that land is capable of producing from a dairy vs electricity perspective. Here’s what I found with some light Googling.

If any of the assumptions in that need some tweaking, let me know.

Here’s what I think this is saying: it’s not surprising that dairy farmers receive offers for their land from solar farmers. The land is valuable for both but appears to be able to generate higher revenues by farming electricity from the sun over milk from the sun.

There are hybrid models as well. Here’s an example:

or this:

That makes sense. Having a portion of land devoted to guaranteed revenue may help weather fluctuations in dairy prices. That guaranteed revenue could come in the form of revenue from solar generation or leasing the land to a solar farmer.

Will we have enough milk? Cheese? Yogurt? No worries. Cows are working harder than ever to keep us dairied.

Will this trend continue? Yes. Why? This:

plus this:

plus this:

Demand remains steady. Demand might actually increase as people shift to electric cars, cooking, and water heating with heat pumps over gas. Prices remain steady. But the cost to generate electricity using solar continues to decrease. That is good news for people interested in selling land to solar farmers.

Mistaken Pandemic Assumptions

I’ve been thinking about what were my biggest assumptions about the pandemic that I’ve been wrong about so far. Here’s my current list:

1. Automated contact tracing apps would be widely used and effective.
2. Schools would invest in serious HVAC retrofits during the year without kids in the buildings.
3. Most restaurants would quickly disappear without in-restaurant dining.
4. Biden would do more than Trump to help people afford to protect themselves.
5. The most common sources of viral spread would be identified, communicated, and well-understood by the majority of Americans.

Things that I didn’t anticipate. 

1. Conspiracy theorists assuming that sterilized cotton swabs are dangerous because they’re sterilized.
2. Restaurants being a source of high covid deaths even without customers due to the proximity of line cooks.
3. Republicans having relatively low vaccination rates while simultaneously giving Trump credit for helping get the vaccines to market.
4. Policies that determine that dining in a restaurant is safe if you wear a mask while entering and leaving but not while sitting.
5. YouTube and Twitter taking at least some action to prevent the spread of health misinformation.6. Chiropractors. 

Minneapolis Police Service When the 3rd Precinct Was Still Standing

I’d forgotten about this encounter with the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct from early May of 2020 but stumbled across it in some old pictures today.

I was leaving the Dollar Tree near Hiawatha and Lake on May 5th, 2020 when I heard a car alarm blaring. Nothing that out of the ordinary so far, but what was a bit different was that a guy was reaching into a car parked next to Cub Foods through the passenger window and rifling through the glove compartment of the car with the alarm blaring.

There happened to be a Cub employee out on her smoke break a few yards away from where this was happening. She asked him is it was his car and he said yes. But, he also decided to leave that car and start crossing the large parking lot to the west.

I asked the smoker if she had called 911 and she had. She said that she needed to get back to work so I said that I’d keep an eye on the guy and for the cops that should be arriving soon. There is a direct line of sight to the 3rd Precinct a block to the South from this point.

I watched the car thief walk west to just North of what’s now a Planet Fitness, and what did he do? He started breaking into another vehicle. I snapped a pic of that situation then called 911 to give them an update on where the car thief was.

I mentioned to the 911 dispatcher that I was currently watching the thief attempt to break into another car.

At some point, the thief noticed me and decided to act like this was all totally normal behavior and slowly meandered South past the stretch of businesses and Target down to Lake Street. While he was walking that way, a squad quietly idled up so I flagged it down and asked if he was here for the 911 call about the car break-ins. He was. So I told him that the thief was around 100 yards South of us by Lake. The cop then asked where the car was that the thief had been breaking into, so I pointed to the two vehicles. The cop then chose to . . . go to one of those vehicles rather than to the thief.

I decided to keep an eye on the thief, so I went down to Lake. The thief was sitting on the steps of what was then an Arby’s (it was burned down later that month during the riot following a murder by a member of the MPD’s 3rd Precinct). Yes, he was sitting right next door to the MPS 3rd Precinct’s parking lot.

After sitting there for around 5-10 minutes, I called 911 to give them an update on where the thief was. I mentioned to them that I had talked to a cop, and that the cop did nothing. They said that they’d look into it.

Another 10-15 minutes passed and the guy remained there but a cop never came out of the precinct to address this.

On the plus side, I’m thankful that my 911 call didn’t lead to Derek Chauvin responding to the call while training some junior officers on how the way things are done in the MPD.

On the downside, this was a lay-up. A crime was in progress within sight of their own precinct and they couldn’t be bothered to even talk to the person who was breaking into multiple vehicles.

Does it take a squad car, a gun, and a badge to handle 911 calls this poorly? I don’t think so. Surely, there are cheaper ways to do things this incompetently.

Minneapolis Elections Charter Amendment Question 2

Here’s my take on Question 2 on the 2021 Minneapolis Elections ballot: We can take baby steps forward or pretend that the current system is working.

The current system isn’t working. The current system is what killed George Floyd, hunted protestors, is under federal investigation for civil rights abuses, had a ton of officers quit when things got tough, and the remaining officers went on a work slowdown.

Jacob Frey hasn’t fixed this. Betsey Hodges didn’t. Nor did RT Rybak. The Minneapolis Police Department has been dysfunctional for the entire time I’ve lived in Minneapolis (2004) and I have no reason to believe that Frey or Frey’s opponents can reform the current system.

One of the major flaws in the current system is that Minneapolis is required to maintain a minimum number of police officers regardless of how many cops are actually needed or how bad they are at their job. This is a ridiculous rule that’s unique to Minneapolis.

This is why we need to Vote Yes on 2.

Now, here’s the sad part, but also a reason why you should feel comfortable voting Yes on 2 if you’re a bit nervous about this being a radical change: it isn’t. Assuming we Vote Yes on 2, we won’t see radical change. Why? Because the same people who are fighting even the possibility of making a positive change aren’t going away.

The people who’re defending the system that leads to tens of millions of dollars in settlements with victims of the status quo will continue to put up roadblocks, file lawsuits, fearmonger, and have the Charter Commission muddy up reform attempts.

People who think abuse by police is just how things have to work will continue to have the suburbanite StarTribune Editorial Board fighting any attempts to make the city serve all residents with decency.

Some positive reforms will happen but they will be painfully slow.

So, Vote Yes on 2 so we can at least make SOME progress.

We should at least do that after becoming the epicenter of what’s wrong with policing in America.

Vote Yes on 2 to Undo Minneapolis’ Mistake from 1961

Remember 1961 in Minnesota? I don’t. But here are a few nuggets to put things in perspective:

It was the year that riots of white people terrorized Black Americans in a church that were organizing in support of civil rights for all Americans.

It was the year that Freedom Riders were attacked for daring to help Black people.

It was a year that US Marshalls were sent to the South to defend Americans against white people.

It was the year that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Minnesota for the first time to speak.

And, it was the year that white cops in Minneapolis pushed through a charter amendment on taxpayers’ time to change the city’s charter to require a minimum ratio of cops to citizens. That amendment was authored by a white councilmember (they were all white until 1980) representing Linden Hills, George Martens.

In 1961, during a particularly ugly time in America’s racist history, Minneapolis codified into our charter a minimum policing requirement that doesn’t take into account changes in levels of crime, changes in policing technology, changes in policing tactics, changes in police abuse settlement costs, or changes in the city’s attitude towards how it would like to be protected and served.

It sounds like we nailed the timing perfectly to put such a regressive piece of police anti-accountability into the charter. White folks used national headlines to stoke fear among white people to make our democracy less democratic.

Are we capable of being more progressive on policing issues than we were 60 years ago? I like to think so. I think we have a better understanding today than we did 60 years ago about mental health issues. That people who need help don’t deserve to be hurt by people who use force as one of their primary ways to solve problems.

Even cops know that they’re not good at addressing issues like homelessness.

In 1993, PERF conducted a nationally representative survey on the police response to homelessness. PERF surveyed 650 police agencies serving populations of 50,000 or more, or with 100 or more sworn officers, and received an 80-percent response rate. Every state except North Dakota was represented in the sample.

Key findings of the 1993 survey included:

  • 69 percent of respondents reported that the homeless individuals in their jurisdiction were viewed “predominantly as a police problem.”
  • 77 percent reported that their community did not understand the police role in responding to homeless individuals.
  • 88 percent reported that homeless individuals in their jurisdiction appeared to experience alcohol abuse.
  • 60 percent reported that homeless individuals in their jurisdiction appeared to be involved with drug
    abuse.
  • Almost 65 percent of respondents reported that homeless individuals in their jurisdiction appeared to have a mental illness.

When asked about the three most common reasons police make contact with the homeless, 92 percent reported calls from citizens, 82 percent reported officer observations, and 74 percent reported calls from the business community.

Regarding policies and training, 35 percent of respondents said their agency did not have a policy specifically related to incidents involving homeless persons. About 50 percent of agencies reported that at least some of their officers receive training regarding homelessness; only 17 percent of agencies reported that they had an individual or unit assigned to deal with the specific needs of the homeless.

With regard to partnerships with service providers, 97 percent of respondents indicated that police departments needed some type of referral arrangement with other agencies to effectively respond to homeless individuals. About 65 percent reported that it was difficult to get assistance for homeless people outside of normal business hours, and 55 percent reported that it was difficult for police to get mental health care for homeless individuals in their jurisdiction.19

Takeaways:

The right people for the job: People and businesses are calling 911 on homeless people, and 911 has ~3 options to dispatch for those calls today: fire, ambulance, or cops. We need a fourth option that routes those calls to a department with more appropriate training.

Right-sizing staffing: We have cameras in squad cars, in businesses, in public, and in the hands of nearly every resident today, yet somehow need the same number of cops on the force to protect us? Nearly every industry has become more efficient over time due to technology. It’s inconceivable that policing hasn’t as well.

We need a different form of oversight of our public safety investments in order to design an approach to public safety to suit the needs of all residents today, rather than some residents in 1961.

Vote Yes on 2 to undo the mistakes of 1961 so we can move toward a more just public safety department in 2021. Let’s proactively move towards creating a more just Minneapolis rather than sustaining the status quo’s policies that originated in reactive racism and fear.

Blocking David Landsteiner on Twitter Remains a Good Decision #wilfare

I was reading some recent comments submitted to this site when I was reminded of this gem from 2012.

I’m feeling pretty good about my decision to block David.

Granted, maybe I would have heard about this pee-pee incident earlier than today if I followed him. My loss.

Is this what Skoldiers do?

Tips and Tricks or Better Zoom Meetings

Zoom is exhausting. We’re spendings hours staring into the lens of a camera while simultaneously trying to listen to someone speak, watch them speak, or view a screen. It can’t be done. And – more importantly – shouldn’t be done.

We’re new to this so we’re still figuring out how to use this technology in productive ways.

Here’s what we’re not: We’re not talking heads on 24-hour news channels starting into a camera lens churning out nuggets of wisdom in easily digestible sound bites. We don’t get paid to quip. We get paid to listen, think, respond, and take action.

The default Zoom settings are similar to speed dating. You’re sitting across the table from someone who’s analyzing everything they can about you in a limited time. Except with Zoom it’s you vs a dozen people at the same time in hour-long segments.

Here’s what I’ve found works best.

But, before getting to this list, here’s the most important Zoom tip I’ve seen: If the same information can be communicated in an email, do that instead. Email isn’t perfect for every type of communication but it works great for things that can be summarized, put into lists, or need to be retrieved later.

1. Mute all but the speaker. This should be obvious by now. Not doing so is March 2020 thinking. Still, it’s worth mentioning because it’s still not the default in all meetings. There are at least two reasons to do this: It’s incredibly distracting to have background noise from multiple homes interrupting a speaker, and many people seem to be assuming that they’re muted at this point so occasionally do things in their homes while assuming they’re muted.

For example, while in a Zoom meeting this week I quipped to my wife while she passed by, “It took this guy 15 minutes to figure out how to share his screen”. As soon as I said that I noticed that the admin muted me. I felt bad for interrupting the meeting with a comment that was meant to be private and certainly didn’t help the presenter with his material.

2. Turn off all but the speaker’s camera. Do you want people to pay attention to what you’re saying? Then let them focus on that rather than thinking about how they look on camera, whether people have clicked on their screen, and whether someone may be inadvertently entering their screen. If you don’t trust your coworkers to pay attention to you without seeing them staring at their laptop cameras you have trust issues.

3. Use turning on your camera as the raising your hand signal. Yes, there is a hand-raising button, but turning on your camera is a better signal that you have something you’d like to say. First, it shows the admin that you’re interested in speaking. Second, the admin may be able to gauge what you’re interested in saying based on your expressions. Third, you should have your camera on when speaking.

4. Use a real microphone. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but poor audio quality can make it extremely difficult for people to focus on what you’re saying. If you’re using your computer’s microphone you’re likely projecting the echos of the room you’re in, the laundry or dishwasher, traffic driving by, toilets flushing, etc. Calling into meetings from your phone rather than using your computer’s audio is one way to address this.

5. Get into a collaborative mindset. When we’re collaborating with someone we’re not staring at each other. We’re not distracted by a hair being out of place, or what’s in the background behind a colleague. Why? Because we’re focused on the same thing. We’re focused on a problem to solve, an opportunity to discuss, or we’re having a personal connection where we’re focused on a story a person is sharing.

One way to do this is to imaging that you’re not staring at your colleagues but are, instead, sitting next to each other like you probably do when you’re being collaborative. What does collaborative work look like? It’s pulling up a chair next to someone at a table so you can see each other’s screens. It’s having more personal conversations while sitting next to each other at lunch, or at a bar during happy hour. It’s collaboratively sketching out an idea in a notepad or cocktail napkin.

Stop pretending that you have to be a workplace pundit, and give yourself and your colleagues space to listen, think, and react so you can effectively collaborate together from a distance.

Why I Reported Your Comment to Facebook

If you’re reading this it’s probably because I reported your comment to Facebook and I provided a link to this page to offer a more detailed explanation.

Here’s a problem I see on Facebook: a small number of people post some really offensive or just garbage content to the site. This includes spam, hate speech, bullying, and a variety of other categories of content that does more harm than good.

There was a time in my life when I thought that a real names policy would solve this. As in, if people had to post under their real names they’d surely not post racist content or associate their names with other forms of garbage content. It turns out that I was wrong.

There certainly are people who feel shame about their own thoughts. When people choose to post under fake names, my assumption is that they’re doing so because they don’t want to be held responsible for their own words. What if their friends, family, or coworkers find out how deplorable they really are? Thankfully, Facebook has a way to report fake profiles. They’re pretty slow at taking action on fake profiles by they eventually do.

Here’s a recommendation: If you decide to set up a fake profile because you’re unwilling to stand behind your own words, don’t use it to post publicly. Instead, just use your fake account as a private journal. That way you won’t have to worry about people reporting your fake account.

You may have noticed that I’m doing two things on Facebook: I’m reporting your garbage comments and posting a comment saying that I’ve reported your garbage comment.

The reason I do this is that I want you to know that your comments are not okay.

I also want everyone else who sees your comment to know that it’s not okay.

I want decent people who make the mistake of reading the comments to know that they’re not alone in their assessment of your garbage content.

And I want other people who’d consider posting garbage content to know that their content is not welcome.

Think of this as a public forum. A town hall. If you took a turn speaking at a town hall and said similar things you’d – rightly – be booed, told to sit down, asked to leave. You’d get the feedback you deserve (and, apparently, need) from people in your community.

Optimistically, I’m hoping to bring a similar level of decorum to Facebook comments. I’d like comments to be a welcoming place for members of our community to agree, disagree, and learn from each other without having to wade through hate speech, bullying, spam, and other forms of garbage like the garbage you’ve been sharing.

Longer-term, I expect that manual reporting of garbage comments will be used by Facebook as training data for machine learning systems that will auto-delete or at least auto-hide terms of service violating comments. If you have a history of posting garbage comments and post yet another comment that follows the same theme as previously posted garbage comments, it’s quite possible that your comment won’t be seen by other users.

I expect it will something similar to Twitter’s shadowbanning system where consistently deplorable users’ tweets do not appear in search results and are buried behind an extra click in responses. We already can see where this is heading based on Facebook’s default ranking of comments by relevancy.


Example of hidden comments on Facebook.

You may not realize this but your comments are already being pushed down to the bottom of comment threads due to their low quality. Facebook doesn’t have people hand-ranking comments. Instead, they’ve built programs that have looked through trillions of comments and determined that yours are among the worse their software encounters. It’s a somewhat elegant solution since it allows you to get some garbage out of your head without subjecting other people to your garbage.

Why don’t I just ignore your comments? Because I’d rather solve the problem that is you rather than ignore it. Think of it this way: at least someone’s paying attention to your garbage content.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about where I’m coming from on this.

If you happen to have read this far, and it’s not because you’re a troll, here’s something you can do to help make the web a slightly saner placer. I run a program that automatically reports hate speech on Twitter. You can chip in to help support the machine learning costs here.

Some Thoughts on Being to the Left of Biden

I write this from the Warren Bubble of the Cooper Neighborhood of Minneapolis.


Thanks for David Brauer for mapping this.

I feel like the area of Minneapolis I live in has a ton of people who work at the U at other universities, in public policy, for non-profits in leadership roles, as teachers, and other roles that come together around a candidate who understands the problems Americans face, and which candidate would be most capable of creating systemic change due to her expertise and track record. Clearly, not everyone agreed.

One way to think about presidential campaigns is like startups. You can have the perfect idea for a startup and still fail if the market for what you’re creating isn’t large enough, or you’re simply too early. Your startup can solve a real and important problem, but if there aren’t enough people willing to support the business it’s not going to survive.

Facebook was far from the first social media site. YouTube was one of many startups working on video streaming. There have been thousands of dating-related startups but few have turned into viable businesses.

It can be incredibly frustrating to be both right and too early. Or right and not be able to make a viable business out of what you’re creating.

Presidential campaigns are like this. If you’re right on the issues but your platform doesn’t resonate with enough voters, you’re screwed.

Why does this happen?

It could be that your candidate wasn’t able to connect with enough people who show up to vote to explain to them that they’d be better off in your version of the future.

If could be that the candidate’s platform would resonate with people who show up to vote but the candidate didn’t resonate with those people. This could come down to age, race, gender, and religion or other issues. In this case, age didn’t seem to be the issue.

What Should We Do?

My first choice candidate did not win the primary. Yours probably didn’t either. You’re not alone. That’s how primaries work. It’s frustrating when that happens, but what’s most important is to not give up. Even without our first choice candidate winning the nomination, we’ve moved the party toward where we’d like it to go. It’s frustrating to take baby steps instead of leading a revolution, but it still far better than the alternative.

We have some options on where to go from here. We could give up, and pretend that there is no difference between Biden and Trump. We’ve seen that play out over the past four years so we know that isn’t the best approach.

We could throw our weight behind Biden so we can at least press the reset button. Don’t sit it out. Help get the country back to a semblance of normalcy.

We could help flip US Senate seats in order to give Biden’s platform a chance of passing. The only thing worse than a moderate president is a moderate president who can’t even make moderate improvements to our country. Here’s a good list of the seats that are at play. The polling may be a bit dated but it’s still useful for figuring out where to spend time or money.

We could flip state legislatures. In Minnesota, flipping the Senate would have a huge impact on what can be done to address issues like underfunded public schools, insulin for diabetics, sensible gun legislation the majority of Minnesotans support, and civil rights for people the MN GOP continues to persecute in twenty twenty. In 2020, the MN GOP continues to have legislators who’re willing to put their names on bills that discriminate against fellow Minnesotans.

We could move county commissioners to the left. County commissioners have some of the best jobs in politics. I base that on the amount of money the control vs. the amount of public scrutiny they face. It’s way better role than being a city councilmember that hears about every pothole. We have county commissioners that are dedicated to addressing housing issues for everyone, improving the safety of major roads through urban areas, helping with employment, and helping vulnerable children, and there are county commissioners who want to build professional sports stadiums and other mega-projects to entertain wealthy white people.

We could improve our school boards. If you talk the talk on improving the lives of people at the bottom but don’t think about schools, you’re missing a big opportunity to make a difference. Granted, schools take on a HUGE burden for issues that shouldn’t fall to them. (Ex. Being measured based on student performance while the county and city fail to provide stable, affordable housing or food for students.)

Still, one of the roadblocks to public schools being more equitable is the dominance of wealthy white parents in conversations about what actions school boards should take. Minneapolis has one of the worst public school racial disparities in the country, and this needs to change. This appears to have been a socially acceptable reality until non-white students started leaving the district for adjacent districts or charter schools.

Now, things are getting real since students leaving the district cuts into the entire district’s budget. Not surprisingly, the current reaction from white families to proposed changes is to fight for the status quo (based on previous budgets) that’s worked for them but not for everyone else. #NotAllWhiteFamilies, obvs. It’s the first time in a long time that white families have been as organized as they are now, and it’s not happening because they suddenly started caring about closing the racial education gap.

A cool thing about all of those down-ballot races is that they make a tangible change today, and – in some cases – are stepping stones for people seeking higher offices in the future. Granted, it’s awesome if anyone chooses to run for any of these positions as their ultimate goal. Just be good at what you do while you’re there, no matter how long. Think about it this way: Would you like to have someone who sucks at being a county commissioner, but at least you know that they’ll run for governor someday? Of course not. Work every position on the ballot that resonates with you.

So, continue to fight to move people toward your values. You’re on the right side of history but perhaps ahead of where America is today. Don’t stop caring and don’t stop channeling your energy towards making positive change. If Biden isn’t far left enough for you to put energy into his campaign, fine. But, don’t give up.