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‘Education savings account’ for students with disabilities? Or ‘voucher?’

Public schools are required by state and federal law to accept students with disabilities and to make appropriate accommodations for their learning.So when a district – despite its best of intentions – fails to meet the individual educational needs of such students, where are the students and their families to turn?That’s an issue Amy Christensen-Bruce grappled with for years before she discovered Academy of Whole Learning. The private school located in St. Louis Park primarily serves students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Christensen-Bruce said it was the first school that was able gain her confidence that the unique needs of her now fourth-grade son – who has autism – were being met.Whether he was enrolled at a local public school or a charter school, Christensen-Bruce said her child struggled to learn at the rate she knew he was capable of.“A lot of the time, there were other kids (with special needs) that would need more attention than him, so he would get lost in the shuffle,” Christensen-Bruce said. “The help that my son needed, it just wasn’t getting done in the public schools.”Christensen-Bruce believes Academy of the Whole Learning is “getting it done.” But she realizes that because it is classified as a private school, enrollment opportunities are limited for many other families who could benefit from its unique learning environment that specializes in accommodating and adapting to the needs of children with autism.That’s why Christensen-Bruce supports HF1529, which would establish an education savings account for students with disabilities to use to attend schools that meet their needs.Sponsored by Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury), the so-called “Education Savings Account for Students with Special Needs Act” aims to allow parents to more flexibly use the per pupil education funding allocated to their children with special needs.Fenton said the bill would give parents of children with special needs the power to choose the best educational options for their kids.These options include flexibility for parents to choose education-related therapies, tuition and fees at a nonpublic school specializing in a therapy or disability, textbooks and tutoring, or other education resources.The bill contains a provisions that would allow for the Department of Education to monitor and track expenses of the account to ensure the funds are being spent in accordance with the language of the proposed legislation.In Christensen-Bruce’s case, the provisions would alleviate the financial burden on her family for her son’s enrollment at Academy of Whole Learning. Continue Reading

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Clergy: “The Few” Still Suppressing Voting Without Help Of Voter ID

Minnesota’s battle over voter photo ID may be over, but it’s not forgotten. In 2012 Republicans put a constitutional amendment on Minnesota’s general election ballot barring citizens without a photo ID from voting. It was defeated. Reverend Paul Slack says voter photo ID is just one of many ways those who control the reins of power are trying to prevent more people from voting.“I think (voter photo ID) is about power, in people wanting to maintain power. It has an undue impact on people of color. Continue Reading

Photo by John Morton, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Brief Analyzes Political Impact of Projected Eligible 2016 Voters of Color in Key Battleground States

The political implications of the nation’s changing demographics are already being felt in many states across the country. These implications are addressed in a new issue brief, “The Changing Face of America’s Electorate,” released today by the Center for American Progress, which examines 2016 election trends and patterns for voters of color.The CAP analysis identifies what the electorate is projected to look like in 2016 for key battleground states—including vital states such as Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina—and estimates the racial and ethnic makeup of the 2016 eligible voting population. Based on those projections, the brief demonstrates the potential political impact of electoral demographic changes through two election simulations.“Demographic changes have only become more acute in the United States since 2012,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, Vice President of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress. “As people of color become a larger share of states’ electorates, the political implications for both political parties are evident: To win the presidency and many of the U.S. Senate races in the 2016 election, candidates will need to substantially engage voters of color.”The first simulation explored in the CAP analysis looks at how the demographic shifts will affect the 2016 election if voters across all racial and ethnic groups turn out and have the same party preferences as they did in 2012. In the second simulation, CAP holds voter turnout rates constant from 2012 but assumes that racial and ethnic groups revert to party preferences they showed in 2004. Continue Reading

(Photo courtesy of Generation Next) Jerimiah Ellis

Outreach director brings diversity to Generation Next team

After meeting with Generation Next staff, it was obvious to me that while everyone had a significant role in the program’s success, the role of Jeremiah Ellis, director of outreach and partnerships, was most essential. As stated in a previous article (“Five big steps across the achievement gap,” MSR, Dec. 11, 2014), Victor Cedeño, director of networks and education policy for Generation Next, attributed a huge portion of their success to “a powerful table of people who are coming together saying, ‘We want to be responsible for this. We want to do whatever it takes.’”

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Navell Gordon, smeared face of #Pointergate, tells his story

Navell Gordon became famous when KSTP-TV blurred his face in a photo where he was standing next to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and broadcast it because police said the two were flashing gang signs by pointing at each other. Social media dubbed the story #Pointergate. Gordon says he is not a member of the kind of gang KSTP-TV insinuated he belonged to. “I’m a member of the NOC gang,” he says with a laugh. “Knocking on doors, and organizing and getting more people involved.”

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