Follow the money: Jourdain calls out dark money in Minneapolis school board race

What do John Kline, Tom Emmer, Mitt Romney, and Minneapolis school board candidates Iris Altamirano and Don Samuels have in common?They have all received campaign donations from Minneapolis attorney Douglas Seaton, who was one of the lead attorneys working against the recent drive to unionize home-based childcare workers in Minnesota. Altamirano is a former organizer for the Service Employees Internation Union (SEIU), which helped lead the fight to organize home childcare workers.Seaton, who has given thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and committees, according to the website, also  contributed $5,000 to the 2012 Minnesota Voter ID Amendment campaign, which was defeated by voters in the 2012 election.According to recent campaign finance reports, Seaton has given $250 donations to both Samuels and Altamirano.Another donor to both Samuels and Altamirano is the Hubbard family. The Hubbards, who run Minnesota media company Hubbard Broadcasting, gave $2600 to each candidate in September 2014. Hubbard Broadcasting, the corporation, is a very politically active one: the company recently gave $200,000 to the Freedom Partners Action Fund, which is the Koch Brothers’ new super PAC.Other prominent supporters of Samuels and Altamirano include former Minnesota Republican party chair Rob Eibensteiner, who gave $1,000 to Samuels, and local attorney and MinnCAN board member Mike Ciresi, who gave $1,000 to each candidate, individually, and contributed $10,000 to the recently controversial group the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, which has been campaigning for Samuels and Altamirano.Benson Whitney, who is the board chair of MinnCAN and a prominent funder of Republican campaigns, also gave $1,000 to both Samuels and Altamirano.These names on Altamirano and Samuels’ campaign reports prompted fellow at-large candidate Ira Jourdain to hold a press conference on Nov. 1. Continue Reading

Are Minneapolis’ school board seats being bought?

Will a seat, or two, on the Minneapolis school board be sold to the highest bidder?The amount of money flowing into the 2014 Minneapolis school board race is enormous, according to the campaign finance reports that were submitted by candidates and various advocacy groups.Of the four at-large candidates running for the two open citywide seats on the school board, Don Samuels has raised the most money, with a total of $65, 103. Next up is Iris Altamirano, who shares the DFL endorsement with incumbent Rebecca Gagnon. Altamirano’s report shows that she has raised over $41,000, which is more than twice as much as Gagnon’s totals. Candidate Ira Jourdain has raised just over $3,000.What may be more interesting is the amount of money from outside of Minnesota that is flowing into the race, through groups such as the 50CAN Action Fund, the Students for Education Reform Action Fund, and a group calling itself the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund (MPEF).While the most recent totals for both the 50CAN Action Fund, which is the advocacy arm of the education reform group MinnCAN, and the Students for Education Reform Action Fund are under $40,000, the MPEF has amassed a huge war chest, to the tune of more than $200,000, according to a campaign finance report filed on Oct. 28.Looking at the reports, the money MPEF has raised is mostly coming from a handful of billionaires and millionaires from outside of Minnesota. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, gave the MPEF $100,000, while California billionaire Arthur Rock gave $90,000.Daniel Sellers, who is the director of MinnCAN and its 501c4 advocacy group, the 50CAN Action Fund, is also the chair of the MPEF. Continue Reading

Not enough time: Following up on school board candidate forums

The November election is less than two weeks away, and for the four at-large candidates for the Minneapolis school board, it’s candidate forum time.This past week, on Oct. 20 and Oct. 24, candidates Iris Altimarno, Rebecca Gagnon, Ira Jourdain, and Don Samuels appeared at forums where all of the questions asked came directly from the audience, on the spot, and were not pre-determined.The Oct. 20 forum was sponsored by a handful of southwest Minneapolis neighborhood associations, such as Fulton, Kingfield, and Lyndale, and held at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Minneapolis City Council member Elizabeth Glidden hosted the Oct. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Doug Mann, the Green Party’s candidate for Minneapolis School Board, citywide

     There are a total of 7 candidates for Minneapolis School Board, citywide, who will be on the ballot in the primary election, to be held on the 2nd Tuesday in August.        I am a candidate for the MInneapolis School Board because I believe that education is a right, not a privilege, and that a quality education should be available to all on an equal basis.        CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP     In my opinion, the superintendent and board of directors of the Minneapolis Public Schools are on the wrong track. The district is promoting and sponsoring charter schools, maintaining a large pool of probationary teachers who are concentrated in high poverty schools, and pushing a scripted, test-prep curriculum that is marketed as managed instruction.    I reject the idea that the chief source of inequity in the school district is bad teachers who can’t be fired because of seniority, tenure, and due process rights, and that the solution is to eliminate those job protections for teachers. On the whole, I believe that teacher job protections are beneficial to students in the district’s schools. There are states where teachers unions are illegal and teachers are employed at will and very easy to fire, and yet there is no evidence to suggest that public schools in those states are more equitably governed than in states like Minnesota where teachers are unionized, have seniority, tenure, and due process rights.    The chief sources of inequity in the district are actions by the board and administration that have disparate effects on high poverty schools and on the majority of students of color and poor whites. Keeping teacher turnover high in high poverty schools is a result of actions by the Board and administration, such as firing a large proportion of teachers before they finish their 3 year, post-hire probationary period, and by not providing teachers in high poverty schools the support necessary to make their jobs endurable.      Gaps in test scores and other outcomes along income and racial lines are both a reflection of the impact of poverty on children and their families, and of policies and practices by the district that have a disparate impact on students of color and poor whites. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Why I support Safe Schools

When I was a student teacher at Como Park high school in St Paul, I had a transgender student in one of my classes. On my third or fourth day, I was left alone by my supervising teacher. He was not around for most of the remaining weeks I was in his class. It was a challenging time for me. The transgender student was bullied and ridiculed almost immediately when I was left alone. Continue Reading

New Minneapolis school board member Tracine Asberry focuses on transparency, group effort

In early July, when newly elected Minneapolis schoolboard member Tracine Asberry found out she’d be running unopposed in District 6,, she was elated to get a head start on contributing to schools and communities. Her district had been the most competitive, with four candidates in the running. After Asberry received an endorsement from the DFL, the other three dropped out.“It was tough,” Asberry said of the campaign. “Running unopposed after that was a beautiful thing.” Since she did not have to campaign against other candidates for her seat on the school board, she had time to work to defeat Voter ID and the Minnesota Marriage amendments, and to work for other candidates during the campaign. Asberry plans to be transparent and vocal. “A lot of things are code: the acronyms, the jargon,” she explains. Continue Reading


The Twin Cities Daily Planet political commentator continues to refer to me as the silent candidate. Lawrence Schumacher’s articles seem to have already decided the election for the 5th district. To set the record straight, I have participated in every School Board Forum since I filed as a school board candidate. Reporting of this nature without a factual assessment is inequitable, as was the actions of the DFL.The filing date closed June 1st for all individuals interested in running for the Minneapolis School Board.  The DFL announced on May 22nd their endorsement for four Minneapolis School Board candidates.  Furthermore, the Star Tribune ran an article stating that no school board candidate had lost an election after being endorsed by the DFL for at last 20 years (DFL endorses 4 for Minneapolis school board, 5/22/10).  Premature endorsements of this nature discourage other candidates from running and mislead voters into believing the DFL has considered the entire pool of candidates.This denies the candidates an equitable political process for running for office, and denies the voters an accurate picture of who is running for office. The Star Tribune’s statement is tantamount to saying, “Its no use for any one else to run if he isn’t endorsed by the DFL.”  This type of statement certainly misleads voters into believing the DFL knows what’s best for the Minneapolis School District.  Free Speech Zone The Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. Continue Reading

Minnesota Senate, Congressional, judicial, and school elections

Here’s a round-up of the past two days of election news stories: • Recount ahead for Minnesota’s Coleman-Franken Senate race• Bachmann, all Congressional incumbents win; Paulsen defeats Madia• Minnesota judicial elections: Incumbents and Gail Chang Bohr, Jane Ranum• Minneapolis: Bates, Davis and Lee win school board seats, both referendums pass• African immigrant citizens challenge GOP challengers, celebrate election day in Minneapolis• Election excitement in North Minneapolis• Pictures at the polls• Full text: Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama, as prepared for delivery on Election Night, November 4th, 2008, Chicago, Illinois Continue Reading