The ugly truth


The contrast is stark: Progressives want to help children get the education they deserve while conservatives would throw students overboard to save a few pennies on their taxes.

Phil Krinkie, president of the conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota, spoke Sept. 14 at a Schools for Equity in Education meeting in St. Paul. In it, he bared the heartless, ugly truth about conservative thought:

* Krinkie said special education students should be jettisoned from public schools if they’re significantly disabled or disruptive to mainstream students.

* He said high school class sizes of 200 or more would provide an acceptable level of education.

* He claimed that public school parents don’t pay for education, yet they can hold schools accountable for the quality of education they provide. He said private school parents who shell out top tuition dollars have more right to make demands on their children’s schools.

Constitutional and ethical considerations aside, Krinkie’s comments were not unexpected.

Dane Smith, president of the economic think tank Growth and Justice, also spoke at the Sept. 14 meeting. “The Taxpayers League is well known for over-the-top dissing of public institutions and anything paid for with taxes,” he said. “Phil’s an attack dog, so this is nothing unusual for him.”

Brad Lundell, executive director of Schools for Equity in Education, said he knew what he was getting when he invited Krinkie to speak. “I wanted to bring in someone who doesn’t see things the same way,” Lundell said.

He said the audience of about 100 school administrators and teachers was not receptive to Krinkie’s comments. “Phil was not well received,” he said. “Folks were uncomfortable with some of his comments, especially about special education.”

But Lundell said it’s still imperative that educators hear what speakers like Krinkie have to say.

“It’s not just Phil Krinkie going off,” he said. “He represents a mindset that’s been around for a long time. A lot of people agree with that mindset. We need to wake up and see that the folks on the other side are well armed and not afraid to shoot while we’re less well armed and want to hold our fire. They don’t care about creating consensus and working with other people. That’s how they approach the world and it’s valuable for us to have that conversation.”

Messages left at Krinkie’s Taxpayers League office and at his business, The Snelling Company, requesting comment and clarification, were unanswered as of this posting.

Here are comments transcribed from the above video.

On public school parents: “If a child goes to a private school, you have a significant investment on the line, and therefore you want performance from both the school and your son or daughter. Public school — what’s your investment? For most parents, cash out of pocket? Little or nothing. But yet, they can continue to make demands on the system. They don’t have any ‘skin in the game.’ But they come to the third grade teacher and say, ‘Why can’t my son read?’ This is what I call the ‘all you can eat buffet.’ They get to come in, they don’t pay for the up-front cash invested in the system, yet they get to consume all they want, and if they are not satisfied, in other words, ‘I need more roast beef, I want another piece of apple pie,’ then it’s up to the system to try to provide it. The parent can continue to demand whatever they want even though they have invested little or nothing in terms of money.”

On class size: “If the University of Minnesota can have 200 students in a classroom, why can’t your high school?”

On special education students: “Stop spending millions and millions of dollars where there is no true possibility of academic improvement or academic success. There are hundreds, thousands of children in our public schools today that we are babysitting, we are warehousing them. When we pay a para to be in a classroom to take care of the child’s feeding tube, there is literally no way that individual is going to gain anything from being in that school building.”

On emotionally disturbed students: “The same thing is true of our emotionally disturbed children who disrupt the entire classroom, the entire building. The one that I think is the easiest to remove from the classroom is the aggressive or violent student in the school building that needs to be taken out. The way we get them out is to give them a voucher and say good-bye.”