NewsNight Minnesota; 3010; NAACP Lawsuit, Charter Schools, and the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act
Tonight on NEWSNIGHT lawmakers taken on a trip to the north rooms that may be open season on wetlands. We'll take a look at why conservation regulations maybe even for relaxation. Glacial process at the segregated Minnesota schools met with some fire today in the form of a lawsuit from the NWA sepi. Also tonight it was once the answer to all of Minnesota's educational ills. Charter schools take a look at why one western Minnesota charter school has landed in intensive care. It's all coming up on NEWSNIGHT. Tonight's broadcast of NEWSNIGHT Minnesota is presented in part by Norwest going to the nth degree to serve our community. Hi thanks for tuning in we'll be back in the studio later on with a couple of other stories but first we're going to throw it up to the newsroom where Dave McCullough has the top stories of the day. Dave thanks a lot Ken. No big surprise to report out of Washington today where the Senate's compromise welfare reform bill breeze through as we did expect. But what we thought we
might actually see was a yes vote from Senator Paul Wellstone. Wellstone was one of 11 Democrats who voted no only one Republican voted against the bill. Senator Wellstone has of course voted against many of the Republican reform plans but late last week the wires were reporting that he was going to review some of the amendments over the weekend and that he might actually vote in favor of this plan. But today after the vote well Stone's office released a statement calling the bill reckless with America's children. Now former Eden Prairie Mayor Doug Tempus is the latest Republican to go after well Stone Senate seat. Tempus announced today he's going to challenge Rudy Boschwitz and Bert MACKESY for the independent Republican endorsement. Tempus also said he's going to provide detailed position papers as the campaign goes on. But for now he just wants people to know that he supports pro-life legislation as well as a flat rate tax policy. The Ayers of course are going to endorse their candidate at this weekend's State Convention in man Cato. Well it's been more than 20 years since the end of a CPA filed suit against the state in order to desegregate Minnesota
schools. And today they said that effort didn't quite work so they're suing again and the CTP attorney Dan Shulman sums up their arguments that many after public schools are heavily segregated on the basis of race and socioeconomic status. And that means that the children in Minneapolis are receiving a segregated to separate unequal and inadequate education. And that is a violation of the education clause of the Minnesota State Constitution and the equal protection prize in Minnesota State constitutionally. Joining us now with more details on the suit is the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the end of the ACP Bill Davis thank you for coming over. Thank you. Tell me Mr. Davis how is the situation Minneapolis now in the schools different than it was 20 years ago. Well the demographics are a lot different. The issues are somewhat different but fortunately the remedies that we saw 20 years ago are still unresolved so we feel is necessary to go back through this process
this time at the state level and try to get it done get the job done and ask the state to do the things that they have committed on paper at least to do an estimate via a equitable educational opportunity for all of the students in the state of Minnesota. And we feel with this lawsuit the students of Minneapolis all of the students not just simply the students of color all the students will be better off and better served as a result of this lawsuit. What is it exactly what solutions steps do you want the state to take in order to implement this. Well the state has a constitutional obligation to provide equitable funding and education for all of the students. We do not feel that the students of Minneapolis and the test scores reflect this are receiving in adequate education. Some will argue that funding is the is the solution so why argue that housing is a solution. Some will even argue that bussing is a solution we're
simply saying we want the state of Minnesota to begin to own forces laws and we want the state to begin to provide fair and equal treatment for all of his students particularly those in the city of Minneapolis as well as the Twin Cities. What's bringing this issue up right now does this have anything to do the Board of Ed has been working for the last three years or so on a desegregation plan and they pushed back their deadline and and have been come coming up with anything just a couple weeks ago the head of the board Georgina Stevens was dismissed. Over some conflict over desegregation policy making is this the timing of the suit have anything to do with that at all. Absolutely not. And let me just say for misstatements Munder saying she stepped down as a result of a conflict with one of her coworkers that were also very much concerned about. No the NWC piece sets his own pace his own timing in this is the time that we felt was appropriate for us is that for with the suit at this particular time we have been analyzing the situation we have been the scuffing with the legislature. We have testified Weaver worked very closely with the Board of Education.
But we feel as though we're not being heard. And sometimes it takes a little bit of a jolt and we think a lawsuit in this case is providing that extra jolt to let the state know that we're serious about this issue. Why do you think it is that you're not being heard why is this case being forced back into court. Well I think it is not actually the case in 1071 was a little bit different in what we're offering at this time. We're offering the courts an opportunity to look at the way in which it provides services and from the way that it offers education to our students what worse experiences lower education. Higher dropout rate were experiencing fewer dollars being funneled into the educational systems and Twin Cities. We think that the boundary lines are somewhat artificial. One would argue why do we need to have districts. We're looking at consolidation in greater Minnesota but no one is talking about
consolidating school districts in the metro area or Minneapolis and we're looking at as they a metro wide solution for what we see as an inequitable situation. Now what about getting the suburban districts to buy into this. That becomes the state's responsibility. We feel as though the state has an obligation to ass or force or however you want to phrase it the local jurisdictions to participate and what the state has already determined is a constitutional right to have an adequate education for all of its students so this lawsuit not only service the students in Minneapolis but I think ultimately all the students in the state of Minnesota. OK very good. Bill Davis thank you very much for coming down. Bill Davis head of the Minneapolis variant of the NWC P.. Well can I have one more story that we have been striving to keep our viewers updated on this is something for those of you who simply cannot tear yourselves away from that O.J. Simpson trial. There is another court battle raging in New York City where Minnesota based Hormel
Foods is suing Disney for a character in an upcoming Muppet Movie. Now the character is a nasty animated pig who bears the name Spam folks down at Hormel don't want their spiced pork shoulder turning into the butt of anyone's joke so now the matter has landed in federal court. Yesterday lawyers for Hormel got to see sneak previews of the film which isn't due out until February so can you and I are going to have to wait for a few months to find out whether spam the pig ends up on the cutting room floor. Yes we will thanks Dave Thursday. Last week we reported that the Dakota charter school near Morton might be closing. It lost its sponsor and along with that state funding. Now the teacher who runs that charter school is so frustrated with what he calls the bureaucracy he's calling for the resignation of Bill Allen the man at the state in charge of charter schools. These are a school started by parents and teachers for kids who needs aren't being met in the regular classroom. But in five years only a handful of charter schools have opened in Minnesota. And the controversy surrounding the Dakota charter school seems to be
symbolic of a state wide problem. Tom Cushman reports. It's lunch time for students at the Dakota charter school and a free lunch at jackpot junction casino is one of the few perks students that go here get. 55 students from kindergarten through 12th grade attend a COTA school. Ninety five percent of them are American Indian. Free Lunch is about the only help the casino provides. But that's still a lot more help than Dakota is getting from the state education bureaucracy. This three room building is the combined junior and senior high. It's 106 years old. These are the athletic fields of the Dakota open school. It's a one vacant lot next to the local cemetery and gym class is a game of pick up volleyball. So why would a student choose to go here instead of the beautiful Redwood Valley public school. Well the students say it's because of racism really change in this way. Like we were. Savages or something like.
They're just really prejudiced hard like our parents they tell us to stay out of Redwood park there and they're going to the bathroom with a chop or something. Now turn to us and we'll get in trouble for. Them when they started it. But racism aside the kids say they also like the school for what it offers. Like if you have a question explain it more instead of just like they give you an answer if you know understand the line of the next kids like they will spend time with their questions out. But I think you they do a lot better. What many of the kids here have learning disorders or they need extra attention and the charter school has an amazing mix of the ancient and the ultra modern in one room at a Kota elder who is also a state certified teacher teaches Dakota Indian history only cares. For himself. He's greedy.
But next door kids work on State of the art computers. There's five computers here for 28 kids and that's a ratio that any school district would envy. Yeah. You know most public schools the highest paid people spend the least amount of time with the kids. That's not true here. But because of all the rules governing the supposedly independent charter schools Dakota may have to close by November the school hasn't gotten any money from the state since August. That's when Dakota lost its sponsors. And without state money. Ellis figures he can keep the computers running and teachers paid for only about six more weeks. Everybody knows that we're doing a good job. They're just asking that we jump through more and more bureaucratic hoops and it's just ridiculous. Each charter school needs a sponsor. It's not financial. It's more of a coach athlete relationship. The sponsor make sure the charter school follows the game rules with licensing requirements teacher requirements and whatnot. Wharton School
District had sponsor Dakota but this year Martin combined with the Redwood Falls and the new school board voted against helping out Dakota. The State Board of Education probably will sponsor the school but only if Bill Allen. The state charter school coordinator gets his job done. So we've been doing everything that we can do we've been following all the instructions all the orders that we received. From Bill Allen and in three or four different cases those instructions of turned out to be totally wrong. This guy's got to get the job done he's been told what to do it just needs to do it. I'm convinced that he's purposely trying to drag this out and I am going to ask him to resign his job. Have you been foot dragging. I would hope they would. I can't understand why that allegations even been made to be honest with you. Are you going to resign. And not seen the letter. But of course not that's not my intention. I
don't think we have any intention of changing personnel at this point. Allen says he isn't being difficult it's just his job to be certain that the kids at the Dakota school are getting a good education has anybody given you indication that the job that you're doing here isn't adequate that the Dakota charter school isn't never performing the way it's supposed to. Never. No allegations ever been made that their program was not adequate. The legislation clearly says again that they need to have a program description and outcomes in those kinds of things. So we're just asking for that information one more time. At the Dakota school conflict is symptomatic of charter schools in Minnesota. Five years after laws were passed to make them possible. Only 17 charter schools are up and running. What would you do if they told you on a course. I'm screaming when I want and I'm on the floor you know I would not go back and. It probably won't come to that. Everyone agrees that the board and the school will likely work things out and lunch is a jackpot junction won't be a thing of the past.
We're both interested in the betterment of education and and what happens to kids so I think we can work together this is a disagreement over process but hopefully we can put it behind us. This afternoon the State Board of Education met in one of the items on the agenda was the Dakota school we'll keep you updated on whether it was successful in its bid for sponsorship and I think from a public standpoint the taxpayer standpoint and the impact our environment would be much better off just did not happen to mitigate this at all that ought to be exempt from. The wetlands ruling in the act. Some northern Minnesotans are eager to make another run at changing the state's wetlands conservation Act which they consider too complex and too expensive. They say the Act which requires that natural wetlands loss to development be replaced with new manmade ones is especially unrealistic up north where wetlands are as common as mosquitoes. They see a state house mini session which got underway today in the middle as a perfect opportunity to take state
lawmakers on a mini tour of the area's problem wetlands and perhaps bend their ears at the same time. NEWSNIGHT is Jim Newman took the tour in advance he got a glimpse of what the legislators are likely to see. This is the first site Jim that the representatives will be stopping at and we're looking out over the lake where they'll be looking at the top of the hill but looking out here we're seeing Type 1 wetlands Liko sees this prime property on Lake the Noojee is a perfect example of what's wrong with Minnesota's wetlands conservation act. Most people when they think of wetlands they think of an open bottle of water with the cat tails in it. The ducks flying over it and that's what you see in the papers most of time in the brochures. But right now we're in a wetland is classified as a type 1 and if you look at my shoes here I
don't have a bit of moisture on them. They're nice and dry. One of the folks who will be leading the Tour says under the current wetlands law it would be difficult or impossible to develop this property. We need to have flexibility built in the wetlands. You go down around the cities or south of the cities there's been five committees would drain a lot of land in the past the follies be much more rigid controls there than there is here in the north country where we have a tremendous resource. The second and final part of the tour is a drive by long Beltrami County Highway 15 which is about to be improved. Basically what the legislators are going to see this drive down this road here with marked out different types of wetlands just for an educational purpose. Just how much a politician can be expected to learn whizzing by a wetland at 30 mph is open to debate. But Kobe's point is that the individual tiny impact areas along this road
eventually will add up to an expensive wetlands reclamation project and a lot will happen here when we widen the road they'll be a certain amount of the crown out of the backs of the young slope that will fall into that wetland area and that is the impact. And this particular location and the value is in very very minimal and I think from a public standpoint the taxpayers standpoint and impact on our buying but we've been much better off just did not happen to mitigate this at all this ought to be exempt from the wetlands ruling and as far as our legislators we want them to get acquainted with what the wetland really is if they don't already know. See a site that we're going to be actually impacting several sites and be exact along a county road realize that this cost taxpayers dollars and if you if they can look at it from that standpoint perhaps they'll be ready to make some changes so that we can get on with our work of building roads and maintaining roads and and doing the things for the public good up here in Belltown a
county without impacting the taxpayers to the great degree Indymedia. I'm Jim Newman for Newsnight Minnesota. Joining us to talk about what what land revisions are likely to come out of this week's mini session Tim Finn Seth is and I are a representative from haggis. He joins us from Red Lake and Dick Kroger who is with clean up our river environment it's a conservation group. Representative I'm going to start with you specifically when you talk about relaxation some flexibility What are you looking for in the new wetlands law. Well what we want to do is make the law flexible and usable for the citizens and in the northern part of the state. I didn't wasn't able to see what you're seeing on camera but you were by the tour you can tell there's a lot of wetlands and there's a big variety of wetlands in this area. And what they act the wetlands act does is just add another layer of bureaucracy that individual landowners and counties everybody needs to go through in order to get a project done like building a
road to Kroger. You saw some of the video there you're widening a road by about 10 feet. And there has to be studies and then you have to create new wetlands because you've taken that 10 foot strip. Does that make sense to you is this where there's some flexibility could be. Well there's certainly room for flexibility and fine tuning no doubt and Conservation Act. But somewhere along the line it's important to recognize that all these wetlands have value to society and to future generations for maintaining water quality and and just a healthy environment so that there is room for. OK but when you hear about we want to widen this road do we really have to add 10 acres of what lens I mean is that something that you could give on that most environmentalists can give and somebody wants to pave a driveway. Is that something that they can give on. I think that. The wetland conservation coalition. Has gone on record. Saying that there is room for for changing the bill and fine tuning it in the way they supported representative mongered bill in the last session so yes there's there's room for compromise.
Representative let's have some examples of how you actually write down flexibility in black and white in a bill because that's where the trick is how do you do that do you have a size exemption projects so small donors can be exempted or how do you go about it. Well the wetlands act is pretty complicated it varies from county to county whether you're in a less than 50 percent county of 50 to 80 percent County or 80 percent plus County. There's different rules that apply to these different areas. I think what we can do is help the areas all. Especially the 80 plus counties in the 50 to 80 percent County you know when you talk of the 80 plus counties you're talking about 80 percent of the land in that county is classified as wetlands. Any percent of the original wetlands are still remaining. OK what that means. There's there's areas like Beltrami County for example. You can't hardly walk without tripping over a wetland. It's just impossible. You know I think you'd like to have some local control wouldn't you take it out of the hands of the states and give it to counties or some other local government.
Right I think that the counties are in the best position to really put a good handle on this whole situation they're here they work with the local people they they know the land. I think they can do a better job of doing it than the state can like it. The guys down at the local level they they understand. What they want to do but they don't necessarily understand the value of the wetlands that are there. And it's important that you have people on staff were making these decisions to grant development that have an understanding of wetlands and their values in and at. Once lost many are lost forever. So Representative Is there some danger that developers could use local control to their advantage saying I want to build this resorts over in this county or this township because they're easier when it comes to wetlands as opposed to you folks unless you change it. Is there some danger in that can you guard against that. Well first off I think what needs to be pointed out is there are
enormous amount of wetland regulations that are out there outside of the wetlands conservation act. And not every wetland if we just can't simply eliminated the wetlands conservation act we would lose every wetland we have. There's the Corps of Engineers you have USDA Fish and Wildlife Service and the state level we have the DNR protecting certain classes of wetlands. So we would We're not talking about destroying every wetland by lessening some of the rules. A big part of that I want I want to point out is that with all of these different people involved. There is an enormous amount of bureaucracy that one has to go through in order to try to get a project whether it be a road project or building your cabin or whatever it may be. And there's no sense in this day and age to have all these duplications. So where the the wetland act is in duplications with others I don't see why we have to be involved. Let's let's let's get them out of it or get us out of it and then we'll worry about the
other wetlands. Do you think a landowner a property owner can do whatever he or she wants on their land if it's determined by say a state agency that it causes problems further away say down the river. Well that's that's always a concern. I think we're doing a pretty good job of managing that already if you look at what watershed districts are doing in managing water that you know obviously will float on stream if you if you affect water in one area it's going to go another and they're doing a pretty good job of managing that overall. It's a job that you're not going to make everybody happy with. But Kroger how many people really understand what a wetlands is. I mean most people would agree with Representative that. When they see a wetland with ducks on it and standing water and cattle in it they recognize it as a weapon but a type 1 wetland is still a wetland. From the standpoint of the values it has what values does it have. It has a values of cleansing water retaining sediments.
Using up nutrients from the standpoint of fertilizers that are put on the farm fields it also ties up chemical slimline herbicides and insecticides. What are the what's the one thing that you're afraid that state lawmakers might do when they revise this bill presuming they do. Well there is the opportunity and in south west Minnesota where I'm at where we've already lost over 90 percent of our prairie pothole wetlands. That. You and I should draw the line someplace our northern counties can go to the same. To the same extent over a period of 50 100 years and that the Northern Counties will start losing their wetlands gradually and up to be like southern Minnesota Albion up like southern Minnesota where the Minnesota River is the most polluted river in the state. And the primary reason it is is that we've lost 90 percent of our protective wetlands that always filtered the sediment out and in the nutrients and pesticides representative we have less than a minute to go can you craft a bill that's going to answer some of the concerns that Kroger brings. And also do you think the legislature is going to move on this this year.
I do believe we'll have a bill but I'd like to correct a couple things. First up but not all wetlands. Serve the functions that he was describing not all wetlands through the same some white lines are discharged to Outlands. And if you look at the University of North Dakota they're all actually finding there are many wetlands they can't find a purpose for. They're just nonfunctional So I think the science is still out on the value of wetland and I think we need to work on that further. OK Representative thank you very much Dick I'm afraid we've run out of time I thank you both very much we'll be following this as it goes through the session and there is just enough time to run through our weather forecast appropriately enough it is wet. The chance of rain in the south and the snow and the North highs if you'll excuse the term won't get out of the 50s and there is a freeze advisory in the northern parts tonight. That's it for tonight. We'll see you tomorrow and I hope you join us. NEWSNIGHT Minnesota is made possible by the contributors to the power of two campaigns program done
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- This episode of NewsNight Minnesota opens with Dave Michela reporting recent news. Michela speaks with Bill Davis, President of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, about an NAACP lawsuit against the state of Minnesota to desegregate its school system. Tom Kushman covers problems surrounding charter schools related to support from the state education bureaucracy, focusing on the Dakota Charter School. The episode concludes with a field report and round table discussion over the state's wetlands conservation act.
- Minnesota's statewide news program which aired from 1994 to 2001. Hosted by Lou Harvin, Ken Stone, Mary Lahammer and Jim Neumann.
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- Chicago: “NewsNight Minnesota; 3010; NAACP Lawsuit, Charter Schools, and the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act,” 1995-09-19, Twin Cities Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 7, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_77-03qvbr4c.
- MLA: “NewsNight Minnesota; 3010; NAACP Lawsuit, Charter Schools, and the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act.” 1995-09-19. Twin Cities Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 7, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_77-03qvbr4c>.
- APA: NewsNight Minnesota; 3010; NAACP Lawsuit, Charter Schools, and the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act. Boston, MA: Twin Cities Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_77-03qvbr4c