As Minnesota's state senate debates a public school funding bill that would remove funding from integration programs in the major cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth and shift it to a statewide literacy drive, one freshman Republican has been particularly blunt in his opinions.
“I watched Minneapolis get destroyed,” Sen. Dan Hall stated on Thursday, "so I not only didn’t want my kids in the school system, I took them out of Minneapolis because they ruined our neighborhoods with integration and [de]segregation."
"My best friends are minority, they think integration in foolish," Hall insisted. "It’s a ploy to get more money. ... It’s disrespectful to tell my friends, my minority friends that they can’t make it without extra special help.”
Hall's statements appeared to confirm the worst fears of Democratic supporters of the integration program. “I fear what we see here the is the politics of envy and division and protecting our own,” Sen. Scott Dibblef (DFL-Minneapolis) stated, “not the ‘one Minnesota’ we hearken back to.”
"We have been doing integration aid for decades, and to say that within one year we should dismantle that for a brand-new process seems to me short-sighted," said Sen. John Harrington (DFL-St. Paul). "Have we really made the decision that desegregation and integration isn't a laudable goal for our schools?"
Sen. Hall, however, attempted to cast his position as arising out of his deep concern for literacy, "I am a product of the Minneapolis school system," he explained, "completing all of my years, all the different schools. I graduated with a 6th grade reading ability. I struggled my whole life. We need to teach kids how to read.”
Hall is a Protestant minister who was accused in a Democratic mailing last fall of "pushing politics from the pulpit." He states on his website, "I support individuals and families spending their own money in a capital and free-market enterprise system. ... We expect our federal government to protect our borders and to protect our individual freedoms as Americans. And beyond that, we want them out of our pockets and away from our families and businesses."
According to Business Week, the education bill also "freezes pay for public school employees for the next two years, limits teacher strikes and would tie future teacher pay increases in part to student performance." It has been approved by both chambers of the Republican-dominated Minnesota legislature, but it will face a potential veto by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.
In February, Dayton vetoed a Republican budget bill that would have cut near a billion dollars in spending, describing it as "extreme rashness," and he is currently considering vetoing another budget bill that would criminalize a form of stem cell research. His education commissioner says that Dayton opposes the school funding bill, as well.