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From the Left Hand Corner: Education election

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On Sunday an opinion columnist labeled last week’s election (primarily referencing the Twin Cities) as an education election. I believe she was in part referencing the learning experience with the new ranked choice voting.

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Not everyone was happy with the days of delay in ballot counting to determine the winner amongst 35 candidates in the Minneapolis mayor’s race. Worse, the election officials further delayed counting the also numerous piles of ballots cast in the more contested races for city council, school board and quite political parks and recreation board. That all was left in abeyance as the weeding out of mayor candidates droned on.

That all left examples of things needing fixing and lessons to be learned. It also left some of us quite skeptical about spreading ranked choice voting across the state.

The main point of the editorial was the focus of the Minneapolis (and St. Paul) candidates on education this year. It was truly the issue of the day, the year. That was not just true for the school board campaign. Education permeated the whole election process.

The third-place finisher (Don Samuels) may have emphasized it first and most, but education was seized upon by the major mayor candidates, including the winner (Betsy Hodges). The eventual winner prevailed for a number of reasons, but a major one was her emphasis on education with particular emphasis on early learning programs. Early polling and followup polling clarified that improvement in our education system was of paramount concern to the voting populace.

My views of this year being one of an education election come from a slightly different viewpoint and different geography. Across the state there were more than usual efforts at enacting special levies for local school districts. Such special levies are brought about when state and federal funds and general levies added together are not enough for continuing adequate operation.

Special education levies are almost never popular and are usually easy prey for any anti-tax constituent or group. More often than not over the past years, they have been highly contested and even if valid and necessary have been subject to defeat.

Then they have been resubmitted until the situation gets so dire that they pass in watered-down fashion.

This year approximately 90 percent of special levy issues passed. That is the first time since such statistics have been accumulated. It shows a greatly increased interest and positive statewide response to the needs of public education.

It was good to see even the heavily financed effort of outsiders brought in to kill levy issues sent back to their own bailiwick defeated, and their negative attacks and money wasted.

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