Monthly Archives

June 2008

Our Special Needs Children

By | Education, Health Care | No Comments

Over my 24 years in the classroom, I have had numerous students in my Civics class, and many of those students were children with special needs. I have had children with autism, Tourette syndrome, Down syndrome, Asperger syndrome, attention deficit disorders, mental illness, and many more with a myriad of learning disabilities. My brother was born with Down Syndrome… and as a classroom teacher or a family member we sometime struggle to find the best path to meet the needs of our children.

Last week about 30 parents of children with special needs met at the Northfield Public Library for a town hall meeting with myself, Representative David Bly, and Representative Shelley Madore from Apple Valley. It was an important and worthwhile discussion about what we can do to meet the needs of both family members and students and how best to help them find success in and out of school.

Specific concerns focused on the lack of resources for children with mental health needs, funding cuts that are affecting educational and county services, lack of communication between programs and service agencies, limited choices for children with high needs, reimbursement rates, and accountability of service providers and county administration.

Legislative efforts are underway to dramatically reform the state’s school funding formula in the 2009 legislative session . A major funding reform bill (HF 4178) was offered this session, and will hopefully serve as the driving force for the significant state education reform we need, including fully funding state special education mandates.

But the legislature can’t do it alone. The stories shared at the town meeting reminded all of us of the importance of community to help our families and children with special needs. Schools, medical facilities, county services, support services, employers and others must work together to facilitate productive outcomes for the children and young adults who desperately want a chance. A chance at success.

Sibley County Ride-along

By | Economy, Sibley County | No Comments

Today’s article in the StarTribune regarding the Minnesota courts prompted me to write about my experience as an observer (ride-along) last month in the courtroom of the Sibley County Courthouse. At the invite of court adminstrator Karen Messner and Judge Thomas McCarthy, I was able to see firsthand how the court works and more importantly, get a sense of the workload of our public defenders and the effects of budget cuts over the past several years.

Today’s Strib article described how overworked public defenders face the daunting task of trying to provide quality legal advice to the accused who work with these defenders. The Judiciary took cuts of $26.5 million in FY 04-05, which required our courts to implement several changes, including scaling back the number of public defenders. The Judiciary faces a current shortfall of $13 million for FY 08-09 forcing leaves without pay, closing public counters, closing satellite courts, delaying conciliation court calendars, and terminating arbitration services in some districts.

This year the legislature made cuts to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, Civil Legal Services, and the Board of Public Defense totaling $5.5 million. A recent Legislative Auditor’s report stated the judiciary in Minnesota runs “a tight ship” and is extremely efficient. Can we afford to make more cuts when crime, foreclosures, sexual offenses, civil disputes, and drug use are as prevalent as ever? How long should we wait to resolve traffic and parking citations, process arrest warrants, enforce money judgments, or process adoption and child custody cases?

The Minnesota Court system is a core function of government provided for in the Constitution. The Judiciary is necessary to guarantee public safety and rule of law to the citizens of Minnesota. The 2009 Legislature will need to take a good look at what is happening to, one could argue, the most important of our three branches of government.