Monthly Archives

May 2010

Paying Tribute to my Mom

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

My mother passed away this past week. She was only 70 years old. I shared this message at her funeral. Friends and relatives asked that I share it on line.

Today we celebrate the life of Judy Ann Hiscocks Becker. She was our mother, aunt, sister, grandmother, and dear friend.
I want to start with a little story. It should be no surprise that this story comes from one of my favorite episodes of the Andy Griffith Show series, entitled “Opie the Birdman.´” If you were to ask me why it is my favorite, I am not sure I could tell you. There are funnier episodes, more touching episodes, and maybe even episodes that have a more powerful message. But this one is special. If you’ve seen it, you will probably agree.
The episode begins with Opie putting together a slingshot. Andy, Barney, and Opie are in the courthouse, and Barney is attempting to show Opie how to use the ancient weapon. Barney explains that such devices were used way back in biblical times, referring to David and Goliath, but Barney becomes confused when Opie asks where David got the rubber for the sling. Barney begins to say that David just cut up an old tire, but he stops himself in time. Andy, on the other hand, tells Opie to have fun with the slingshot but to be careful with it.
Opie promises his pa that he will be careful and goes on his way shooting at tin cans and other stuff. When he gets to his house, Opie hears a noise in the tree in the front yard and without hesitation, he shoots toward the noise. Opie watches in amazement as a little bird plunges to the ground. At first, he doesn’t’ want to believe what has happened. He begs for the bird to fly, pleads for it to fly, but all to no avail. Finally, he runs into the house sobbing. Later that evening, Andy confronts his son about the bird. Opie admits that he killed the bird but he didn’t mean to. He tells Andy that he is sorry. Andy responds by saying that being sorry is not the magic word that makes everything all right again. Actions bring consequences, and the bird that died was the mother. Three baby birds are now crying for their mother who is not coming back.
At this point Opie has a decision to make. He can wallow in his guilt, or he can do something to make the situation better. Although he cannot bring the mother bird back, he can do something for her babies. Opie takes it upon himself to care for the little birds and puts much effort into raising them the best he can. At the end of the show, Opie has to make the hard decision to let the birds go. He knows he has done everything he can to ensure that the birds will be all right, but he is still not sure he has done all the right things until he releases each bird. When the 3 birds are gone, Opie looks at the cage and comments how empty it looks. Andy agrees that the cage does seem empty, but he looks up, hears the birds singing, and with a big smile he points out how full the trees are. This tragic story had a wonderful ending.
We’ve lost our mother… And we need to find our way. We want everything to be right again. But that should be much easier, because mom taught us well.
She taught us independence…..and survival. When you are one of 11 children, raised on a farm with no indoor plumbing, you learn to survive.
She taught us about family. She loved her grandchildren. And she has the book, and at every Hiscocks picnic and golf tournament, she would write down the names and birthdates of all the new “branches” to the Hiscocks family tree.
She taught us how to laugh. There’s a quote next to her high school yearbook picture which says, “Laughing, giggling, smiling too. When you’re around Judy, you can’t be blue.” She had a wonderful sense of humor. I ran into a classmate at the Greenhouse yesterday. Offering her condolences, she said, “I liked your mother, she made me laugh.” She shared many a laugh with the Bonnie and the girls, the Peacocks, and each and every one of us.
She taught us how to cook. Well she taught Kim how to boil water. She taught us boys how to clean the house…….okay skip that.
She taught us how to relax, on a pontoon …on the deck…at Lake Jefferson…or at home in her chair watching the Young and the Restless, Survivor, or Dancing with the Stars…or over a cup of coffee with my sister Kim or whoever stopped by that morning.
She taught us patience…..necessary for a Game of Shang-Hai… and living with Mike.
She taught us how to work hard. That’s all she knew. She worked nearly all of her precious life. But she never complained. She actually liked her job. And she was a good employer. Some of her best friends were employees. They will miss her, too.
She taught us how to parent. Being a mom to a special needs child is not an easy task. But can you honestly think of 2 better people in all the world to raise our beloved Andy, than Mom and Mike? Raising Andy was truly her greatest accomplishment.
She taught us how to budget. She always said we don’t have a “pot to piss in” but when Tony went to the State tournament in Baseball she slipped $50 bucks in his luggage with a note saying “Hit a Home Run for Me” … and she found a way to send 3 kids to college.
She taught us to make good choices. Whenever we would leave the house or get into the car with someone else she would yell out the window, “Don’t be drinking and driving!” Which was her way of saying I love you.
She taught us how to dance… How to be humble…. How to cope… and how to forgive.
She taught us that it is okay to be a little ornery sometimes.
She taught us to be kind, to care for one another, and she taught us how to love.
And as we grow older, we begin to realize how we as humans have the ability to cope. Sometimes terrible things happen, and if we could foresee these events, we would say we could never handle them. However, they do happen, and we do handle them. We handle them by relying on our friends, our families, on God and on the fact that we are not permanent residents of this world. Sometimes the death of a loved one reminds us that this life is very short and that each day we are given should be treated as a great blessing. The realization that we are called to a higher standard and will answer for our lives one day. An opportunity to tell our loved ones how we feel about them. An adjustment of priorities. A realization of our destiny.
There is a rolodex of daily bible verses on my sister’s piano. I thought today’s verse (May 28) is especially fitting.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31
That little brick house on North 9th street, no bigger than a bird cage, is empty now. But the trees and heaven seem much more alive. Thank you mom for teaching us all how to fly.

Mayberry excerpt by Joey Fann, “The Way Back to Mayberry, Lessons from a Simpler Time”

Ending a Streak

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

I was driving back to St. Paul yesterday afternoon heading to the Capitol, a place I had left only a few hours earlier, as the sun was rising in the east. The Twins game blared on the radio, our favorite nine well on their way to losing their third game in a row to the dreaded New York Yankees. Earlier in the morning, the Senate had just sent the Governor a 3rd balanced budget, uncertain if it would be the third rejected proposal in a row, for the Minnesota legislature.
Fast forward to Monday morning, just before 7am. The Senate will reconvene in about 30 minutes after an all night wait to get the final bill drafted ready to hand to the Governor. Surprisingly, a lot has changed in the last 24 hours. The Twins didn’t lose their 3rd game in a row. Jason Kubel hit a dramatic grand slam in the 8th inning sending them to a much needed win over the Bronx Bombers. And the Minnesota legislature avoided a strike out with another veto from Governor Pawlenty. The bill was crafted with some agreement on an early enrollment option for Medical Assistance, a few more cuts to health care and other areas, additional cost shifts including delayed aid payments to schools. The bill is not ideal. While there are no direct cuts to schools or nursing homes, it relies on too many budget balancing gimmicks, over use of borrowing, and direct and indirect cuts to essential services.
But the Governor’s signature on this bill will salvage the weekend; bring a close to the session, while essentially avoiding extra innings. Just as Twins fans found an unexpected glimmer of hope in the Big Apple, the Minnesota legislature found unexpected agreement with the Governor. It must be time for a break. Hey, I see the Yanks are in town next week.

Rush to the Race

By | Education | No Comments

What’s up with Article 6 of the Education Omnibus bill (SF3189) awaiting action in the Minnesota Senate? The title is Race to the Top and there are several provisions in the article that raise serious questions about our future education policy.

I have already expressed my concerns about the Alternative teacher licensure provisions in the bill. To address those concerns I have offered an alternative teacher preparation amendment which focuses on mid-career professionals. Alternative licensure candidates would find work where there is a need for teachers in shortage areas or the school identifies a need to eliminate a student achievement gap. The eligibility requirements under the proposal maintain high standards for teacher candidates and require at least 12 weeks of student teaching under a fully licensed classroom teacher.

Other sections of the bill create a tiered licensure system for initial, standard, and master teacher along with statewide teacher, principal, and superintendent evaluations. I am all for evaluations but one provision under this bill would consider a teacher “highly effective” if the students test scores on statewide student assessments improve. We want to raise the bar for students but labeling teachers with this approach needs much more discussion and input. Would it require even more testing in more subject areas in our already over-tested schools? Can we truly measure student growth in an overloaded semester class full of at risk kids? Where does the parent and community component fit in?

Section 4 allows the Commissioner of Education to take over the collective bargaining process if labor and management are unable to agree on a school’s continuous improvement plan. That plan may address, but is not limited to, hiring, reassigning and transferring employees, work rules related to the educational calendar, retention, and employment performance incentives. Should the Governor’s appointed commissioner be allowed to intervene in a process that allows both labor and management ownership in local decisions regarding employment and working conditions? Will decisions by a commissioner create the buy-in necessary to turn a school around?

Section 3 allows the commissioner and the chairs of the House and Senate to provisionally adopt common core state standards now, never mind the work done on state standards over the years, or the lack opportunities for input from our teachers, administrators, or even legislators. Should we adopt national core standards that no one has seen? It all seems a bit rushed.

Article 6 has more questions than it has answers. Even though Minnesota has a long history of educational excellence, there is no doubt we should continue to look at real educational reform aimed at reducing the achievement gap. We can focus on the teacher, but we should not ignore early childhood education, all day kindergarten, extended school programs, targeted services, class size reduction, and other proven initiatives. Race to the Top could be a race to Mediocrity if we rush into “reform” for reform’s sake.

Wheels of Tragedy

By | Education | No Comments

With the recent headlines highlighting teen driving tragedies, we ask ourselves, “Do we need stricter driving laws and are 16 year olds mature enough to get a license?”
I have been teaching driver education since 1982. Personally, I don’t believe we need to raise the minimum age at which a student can get a license to drive. We have, over the last few years, implemented tighter graduated driving license requirements and I believe our laws are adequate. But we can do a better job of enforcing those laws and educating both parents and students about their importance. It takes time to make those laws a part of the driving culture and routine in terms of expectations and practice. Look how far we have come with seat belt laws. If I ask a classroom full of students, “How many of you buckle up regularly?” All hands are in the air. When I first started teaching, seat belt use was spotty at best and now, starting with the infant seat, we have changed teens and adults attitudes about seat belt use significantly. Making seat belt violations a primary offense during the last session was the right step in making sure seat belt use has even more compliance among our drivers, both young and old.

It is easy to explain to young drivers the importance of driving safely. Education, modeling good behavior and increased enforcement can help reinforce those rules. Unfortunately, there are some very bad decisions being made by a handful of students who choose not to follow the law after they get their license…alone or with a few friends. Peer pressure, a sense of invincibility, cell phones, and inexperience can all lead to bad choices. Some of these same students make poor decisions about alcohol use, drugs, or even friends. That being said, I believe that most 16 year olds are mature enough to drive safely. For every excellent 16 year old driver I see, I can find a dozen 19 year olds who display immature driving behavior. Drivers need experience. Delaying the age at which our teens get a license is not the solution.

We can legislate so far. It is up to the schools, parents, community, and local law enforcement to continue to speak to our students about why these laws are in place. The unfortunate and tragic events of the past week were certainly a wakeup call to all of us as to why these laws exist. I hope it was a prelude to hundreds of heart to heart conversations between parents and student at the dinner table or during those practice driving sessions. If parents took the time to ensure their students receive as much time behind the wheel as they get with hockey practice, piano lessons, or in front of the TV, we may be able to lower our teen death rates. Car accidents are the number one killer of teenagers. It’s not even close. Having a student driver is a license to worry, renewable every day. Help me help your teenage sons and daughters live to see another day.