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Letters to the Editor for Sept. 30

School's award doesn't tell whole story about MSA

I am writing in response to the recent story in the Woodbury Bulletin entitled "MSA wins national 'blue ribbon' school award"(September 22 issue). Principal Simone, the staff, and the student body certainly deserve credit for their success. As a father of four who attended the Math and Science Academy, I know that MSA has some wonderful and dedicated teachers. However, I want to share a bit of perspective concerning the educational experience at MSA.

Yes, student testing scores are high, but at what cost? In my opinion, MSA does indeed skim some of the best and brightest students from the public schools (in distinction from charter schools). This would of course have the effect of raising MSA's average scores (made easier MSA's small size) while lowering the scores in the area public schools.

Further, in my experience MSA also has a sink or swim mentality. There is not a great effort made to help struggling students. In my opinion this is because these students that struggle lower the overall testing scores at MSA and so it would be just as well that such students leave MSA (which has the effect of raising the average testing scores for MSA students).

Finally, I am critical of MSA's ineffective handling of the problem of bullying. I am personally aware of several students who suffered from persistent bullying without an adequate response from school officials. This fits into the sink or swim mentality at MSA.

I know that what I am saying probably seems like sour grapes. Just the same, I think it is fair that people have a balanced view of the overall experience at MSA. It is a good school with much to offer, but what I have shared are areas of concern that could be improved to make MSA a better experience for all of its students.

Steve Lagoon


Read between the lines on House Democrat's health bill

Far too often the Washington Way to include controversial provisions in legislation is simply to not exclude them. Covering illegal immigrants in the House's leading healthcare bill, H.R. 3200, is a prime example. In fact, its proponents are not shy to admit their strategy.

A Roll Call article from July reported, "Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) met with Speaker Pelosi to 'reiterate that illegal immigrants should be covered under health care reform legislation' that comes out of the House. Asked if CHC leaders will ask Pelosi to specifically spell something out in the bill to address illegal immigrants, [one] Member said no. Rather, the Member said the CHC simply wants to make sure the bill -- as drafted -- doesn't prohibit illegal immigrants from accessing care. 'Sometimes if you don't say something, something happens,' said the Hispanic lawmaker."

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirms that they got their wish. On August 26, 2009, CRS stated that, "H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitizens participating in and paying for coverage available through the [Health Insurance] Exchange."

The relationship between illegal immigrants and our nation's health care system is one that cannot be overlooked. The expense of illegal immigrants' health care in California, for instance, has become so unbearable that many municipalities had to eliminate this benefit to save tens of millions of dollars. And Texas estimates that illegal immigrants cost hospitals there $1.3 billion in 2006 alone.

The issue can't be side-stepped. Any fair reading of the bill says that illegal immigrants can be covered. It may not be politically palatable, but it's clear that a bill that is silent on eligibility means a bill that includes illegal immigrants.

Michele Bachmann

Congresswoman, Sixth District, Minnesota

Franken introduces 'household product labeling' bill

In homes across Minnesota, entire families are pitching in on household cleaning chores. Every day, they're doing laundry, washing floors, and cleaning windows together. It's an effort intended to keep everyone healthy by cutting down on germs, bacteria, and mold.

But unfortunately, many of the ingredients in commonly used cleaning products may be dangerous themselves.

Right now, the law requires that product labels list immediately hazardous ingredients. But incredibly, our soaps and detergents and furniture polishes don't have to disclose all their ingredients - even ingredients shown to cause harm over time.

Moms and dads have a right to know whether harmful chemicals are present in their kitchen cupboards. When my wife and I were raising our own kids, we were constantly concerned with what we used to wash their cribs, their pacifiers, the floors, and the surfaces they played on. So last week, I introduced my second piece of legislation called the "Household Product Labeling Act."

The bill would enable consumers to determine whether potentially harmful chemicals are present in the household cleaning products they use every day. This is just a common-sense measure to help parents keep their kids safe and healthy.

I hope that manufacturers will take pre-emptive action and eliminate potentially harmful chemicals from their products. In the meantime, this legislation is a common sense step in the right direction.

We have the right to shield our families from potentially harmful household products. Let's make the information readily available to consumers, and give them the opportunity to make an informed choice about the chemicals they bring into their homes.

Al Franken

U.S. Senator, Minnesota