Thursday, 1-31-2002

Elephants and Donkeys

Dear Political Diary,

I got an abbreviated start on a new snow sculpture up north this morning. Palo is a tiny community on the edge of the Iron Range and I've made sculptures for Laskainen, a Finnish sledding holiday, a couple of times now. They had a 10x10 block of man made snow waiting for me from Giant's Ridge Ski Hill. God has been stingy with the natural stuff this year. I started sculpting them an elephant which is something I've always wanted to do.  (Just cut away everything that doesn't look like an elephant) 

I thought the Finns could use a good Republican symbol for their festival. Before moving to Duluth my Republican buddies teased me about Gus Hall's Communist gun range in Cherry. 

I only got about three hours of sculpting in before heading back to Duluth. I had planned to put in a full day until I got a call this morning from the Superintendent inviting me to a hasty meeting with our U S Senator Paul Wellstone. I abandoned my elephant for the Democrat donkey.

About thirty folks showed up including Eileen Zeitz-Huddelson. Paul complained about cuts in special education revenue written into the new Federal Education Finance Law. The Senator also criticized the Governor for his education spending cuts. Paul promised to campaign across the state to defeat them. I couldn't help but ask the Senator how he would manage this since he was going to be campaigning for the Senate and education spending is a state issue.  Paul backed off a little.

Later when I suggested that the Federal Government should stop sending federal education money to states that allowed too much disparity between rich and poor school districts Paul surprised me by wimping out.  He hailed one of my heroes Jonothon Kozol who has written extensively about this disparity. Then he shrugged off my suggestion by saying that his Senate colleagues held  sacred the independence of their state school systems from Federal intervention. But then he acknowledged that recent Federal testing provisions flew in the face of this sacred separation. No kidding! 

Wellstone did make one fascinating prediction. He said he was sure that before President Bush ran for reelection Bush would support funding special education at the original 40% level promised by Congress. I wonder what Paul knows that I don't know?

It was a short meeting and Julio told me later that he was disappointed by it. He had hoped that Paul was really interested in the Duluth schools. After it was over he concluded that the Senator's stop was just a quick way to get some local press. And Julio thinks I'm naive.

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