Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials
Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 18
Minnesota’s kids are doing well — with exceptions
Once again, Minnesota is among the top five states on a well-respected national rating of children’s well-being. And once again, that status masks what’s happening for too many of the state’s kids of color.
The annual “Kids Count” study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that Minnesota ranks fourth among states as a good place for children. But that position doesn’t apply across all racial and ethnic groups. The 2019 data continue to reveal stubbornly entrenched disparities.
Turning that pattern around will require stronger political will to place more emphasis on the foundation’s recommendations, including expanding health programs for kids, addressing racial inequities and barriers faced by families of color, and providing families with more tools to lift themselves out of poverty.
For the past 30 years, the foundation’s Kids Count Data Book has used 16 measures to rank each state in four general categories — economic well-being, health, education, and family and community. Indicators include low birth weights, teen pregnancy rates, third-grade reading ability, and the prevalence of single-parent families.
Bharti Wahi, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota, says disparities have remained stark in Minnesota for years. During the past decade, for example, poverty rates have ranged from 6-9% for white children, 22-30% for Hispanic kids, and 36-47% for black children. Some years, nearly 50% of American Indian kids have been impoverished.
“Minnesota has moved up overall in this improved economy, but that hasn’t extended to all families,” Wahi she said. “We should be clear that there is nothing wrong with our children. It’s the systems and supports around them that need change to overcome barriers of bias and discrimination.”
Children’s advocates noted a recent state step in the right direction: The 2019 Legislature approved a $100 monthly increase in payments to 31,000 families participating in the state’s Minnesota Family Assistance Program — the first increase in 33 years.
Still, Kids Count continues to provide stark evidence that more must be done to give all Minnesota children the opportunity to succeed.
The Free Press of Mankato, June 19
Insulin prices: Urgent need for the state to act
It’s a problem born of a tragedy, and one that all seemed to agree had an obvious solution. But a plan to provide insulin to those who cannot afford it was not included in the final budget negotiations between Democrats and Republicans at the Capitol.
Gov. Tim Walz says he would call a special session if all could agree on a bill to fund the program.
The issue has come to the forefront due to rising insulin prices that can be up to $400 per vial. The bill that failed was named after Alec Smith, a 26-year old man who rationed his insulin because he could not afford it and later died. His family has advocated for a bill to provide insulin to those in need.
The bill appeared to have bipartisan support at the Legislature, but the disagreement between Republicans and Democrats revolved around how the program would be funded. Democrats wanted a fee on pharmaceutical manufacturers and Republicans favored using health care access fund money that comes from taxes on health care providers.
Gov. Tim Walz held a roundtable on the subject Wednesday and urged legislators to “get the right people in the room,” and “work out the sticking points.”
That’s a reasonable request legislators should consider with some urgency, and there appears to be at least some movement. A bipartisan group of senators has been meeting on the issue.
A special session for this issue alone seems to best way to go. Bringing more controversial topics like bonding and health provider tax into a special session will only create the risk that nothing gets done again.
DFL and GOP leadership also need to de-politicize the insulin issue. It’s not helpful that DFL Majority Leader Ryan Winkler issued an inflammatory statement saying the GOP “sold out to Big Pharma.”
Everyone agrees there is an urgent need to approve an affordable insulin program or provide it to those in need at little or no cost. It’s a lifesaving decision that should be acted on quickly.
St. Cloud Times, June 14
These parties don’t throw themselves
Sitting along a parade route on a summer day as a community celebrates the things it loves about itself — how it sees itself — is a distinct pleasure.
Watching kids turn cartwheels as a drumline kicks out a crisp beat and an oldster pilots a perfectly restored antique fire engine down the parade route is a scene every Central Minnesota holds in their memories.
And when the parade isn’t rolling, there are kids with fishing lines in the nearest waterway, adults in beer gardens, classic cars shined up in a show lineup, bounce houses to try, maybe some turtles being raced and probably some bratwurst nearby.
It’s the stuff that brings old friends home once a year, the dates that punctuate every community’s summer calendar. “Here, these days — This is when we’re going to take a break with one another and remember why we choose to live here.”
Spunktacular Days. Summerfest. Granite City Days. Family Fun Fest. Rapids River Days. Joetown Rocks. River Lake Days. FireFest. Kimball Days. Family Fun Day. Family Fun Fest. Heritage Days. Hometown Pride.
The name of that last one: “hometown pride.” It’s fitting, and it could replace any of the rest without being a lie.
All of those memories don’t happen without the nameless, pay-less, faceless and often thankless volunteers. They do it out of habit, obligation and, yes, real feeling for their towns.
But we guarantee you they’re tired by the time the trash needs to be picked up and the tents folded. They’re probably tired even before the parade lines up. And many are worried that if they step back, all of those grand days will slip away and the community will lose a piece of itself.
Throwing a party for several thousand or tens of thousands of people is no small feat. They could use some help, if you can spare some time. Ask any of them and they’ll tell you how to volunteer to help do it next summer.
Meanwhile, we say to all of you across Central Minnesota who make these memories happen: Thank you!
Thank you for putting on the shows that remind us there are still cute kids riding in the backs of pickup trucks to promote Scouting. There are people who devote their retirements to bringing the classic cars we love to look at back to life.
Thanks for reminding us that our local businesses support our community life as we support them and that our churches and clubs are willing to reach out to everyone, at least for one day.
But mostly, thanks for showing us that the more things change, the more of what we treasure most doesn’t: Family. Neighbors. Our hometown pride.