David Jennings, former Minn. House Speaker, & School Superintendent
Civic Caucus, 8301 Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Summary of David Jennings'
comments: Jennings senses a lack of vision on the part of current candidates for Governor.
opposes shifting expenses to the following biennium.
believes wealthier Minnesotans shouldn't pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than lower income taxpayers.
Other points he
made: changes in schools are needed, including reducing the size of some districts and increasing the size of others; high priority must be given to pre-kindergarten education; The state shouldn't accept federal money for education.
A. Context of the meeting -The Civic Caucus is interested to hear from Mr. Jennings
, an experienced public official and businessman, about the current state of the state budget and how it may be re-envisioned during this time of turnover in the office of the governor.
B. Welcome and introductions- After a stint in the Marine Corps, David Jennings graduated from Mankato State University, He worked briefly for a Congressional staff and in the construction business before being elected to the state legislature in 1978.
He rose quickly to become Republican minority leader in 1982.
When the Republicans gained the majority in 1985 he became Speaker of the House for two years before leaving the legislature.
He spent 9 years as an executive with Schwan Food Companies and later served as Commissioner of Commerce under Governor Ventura and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In January of 2002, he became COO of the Minneapolis Public Schools and went on to serve a year as their interim superintendent during the 2003-04 school year.
He recently retired after serving as superintendent of schools for the Eastern Carver County Public Schools, based in Chaska.
C. Comments and discussion -During Jennings ' visit with the Civic Caucus
, the following points were raised:
Thank you for the invitation to speak, Jennings
told the group.
Since the range of topics on which he
might comment is broad, he
began with the big picture.
2. This is the time for the governor to lead the state's government --The real show is the governor's race, Jennings
The Legislature is not the place to develop bold new initiatives or set a vision.
Legislators react to what the governor and others propose be done, and eventually develop a plan that may or may not resemble what's been proposed-but however it ends up it is a reflection of the governor's proposal.
So the discussions taking place right now matters, and that is particularly true of the discussions in the governor's race.
Whatever happens after the election will somehow be an outcome of these discussions.
3. The gubernatorial campaign is lacking vision --Jennings said he
doesn't see the right level of conversation coming out of the current campaigns.
"I don't hear a vision for Minnesota being articulated in a meaningful way.
experience with Ventura
not sure a third party in "the middle" offers the ideal choice.
"If Tom Horner wins he
has to worry about a power base from which to govern-either amongst the voters nor in the legislature."
A participant asked Jennings
could imagine a state-level body to perform planning functions.
"At some time presumably you're going to have to pay," Jennings
A participant asked Jennings
sees any practical ways to do that-to move toward 'right-sizing' a district.
It would take years to do, he
said; you've got to commit yourself to the years it would take to do it.
Someone has to say these districts are too small, and these are too big-it has to be connected to what works best in the delivery of services for kids.
8. The educational achievement gap is about the early years --To a question about early childhood education, Jennings
said that he
is cautious about the terms.
There is no infrastructure in Minnesota or anywhere else that is more resistant to meaningful reform than the education establishment, Jennings
said, and that includes the education programs at colleges and universities that train future teachers.
said that he
believes Minnesota's work with the federal government on education has been unhelpful and manipulative of the state's prerogative.
told a story from his
first days in the legislature.
"Beginning then," Jennings
told the group, "I said the state should turn down the money.
said that by the time he
arrived in the district the buildings were overloaded again.
So they built a new high school, and got the referendum through "by a whisker."
As organizations districts have a hard time making highly charged political decisions he
said, so they certainly will have a hard time instilling reform or innovating.
D. Closing --In closing, Jennings
went back to the importance of the governor's race in setting a vision for the future of the state in these times.
"I believe the only person who has the bully pulpit and the power to convey a vision to ordinary voters is the governor.
I can't think of another way to do it."
Thank you to Mr. Jennings
for the visit.
T he Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.