Date: May 21, 2004
Subject: Minnesota's loss

A Weekly Bulletin of News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Volume 4, Number 20. May 20, 2004

Minnesota's loss
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Minnesota is a diminished place this week, Cheri Pierson Yecke having been rejected (by the state Senate, on a straight party-line vote of 35-31) as commissioner of education. Her sin was being an educator of strong principle who would not bend to expediency and whose concern for the state's children overrode the temptation to pander to adult interests. By which I mean not just the teacher unions but also the sizable band of frenzied ideologues that populates the education system of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. She stoutly supported high standards, rigorous and substantive content (especially bona fide history), school choice, and results-based accountability. Educators balked. And by targeting her, Minnesota's faltering DFL party was able to score a rare victory over GOP governor Tim Pawlenty—evidently, a higher priority than closing the state's $160 million budget gap. Having dispatched Yecke, the legislature adjourned for the year. Dr. Yecke will live to fight another day, perhaps in another place. She's one of the all-too-rare human treasures of American education. It's Minnesota that will suffer from her (temporary) eclipse.