Coleman visits Rochester's Studio Academy

By Lenora Chu

As part of his tour to promote "Minnesota innovations in education reform," Norm Coleman, the GOP's endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, stopped in Rochester on Monday to speak with a handful of teachers at Studio Academy High School.

The 3-year-old public charter school, which expects about 120 students this fall, employs an artistic approach to teaching traditional academic disciplines and offers classes in everything from drama and music to studio art.

Coleman began his address by stating his "great appreciation for the arts," citing the example of his wife Laurie, an actress and former ballerina, and other family connections with the performing arts.


"I have no talent, but I married into talent," Coleman joked.

If elected, Coleman told the teachers, he would help Studio Academy and other schools like it to improve their funding and administrative operations.

"You can have the best teachers, the best concept, but charter schools are a business," he said. "You've got to recruit, you've got to budget."

Coleman told the teachers that the federal government should be responsible for the programs it mandates, such as special education. He said he would like federal funding for special education to reach the goal of 40 percent, from its current level of about 17 percent.

"The feds should pay for the things they mandate," Coleman said.

Standardized testing of students, however, should not be handled at the federal level, he said.

"The standards should be done on the state and local levels," Coleman said. "I'm not for federal standards. I think they've got to be done on the state level."

According to Jim Farrell, campaign spokesman for Democratic incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone, Coleman contradicts himself by opposing federal testing standards while also criticizing Wellstone in June for voting against President Bush's education reform bill.


The bill mandates that children in grades three to eight be tested every year but also gives states and school districts the flexibility to opt out and create their own programs.

"Coleman says he's for (the bill), which imposes the most sweeping federal mandate of testing for every child in grades three to eight," Farrell said. Coleman's statements at Studio Academy "just seem inconsistent with his previous statements this summer of what he's actually for."

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