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Sen. Nelson 'stunned' by signs used by Rochester teachers during Capitol rally

Sen. Nelson 'stunned' by signs used by Rochester teachers during Capitol rally

Republican State Sen. Carla Nelson says she is disappointed by the signs used by teachers at a rally inside the Capitol rotunda, though she does not believe the messages reflect the views of all Rochester educators.

Photos from the rally — taken over the weekend amid tense budget negotiations — show one teacher with a sign reading “Fund Us Carla,” with an emphasis on the letters “F” and “U.” Another reads: “Carla WTF?”

Nelson said she was unable to attend the rally, citing a busy schedule going between committee meetings. However, an aide later showed her photos of the event. In response, Nelson posted the images to her own social media channels — prompting an outpouring of support on her behalf.

“I was stunned when I saw the pictures,” said Nelson, a former educator herself. “But I don’t think for one moment this is reflective of all teachers, or all Rochester teachers.”

Rochester Public Schools spokeswoman Heather Nessler said Monday that while it does not discourage its employees from lobbying in a “respectful manner,” the district was, too, disappointed by the signs used.

“We are disappointed with the signage we saw circulating on social media and we do not believe this is representative of our teaching community,” said Nessler. “We respect the process that the Minnesota Legislature uses and are appreciative of the budget that was brought forth last night.”

On social media, there was a mix of reaction.

One Facebook user called it “incredibly sad” that people would express their opinions in such a “hateful way.” They added: “Voices can be heard but it should always start and end with civility and respect.”

Meantime, in response to photos posted on Twitter, a local teacher asked Nelson, “what did you expect?” The educator said Nelson did not invite teachers to a roundtable on education and refused a town hall meeting with teachers. (Nelson refutes the notion she did not do enough to engage teachers, saying she met with at least 10 groups of teachers in her office.)

On Monday, Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz offered his support for Nelson — and the budget agreement.

Bipartisan budget deal reached

Because of her role as chair of the Senate’s education finance and policy committee, Nelson had been at the center of a tussle between Republicans and Democrats over how much funding should be allocated for schools.

That standoff appeared to come to an end over the weekend when DFL Gov. Tim Walz announced his party had reached a deal with Senate Democrats on a two-year state budget worth $48.3 billion.

The budget includes a 2 percent annual increase on per-pupil funding. That number is consistent with recent budget cycles — though lower than what Democrats wanted and more than what Republicans had initially proposed.

“I am really glad there was a compromise,” said Nelson, who spoke to us Monday from St. Paul. “It’s a good budget,” she added.

Final details are still being worked out, though Gov. Walz has already declared that the budget deal demonstrates that “divided government can work for the betterment of the people we serve." Minnesota is the only state in the country where Republicans and Democrats share power.

“We did something that in 2019 is a big deal,” Walz said, according to reports from the capital. “Divided government with vastly different visions and vastly different budgets that came together in a manner that was respectful. Instead of dysfunction and shutdowns and yelling, we got compromise and agreement and we’re still friends.”

MinnPost has a roundup of all the major bullet points from the bipartisan budget deal. You can view that here.

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