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Jesse Ventura: Education
By Laura McCallum
July 29, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

WHEN JESSE VENTURA, THE FORMER MAYOR of Brooklyn Park, announced his running mate last month, he admitted he had little experience with education policy. He said because of that, he chose Mae Schunk, a teacher with 36 years in the classroom.

Ventura: Education was probably my biggest shortcoming in this governor campaign. But not any more. Not any more. Because I think that my lieutenant governor is going to be a hands-on person.
Ventura tends to refer education questions to Schunk, whose ideas include more parental involvement in schools and making sure all Minnesota children learn to read by the end of first grade. But Ventura does have strong opinions about education in Minnesota - he's opposed to open enrollment, calls school busing a complete disaster, and says parents are partly to blame for the problems in public schools.
Ventura: Because when that system started to falter, what did they do? They cut and ran! They started pulling their kids out of school and sending them to private school. Well, what does that leave you with when the good people start running off? And it's time to bring those people back and the only way we can do it now is through results.
Ventura says the way to get results is through smaller class sizes in grades one through three. But unlike many of the other gubernatorial candidates, Ventura doesn't think that means putting more money into education.
Ventura:  See, the typical thing is, in the Democrat way, is throw money at a problem to solve it. Not true! Because if you look at the Minneapolis school system right now, they spend more per pupil than any other school system in the state of Minnesota, and yet their test results are the lowest!
Ventura agrees with one of his DFL opponents - Mark Dayton, who wants the state to pick up 100 percent of funding education, instead of the current 60-some percent. Ventura says property taxes shouldn't be used to fund education, and he pledges to destroy the state's property tax system if elected governor.

Ventura also has harsh words for DFL gubernatorial candidates who advocate two years of tuition-free college for needy Minnesota students.

Ventura: If I were to go along with that program, here's how I'd switch it - I'd make it the last two years of college, that way you get the pikers out! That way you're gonna get the people that are gonna graduate! How many kids go to a year or two of college, drop out, and never see college again for the rest of their life? Yet you've got Mondale, Freeman, and Humphrey wanting to pay for that first two years of "National Lampoon's Animal House!"
Ventura says the state's sole education responsibility is K-12, and once students turn 18, they're on their own.

Ventura often says he's a proud product of the public school system - a graduate of Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis. He says a return to neighborhood schools like the ones he attended - prior to open enrollment and desegregation busing - would encourage school pride and strong PTAs, and ultimately improve education in Minnesota.