Gummies! (
by Steve Timmer
Apr 24, 2024, 2:00 PM

A NO recommendation for Heather Edelson for HennCo Board

There is a special primary election underway to select two candidates to advance to the special general election to fill the vacancy in the 6th District Board seat on the Hennepin County Board. Early voting in the special primary is open now; the last day to vote in the primary is Tuesday, April 30th. The special general election will follow shortly thereafter on Tuesday, May 14th, with early voting beginning on the 6th of May. (A heads up: early voting and election day voting probably aren’t in the same place; be sure to check.)

Among the candidates for the position, I cannot recommend Rep. Heather Edelson for the post, and I urge you not to vote for her. She touts her legislative experience as in her favor; I mention it, too, as a cautionary tale, as I will explain in a moment. The Hennepin County Board is an administrative board and is unlike legislating as an activity. Edelson has no experience relevant to the Hennepin County Board. In fact, her service in the legislature shows her unfamiliarity with helping cities, counties, and school boards do their jobs.

In her two biggest initiatives during her time in the Legislature, the “gummies” bill and the “science of reading,” Edelson has demonstrated impetuousness, a broad messianic streak, and a short-sighted failure to consider unintended consequences: not good qualities in a county administrator.

The “gummies” bill

The bill that Edelson authored in 2022 opened a Pandora’s Box of problems. It allowed the virtually unregulated sale of THC-infused gummies by any retailer with no limits on where they could be sold, or by whom, including minor salespersons. They’re much easier to buy than cigarettes.

The gummies law limits the strength of THC gummies, but there exists almost no state apparatus to enforce it. And too-potent gummies are sold all the time.

Barely three weeks after the effective date of of the law on July 1, 2022, cities around the state began to adopt bans of the sale of these gummies, citing a lack of a regulatory scheme and any ability to limit where they were sold through zoning. My home burg of Edina – Edelson’s too – adopted an ordinance prohibiting the sale of TCH-infused gummies.

The League of Minnesota Cities said they were unaware of the law before it was an accomplished fact and had no opportunity to comment on it.

Even Rep. Edelson recognized that the law was seriously flawed in a statement she made on the day it became effective.

I am already working on changes for the next legislative session to ensure we have regulation to keep the public safe while allowing for a legal product. I look forward to pursuing more comprehensive legislation in the 2023 Session.

A more transparent mea culpa might have read:

I recognize that my law caught a lot of regulators and cities off guard by permitting the sale of unregulated and untested products made of what was until today a controlled substance. I also recognize that my impetuousness to get a bill passed and my failure to consider the unintended consequences to cities, counties, and the public has created a public health risk.

If you have kids in District 6 communities, this ought to be a red flag about Heather Edelson for you.

The Science of Reading

There is a fever that has swept the nation recently called “the science of reading.” Rep. Edelson caught a really severe case of it. The “science of reading” purports to have discovered the value of phonics in literacy instruction. But a discussion of the relative value of phonics instruction versus the “whole word” method goes back to Noah Webster and Horace Mann (he was an educator, not an insurance man).

Practically speaking, modern literacy instruction is a blend of the two. When you read the last sentence, you didn’t sound out each word because they were in your memory. The meaning of these words is also in your memory. It would be tiresome in the extreme to sound out each word all the time. That’s called decoding. Decoding also doesn’t tell you what a word means.

Edelson thinks it ought to be all phonics all the time. In a statement that is pure messianic Heather, she wrote this in a constituent email at the beginning of the session in 2023.

Edelson quote about the Read Act

Personally, I thought the “basing it off of” language was especially charming coming from a person advocating literacy. “Structured literacy or science of reading” will get you classrooms that look like the phonics gulag pictured here.

A phonics gulag – MPR photo

Multiple people, including me, tried to get national recognized literacy experts in as witnesses (not two-minute commenters) in committee hearings on the Read Act but were rebuffed.

The legislature put $100 million into the Read Act last session, and Rep. Edelson wants $40 million more. You’ve undoubtedly read news reports about school budget shortfalls and teacher layoffs and program cuts. In Minneapolis, it is proposed to eliminate fifth grade instrumental music. Prince, who died eight years ago, on the 21st of April, got his start in elementary school music in Minneapolis.

Mississippi was cited by Edelson and other advocates of SOR as the state that adopted the “science of reading” and experienced a great leap forward in literacy. But it didn’t, really.

Mississippi’s SOR experience; LETRS is a branded SOR (Rob Levine graph)

California recently decided not to adopt the “science of reading” statewide.

How much better off would districts be if $100 million or $140 million were put in the per pupil formula, and they and their teachers still controlled their own literacy program decisions and districts didn’t have to strangle art, theater, and music for the literacy gulag? A lot better, I think. By wanting the additional $40 million, Edelson signals that these are just trivial consequences to her.

Edelson might have also opted for a test program to see if SOR worked, something I and others advocated.

Update 4/27: Lest you think my criticism of Heather Edelson is harsh regarding the science of reading, I’ll mention that I wrote many stories here about it during the 2023 session: The Great Literacy Food Fight series and others, including a couple of stories that got kudos from national literacy scholars:

Franz Kafka teaches reading

Happy Literacy Day to those who celebrate

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The best I can say about Heather Edelson is that she probably means well. But I don’t think she does well. She doesn’t have the judgment to sit on the board that controls the second largest public budget in the state, after the state itself.

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