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Learning experience for Cravaack, Riverside first-graders

Rep. Chip Cravaack on Thursday read to first-gra

Rep. Chip Cravaack, the father of a first- and a fourth-grader, quickly got into the swing of the elementary school rhythm at Brainerd’s Riverside School Thursday. In addition to reading first-graders “House Mouse, Senate Mouse,” he quizzed pupils on their favorite subjects, handed out pencils and coins and learned that one first-grader had just recently lost a tooth.

The Lindstrom Republican’s stop at Riverside was a quick one but he emphasized the importance of reading and other subjects to the children in Amanda Ramey’s first grade class, which was being taught Thursday by substitute teacher Maggie Boland. His book described how a law is made.

After Principal Cathy Engler reminded pupils to keep their eyes on the speaker and mouths zipped during the first-term congressman’s presentation he affirmed the wisdom of her directions.

“I wish we could learn that in Congress,” he said.

After the story as he interacted with the kids, many hands were raised when they were asked how many of them liked school. One young man apparently was still weighing the pros and cons of the question, responding verbally with a plaintive “Kind of.”

Before he began reading he was welcomed by a delegation of fourth-graders who introduced themselves to the congressman.

Responding to a few questions in the school hallway after the reading, Cravaack said he was not a fan of mandatory federal testing and he would like to see the federal government “get out of the classroom.”

Before being elected in 2010, Cravaack was a stay-at-home dad, a parent-teacher organization president and frequent volunteer at his children’s school. He said the most important benchmark is whether the student who wants to go to college does well on his SAT test. He said the local school district should be the most important element in education.

On another topic, Cravaack said he hoped Congress would avoid a government shutdown next week but cuts must be made to help bring down the federal government’s $14.1 trillion debt.

He said he’ll face a tough decision when Congress votes on whether lawmakers should raise the national debt ceiling. Cravaack said he would have to see the proposal before he decides but he indicated he would be more receptive to it if government cuts were part of the package.

The former U.S. Navy and commercial airline pilot said a decision may come in the next couple of weeks as to whether the 8th Congressional District Office that had been operated by his predecessor at Brainerd City Hall would be reopened. A 5 percent budget cut for his office resulted in the loss of two paid positions, he said.

Earlier on Thursday Cravaack met with veterans at the 371 Diner in Baxter. When he left Riverside he headed to Deer Creek Elementary School, where he was scheduled to read and then to a meeting in Wadena where he planned to discuss recovery efforts from the June 17 tornado.