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Burn baby, burn (Minneapolis Public Schools) part 2

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Burn baby, burn (Minneapolis Public Schools) part 2 

 Burn baby, burn (Dwight Hobbes, Pulse of the Twin Cities)

We heard you right the first time (Ed Felien, Pulse of the Twin Cities)

"...When white kids leave a public school, the quality of education is next to follow." Dwight Hobbes, Burn baby, burn

According to Ed Felien, in the companion article "We heard you right the first time,"

[The problem:] "There is still a huge gap between test scores for white and minority kids. No matter how many times the people of Minneapolis vote to increase their tax burden so that they can lower class size, nothing changes..."

"Why can't minority kids catch up? Minority kids in Minneapolis have special problems..." according to Felien. For example, many African American students come to Minneapolis from other cities, are moved from school to school, most of their families face problems of poverty and racism outside of school. And to top it off, African American students are often victims of violence in the home. Or so the argument goes.

The problem, it seems, is that "minority kids" are simply much harder to educate than white kids.

Not a word is written in Ed Felien's article about institutional racism, such as high teacher turnover rates in schools and in school programs where students of color are over-represented. Not a word about actions taken by the school board that drive up teacher turnover rates.

In "Burn baby, burn" Dwight Hobbes notes: "...Some 230 teachers and administrators who worked in Minneapolis during the 2003-04 school year secured employment elsewhere in 2004--a full two-thirds shifting to suburban districts...

In the MPS budget for 2004-2005 the district planned to eliminate the equivalent of about 150 full-time positions for tenure track teachers in program 200 (regular education). The budget showed no net loss of teacher positions in other areas. Yet the district sent layoff notices to over 600 teachers in 2004. Hundreds of teachers were called back. And scores of new teachers had to be hired at the last minute because so many of the pink-slipped teachers didn't come back to work for the Minneapolis School District that fall.

The practice of sending lay off notices to hundreds of teachers the district doesn't plan to lay off drives up the turnover rates for teachers, especially in schools with high concentrations of low seniority teachers. Low seniority teachers are heavily concentrated in schools that few white students attend. On the other hand, teacher turnover rates are low in schools where white students are greatly over-represented.

The district saves lots of money in teacher payroll expenses by sending layoff notices to hundreds of teachers who don't need to be laid off. And that is not the only means by which the district administration financially exploits students of color.

Based on the assumption that students of color are so much harder, and more expensive to educate than white students, the district gets "compensatory" funding from the state and federal government. Students of color bring more money into the district than whites, presumably because it takes more money to educate them. Yet, students of color get lower paid teachers. And a big chunk of the compensatory money goes into a general fund to pay teacher salaries.

And the financial exploitation doesn't stop there. The cost of paying for the training of new, inexperienced teachers has been coming out of the school site budgets. That has a tendency to eat up a lot of the compensatory money that goes into the site budgets of schools where the new teachers are assigned. And there are extra costs, like beefed up security, more social workers, etc. That's why we have seen schools that supposedly get extra money to educate the students, but can't afford to provide a set of text books to every student.

When first time pass rates on the Minnesota Basic Standards test for 8th grade students at Sheridan Fine Arts School approached pass rates for student in Edina and Minnetonka [wealthy suburbs west of Minneapolis] in 1998, the district administration sprung into action. An after-school tutoring program that teachers were running, on their own time, was shut down. And the teachers were dispersed. A majority of 8th grade students at Sheridan were "at-risk." They were not supposed to pass the test. By helping those at-risk students demonstrate that they were not seriously handicapped intellectually, those teachers at Sheridan were putting the district's compensatory money at risk.

Ed Felien is careful to not point to institutionalized racism in the school system as a factor that is helping to perpetuate a racial learning gap. The DFL school board can be counted on to not use its power to change that. And Ed Felien is well aware of those facts.

Re: Minneapolis public schools, board candidates, & the 2006 election