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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

Bill Green, the NAACP, & the issue of institutional racism














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Bill Green, the NAACP & the issue of institutional racism
















No stranger to controversy, Bill Green hopes to heal Minneapolis schools.
by Jessica Stark, Twin Cities Daily Planet
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/node/802
 
[A one-paragraph excerpt appears below, followed by a comment by Doug Mann]
 
But not everyone is so adoring [as current MPS board chair Joe Erickson]. After he helped settle a lawsuit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) against the city of Minneapolis in 1995, Green acquired his share of enemies. This tension was compounded by the controversy surrounding Peebles’ removal and by district critics who believed he was hired merely to appease the African American community.
 
[Comment by Doug Mann]
 
The NAACP filed a lawsuit against the state of Minnesota in 1995 for failing to provide proper oversight of the Minneapolis Public Schools. I was a named plaintiff in a companion lawsuit, Xiong et al. v. Minnesota, that was filed in 1998 and later combined with the NAACP lawsuit.
 
The objective of the NAACP lawyers (the Shulman law firm) and a minority faction of the NAACP branch leadership was to settle for a limited, interdistrict school choice plan. The Xiong lawsuit allowed the lawyers to pursue that objective without NAACP oversight. When the lawyers made an offer to the State to settle the case, in early 1999, Evelyn Eubanks and I urged the Minneapolis NAACP branch to reject the settlement offer. I distributed a written critique of the settlement offer, and later a written critique of the state's response to it. A meeting of the NAACP branch education advocacy committee open to all interested branch members recommended rejection of the settlement offer. The branch executive committee and membership concurred with the education committee's recommendation to reject the settlement offer.
 
The lead NAACP lawyer, Dan Shulman, withdrew as my legal representative after I helped to shoot down his settlement offer. I continued as a self-represented plaintiff in the NAACP / Xiong lawsuit for a time. I had some paralegal experience and received advice from an attorney (my wife) about procedural issues. Before the end of 1999 I submitted a motion to the judge and the state's counsel to dismiss the lawsuit (for my part) without prejudice, meaning I may sue the state and other parties over the same issue at a future date. That motion was approved.
 
The Shulman lawyers who generally acted as spokespersons for the NAACP, John Shulman and Jean Marie Almonor, spoke of the failure of the Minneapolis School District to adequately educate students of color as being a result of the district having too many low-income and nonwhite students. The idea is that low-income students and students of color are disadvantaged by a culture of poverty, which can be overcome to some degree by integrating them into majority white, middle class schools. The culture of a school is more a reflection of the values that students bring to it than how the school and school system are operated, or so the argument goes. That is basically the theory embraced by the US Supreme Court in taking the position that racially segregated schools are 'inherently unequal' in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and subsequent case law.
 
The Minnesota legislature basically overturned Brown v. Education, in part, by approval of a Desegregation Rule which allows "racially identifiable" schools within the public school system as long as the 'educational inputs,' such as class size and teacher qualifications, are more or less equal to those of schools that are not racially identifiable. That is basically a throwback to the "Separate but Equal" doctrine articulated in the 1896 Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson.
 
The current MN Desegregation Rule is based on a finding of fact that school characteristics have a much bigger impact on academic achievement than student background characteristics. Ironically, the Minneapolis School District has provided some of the best evidence supporting that position. In recent years, standardized test scores and other indicators of school quality at 3 high-poverty public schools in Minneapolis, Hale, Hall, and Northstar, have been better than the district average. Over 90% of Northstar students are eligible for free or reduced priced lunches and are nonwhite, mostly African / African American. The success of the Northstar program has been attributed, in large part, to a stable teaching staff, according to a report by the Northstar leadership to the Minneapolis Board of Education a few years ago.
 
The old Desegregation Rule required school districts to not allow enrollment of students of color in any school to exceed 15% of the district average in grade levels served. Under the new Desegregation Rule, a district may not allow enrollment of students of color to exceed 20% of the district average in grade levels served, unless such 'racially identifiable' schools have educational inputs comparable to schools that are not racially identifiable. The Minneapolis School District had 23 'racially identifiable' schools in 2005, of which 21 were on the state's list of poor performing schools. And in most cases, the racially identifiable schools were grossly inferior to other schools in terms of some critical educational inputs, such as teaching staff stability.
 
The new Desegregation Rule argues that the type of inequitable resource distribution found in the Minneapolis School District is evidence of intentional racial discrimination, i.e., institutional racism perpetuated by the school district leadership.
 
The problem with the 'Separate but Equal' doctrine is that school facilities that serve low-income and nonwhite students are seldom provided educational inputs comparable to schools that serve a predominantly white, middle class student population.
 
The Minneapolis School District is fairly typical of school districts nationwide as a racial discriminator. In US public schools, about two-thirds of K-12 classroom teachers with less than 5 years experience work in schools where students of color are over-represented. Teacher staffing is generally much less stable in schools where students of color are over-represented. 
 
For a period of time, from roughly 1968 to the early 1980s, when racially segregated school systems in the US were being desegregated "root and branch," the racial achievement gap was closing dramatically. For example, in a federal testing program called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average difference in scores on reading exams between black and white 13 year olds decreased by about 50% between 1970 and 1986. Root and branch desegregation involved not only the integration of nonwhite students into majority white schools, but also the integration of academic programs, faculty, extracurricular activities, etc.
 
I believe that the steady widening of the education achievement gap since the late 1980s is largely the result of increased segregation of low-income and nonwhite students, and a declining quality of education provided in programs where low-income and nonwhite students are over-represented.
















Minneapolis Public Schools hit the fan