GOP senators propose dismantling Minneapolis school district
Alejandra Matos, Star Tribune--Class Act, March 5, 2015
Minnesota Senate Republicans want to dismantle Minneapolis Public Schools and create six smaller school districts in an attempt to close one of the state’s largest achievement gaps.
Fueled by comments from Minneapolis elected officials that there are systemic failures in the school district, Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, introduced the plan. He says this is a way to reboot a system that has been failing year after year.
“In order to change results and the achievement gap, you have to think about how to change the system, how do you make it more responsive to the parents that it serves,” Hann said at a news conference.
The plan is unlikely to win final passage, but it is renewing debate about how best to manage the state’s most troubled school district. Last school year, less than half of the district’s students passed state accountability tests, compared to 58.8 percent statewide.
Under the proposal, the current Minneapolis school board would dictate how to split the school district, which serves about 35,000 children. In 2017, residents would elect six new boards and the new districts would start classes in September 2018. If the Minneapolis school board does not come to an agreement on splitting up the districts, the governor could step in.
“I think everybody acknowledges there are extreme problems in the performance of the Minneapolis school district when you look at the results,” said Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge. “Something has to be done. What else is on the table? Nothing.”
Jenny Arneson, the school board chair, expressed strong opposition to the proposal, saying it is telling that none of the delegates from Minneapolis were involved in devising the plan.
“If [Hann’s] automatic response is to dismantle the system, I disagree with that. There are other ways of addressing the achievement gap,” Arneson said.