White Unions Have Dominated School Board Elections for Decades. It’s Time For Power to Shift to People of Color.
Did you happen to catch the sad little Facebook dust-up in which a handful of white liberals attempted to explain to mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds why her stance on K-12 education was not what black people should believe?
It was the height of whitesplaining. Lots of use of the word “neo-liberal.” Lots of attempts to convince Levy-Pounds – possibly the Twin Cities most visible civil rights attorney of the moment – that schools that got money from philanthropists could not possibly serve her kids.
There was zero listening. No interest in her family’s experience–and minus zero if it was a good experience outside the traditional system. No interest in the discussion of equity she – a mother who has had children in traditional public, public charter and private schools – attempted to advance. Just political camps organized around tired conspiracy theories holding the status quo out to be the best thing since sliced bread.
It would have been funny if it weren’t such a deafening display of privilege. Adult and white.
Are you ready for something different? Good. Continue reading →
Why I think the New School Board Will Address the Little-i Inequities But Stop at Trying to Solve the Big Ones
Ah, how quickly the bloom goes off the rose.
A Minneapolis School Board with a new political majority has been feeling its oats since the first of the year. It didn’t take long for things to get rocky.
In the new board’s most dramatic chapter yet, a couple of weeks ago about 150 community members organized by a faction of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers showed up to protest what they said were the forced resignations of seven district employees who are people of color. With just Don Samuels voting no, the board supermajority could not move swiftly enough to reverse the decisions.
And so the next week it was forced to convene a special meeting to hear from principals and others who deplored the board’s intercession, insisting that there were more clear-headed ways to make personnel decisions and noting that the board overruled school leaders without so much as requesting information about the cases at hand.
The board insisted it was acting out of a concern for equity. And indeed a pattern of forcing people of color out of jobs in schools, where they are desperately needed, would be a very bad—and sadly not surprising–thing.
But let’s pause, because in short order the universe has served the board an opportunity to address equity on a much larger and more impactful scale. Dollars to doughnuts the new board walks—nay, sprints—away from this one. Continue reading →
What if the Fix Was in But They Picked the Wrong Dark Horse?
The conspiracy du jour last week involving the Minneapolis Public Schools was this: A search committee Friday night advanced two candidates, Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius and some guy from Alaska. Ed Graff’s contract as superintendent in Anchorage was not renewed earlier this year because his board felt someone else was needed to drive aggressive academic growth.
To be sure, there were more candidates in the pool, and at least two were well-regarded and arguably qualified. A couple of days before the finalists were announced, three members of the Minneapolis School Board introduced a resolution to have three finalists put forward but were shot down.
Sounds like a setup, right? Surely Graff, as my colleague Chris Stewart immediately quipped on the internets, was the equivalent of the team that always goes up against the Harlem Globetrotters.
And there are various schools of Kremlinology that could explain why some folks, including factions of the DFL, would want to structure things so that Cassellius was the obvious candidate. The commissioner has mixed track records in Minneapolis and at the state and enough critics that her appointment fight could otherwise be as uphill as Merrick Garland’s.
And and—and this is important—the fractious and back-bitey tenor of the two failed attempts to name a superintendent over the last 18 months have resulted in so much community mistrust that precious few of the advocates who’ve tracked the process are left in the room. Continue reading →