TruthToTell Monday, Feb 10: MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS: Plenty of Planning. Results? - AUDIO PODCAST HERE

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On-air date: 
Mon, 02/10/2014
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What sort of civilized democratic society formed along a set of basic rights and principles maintains such wide disparities between its treatment of one demographic set of citizens (Whites/Caucasians) versus all the others (People of Color and those in poverty and homelessness) whose contributions should be as important as anyone’s.

Urban America has so long been plagued with glaring disparities in education, nutrition, healthcare, and employment opportunities, not to mention prison pipelines and treatment by members of law enforcement and corrections, that one would think some measure of shame would fall on the consciences of those who claim to be living and behaving faithfully under this nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Simply not so.  Nearly 250 years after our original founding premise that “all ‘men’ are created equal” in the eyes of the state and their maker, the enduring disparities have not only not been washed away by law or conscience, they have recently intensified, as persistently chronicled in studies from a variety of sources – including the University Law School’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (Oct, 2013) – originally The Institute on Law and Poverty – directed by Prof. Myron Orfield; the Minnesota Department of Health’s recent report on structural racism and health disparities and Prof. Michelle Alexander’s indictment of the law enforcement and correction system’s treatment of men of color – The New Jim Crow.

Still, the institutions serving our diverse urban cores keep setting goals and objectives designed to rid us of the chronic gaps in providing safe and encouraging spaces and participatory opportunities in the mainstream of this otherwise most affluent culture. The questions must be asked – when are words and plans simply not enough to close the widening achievement gaps in our P-12 education settings?

The words sound as committed as ever, but repeated five-year strategic plans and similar documents have thus far been toothless in actually closing those gaps. Not that the schools themselves are completely responsible for either the gaps or closing them. This is a community-wide, Metro-wide and citywide problem of the first water. Lying underneath all of these issues is the aforementioned structural racism that drives, often too subtly to be identified and addressed in truly effective and accountable ways. In fact nearly 70% of all enrolled students are of color in Minneapolis (as they are in so many cities). And, still, segregation by geography, class and income persist.

Now, the Minneapolis Schools have concluded one 2007 Strategic Plan, issued a 5-year Enrollment Plan (in the face of declining enrollment, despite population growth) and a preparing for the construct of a new, 5-year Strategic Plan. These are all probably necessary, but does the public really get it? Can the District possibly meet its ambitious goals and implement its objectives – as they adjust themselves each year – to successfully create an educational climate full of achievement and opportunity for all students, let alone the larger goals of college attainment in communities of color?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query senior Minneapolis Schools officials as to the successful and not-so-successful outcomes at the end of one strategic plan and moving into another while giving action to its enrollment plan approved in December.

On-air guests: 


BERNADEIA JOHNSON – Superintendent, Minneapolis Schools (Independent District #1)



KIM ELLISON – Member, Minneapolis Board of Education – At-large; Clerk of School Board

REBECCA GAGNON -  Member, Minneapolis Board of Education – At-large; Board Treasurer



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