Equity ll – in the State of Minnesota

I picked up the Minneapolis Trib yesterday and read a column by Steven Dornfeld. I was particularly interested in it because I based a lot of my research paper for State and Local Government class on his columns back in 1971 when I was 21 and he was a 23 year old reporter. The paper was about the “Minnesota Miracle” the nickname given a new state educational funding system that equalized funding between rich and poor school districts. (I got an A- on the paper)

Today there is an even sharper critique of the GOP controlled legislature’s determination to go back to the good old days of inequality. Its by a guy who ought to know – Dave Jennings the former Republican House leader and subsequent superintendent of the Minneapolis schools. Here’s a snippet:

There is a gap in achievement levels for poor kids. The research on the achievement gap — all of it — shows that the presence of “normal” levels of poverty in a district is manageable, but that “concentrations” of poverty overwhelm the system.

About 66 percent of students in Minneapolis schools live below the poverty line. In St. Paul, the number is 71 percent; in Duluth, it is 42 percent. With such concentrations, there are two choices: redistribute the poor kids among more school districts to reduce the concentration, or provide supplemental funding and create support systems that overcome the obstacles. Minnesota’s strategy has been option two. The three urban districts now get supplemental money for that reason.

The state’s Constitution places responsibility on the state, not the districts alone, to provide for access to equitable public education for Minnesota children — all Minnesota children. That includes addressing issues like the achievement gap in urban schools and the litany of other issues facing suburban and rural districts statewide as well.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it provide for an exemption from this responsibility when times are tough or when a new party takes control of the Legislature.

The Republicans are busy peeing down their pants or pantyhose, as the case may be, explaining that after decades of giving poor kids schools more money than rich kids schools they have determined that the poor kids still don’t do as well as the rich kids. The Republican solution is to make sure that poor kids will now get less K-12 education funding than rich kids.

God’s Own Party is adamant that fetuses have rights and should not be aborted. Too bad they don’t feel the same way about poor children.