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Why white progressives should stop crying over black parent choice and ‘segregated’ charters

This may seem off-topic when it comes to education, but stay with me, people.

Lynnell Mickelsen

Way back in 1980s, when I was working as reporter for the Detroit Free Press, a colleague of mine did a story on integrated bars.

At the time, Detroit was about 70 percent black and 30 percent white and like a lot of cities, it was pretty segregated. So there were black bars, white bars and a handful of hybrids where both white and black people gathered.

While on assignment, my colleague learned that white patrons considered a bar to be integrated as long as it was at least 70 percent white (and actually 80-85 percent white was their preferred sweet spot.) When white dominance dipped below the 70 percent tipping point — say if 35 to 40 percent of the patrons were black — then white people became uncomfortable, concluded it was now becoming a black bar and left, often never to return.

“So what do you do when that happens?” my friend asked one bar owner.

“I’m not proud of what I do,” the bar owner replied, “but if you’re in business and you’re about to watch 70 percent of your customers leave, you gotta take drastic, sometimes nuclear action.”

Which basically involved turning up the music along the lines of:

It turned out that a steady stream of horrific white pop music blasted at high volume was like the Neutron Bomb of whiteness. The bar and the white people stayed standing, while black people paid their tab and disappeared. Pretty soon, the ratio went back to 70 percent white or higher.

Most of the time, white people didn’t even realize what had happened except that the bar felt safe and “normal” to them again. “Wow,” they would say as they swayed to the music, “I haven’t heard that song in the longest time.”

I bring up the Detroit bar story because it turns to to be remarkably similar to how white people still react to school integration in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

In January, the former superintendent of schools for Minneapolis, Bernadeia Johnson, told Minnesota Public Radio that district data showed white families tended to leave schools when — wait for it — 30 percent or more of the students were children of color. And this is in a district where children of color make up — wait for it — close to 70 percent of the district’s enrollment.

I mean, holy sky rockets in flight! Deja vu all over again.

Yet, if anything, Johnson was being generous. As a white parent in southwest Minneapolis, I can attest that 80-85 percent white is still the preferred “integration” sweet spot — the point at which white parents can go on and on about how much they just love all this diversity while staying comfortably in an overwhelmingly white environment. This is especially true if the diversity is being provided by Asian or Latino kids.

If we’re talking about low-income black kids, lots of white parents start bolting way before the 30 percent mark, using coded phrases like, “I need my child around students who are motivated to learn.”

All of this is why I tend to be — ahem — unmoved by the new white tears and union hand-wringing over the terrible evils of segregation, specifically the kind that allegedly happens when parents of color choose to send their children to public charter schools — with mostly other children of color.

Last summer, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten denounced public charter schools that attract mostly African-American or immigrant children as “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” Last December, the Associated Press ran a story headlined: “US Charters Put Growing Numbers in Racial Isolation.” Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller followed up on that story with two separate hours of programming dealing with segregation and charter schools, in which Miller seemed shocked, shocked that children of color were sitting — by their parents’ own choice — in classrooms without the beneficial presence of white kids.

Most traditional district schools already segregated

There are so many things wrong with these stories, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, most traditional district schools in Minnesota are already segregated; in the rural and outer suburbs, that segregation is in nearly all-white classrooms. Yet this doesn’t seem to get the same critics as riled up.

I mean, seriously, beige people? We designed entire school systems around our comfort and well-being. And now we’re alarmed when people of color try to do the same for their own children?

So maybe it’s time for a closer look at why some white people are freaking out over charter schools. I’ll use Minneapolis as my example, but similar dynamics are happening across the country.

Black children are currently the biggest ethnic group in Minneapolis Public Schools, making up 36 percent of the enrollment. White children are second at 34 percent; Latinos are third at 18 percent; Native American, Asian, and biracial students make up the rest.

White kids in MPS are doing great academically. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that traditional district schools have long been designed by white people, for white people, are staffed by mostly white people and centered on white culture and comfort.

Half of black families going outside the district

But for black and brown children, i.e. the majority of kids in district schools, the results are grim. Less than 30 percent of them can read or do math at grade level, which is is why 50 percent of black families are now choosing to send their children to schools outside of the district. Seventy percent of those black families head toward public charter schools. Many Latino, Asian and immigrant families have made similar moves.

White people have a hard time wrapping their heads around this phenomenon because:

  • They assume when there’s urban school flight, it’s gotta be white. Yet in Minneapolis, white parents are the district’s most loyal supporters which makes sense given that the system is designed around their needs.
  • After years of being told black parents “don’t care” about their kids’ education, it’s sort of a shock to find out half of the black parents in the city are actively choosing to go outside of the district in search of better schools,

But are these charter schools better? In Minnesota, the picture is mixed. Some are better; some aren’t. But at this point, a lot of parents of color are fed up with district schools that have failed their children for generations. If there’s another public option, they’ll try it.

This exodus of black and brown families has led to declining enrollment in district schools. Declining enrollment has led to huge budget deficits. These deficits are leading to layoffs for teachers (85 percent of whom are white) who are represented by unions (who are overwhelmingly white). These unions are also the top contributors to Democratic officials, candidates and advocacy groups, almost all of which in Minnesota are disproportionately white and, as usual, I say all this as a white, progressive Democrat.

Follow the dollars

In short, follow the dollars and you can see why a lot of white progressives are freaking out over parents of color choosing charters: It’s a choice threatens a whole lot of white jobs and institutions.

Alas, there’s no nice, noble or non-colonial way to tell parents of color to stay in schools that fail their children because, dammit, middle-class white people need jobs and middle-class white neighborhood schools on the other side of town need bigger budgets.

So instead, defenders of the status quo have raised the specter of a new kind of “segregation” — this time caused by parents of color.

“Desegregation works. Nothing else does,” Daniel Shulman told MPR’s Kerri Miller on one of her shows on the topic. Shulman is a local attorney who has sued the state over the existence of segregated charters and is frequently interviewed in the media. His statement is factually ridiculous — there are more and more all-black or -brown charter schools all over the country that are academically top-notch, not to mention excellent historically black colleges and universities. But this argument gets applause from lots of white progressives and district defenders because:

  • If desegregation is the only thing that works, who needs all that pesky education reform?
  • It keeps white people at the center of the issue, i.e. black people cannot thrive without our wonderful presence.
  • It’s a return to the classic 1960s-’70s-’80s story of small percentages of poor black kids being bused into mostly white neighborhoods to receive the great benefit of being educated around mostly white kids.

This problem with this white version of integration is that it assumes blackness is a deficit and whiteness is its remedy. And it ignores the isolation, micro-aggressions and other-izing that families of color routinely experience in our schools.

For years, our schools have given children of color the same treatment black Detroiters got in those integrated bars. 

Even when black and brown parents stubbornly hang in there and try to explain the problem to us, this is what often happens next: This is from a British talk show, but if it were dubbed in Minnesotan accents, it could come straight from my neighborhood.

So given all this, it’s really not surprising that so many families of color are now picking up the tab, walking out of traditional district schools and choosing the public option of charters.

And just like those white bar patrons in Detroit, most white people Minneapolis didn’t even realize what was happening. We just kept swaying to the music — until the classrooms on the north side were half-empty and the district started running out of money.

Seriously, beige people. Hold the tears. Hold the lawsuits. This one is on us.

Lynnell Mickelsen is a writer, education activist and blogger who lives in Minneapolis.


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Comments (103)

  1. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 03/05/2018 - 09:30 am.

    Is it really a black v white issue?

    The author states that 30% of black children read at grade level, then she says that whites leave when there are too many blacks. Are the whites leaving because of blacks or are whites leaving for a better education and there is only a correlation with skin color? On such a serious claim, the data here should have been presented in a clearer fashion.

    The author groups all black and brown families together when she states that 50% of black families are sending their kids to other schools. Perhaps these are the black and brown kids that read at or above grade level and have more involved parents. If more of these kids leave, then 20%, 10%, or 5% of the remaining black or brown kids will be reading at grade level.

    Perhaps this is not even a black v white issue. Perhaps this is parents taking charge of their children’s education.

    The data in this article are seriously flawed yet the claims are enormous. It is really fun to alienate an audience with a condescending title then present bad data as a singular black v white issue, but I would hope that in future articles the race issue is not thrown around where it actually takes away from the issue at hand. There are plenty of other bins to draw the race issue from.

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/05/2018 - 10:47 am.

      I think it’s about both race AND parents taking charge

      Hey Ray:

      I think it’s both about race AND parents taking charge of their kids’ education.

      My point is that the dominant culture considers it normal and good when White parents take charge of their kids education. Yet when Black parents do the same thing, some of the same people complain Black parents are contributing to “segregation” or “privatization” or any number of standards that are rarely applied to White people.

      My other comment is that the longer I look at education data and practice, the more clearly it seems that our systems are so based in white supremacy and racism. Which, given our history, shouldn’t be too surprising. But it’s take me a long time as a White Person to appreciate this.

      Thanks for reading the piece!

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/06/2018 - 01:57 pm.

      Much More

      I think it is about much more than race, however often White Progressives are reluctant to face that reality. (ie single parent households, poverty, neighborhood, attitude toward learning, ability to rule follow in school, communication skills, emotional control, etc)

      My kids love their very racially diverse school… They do not like the disruptive kids who prefer to not be there… No matter their race.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/05/2018 - 11:06 am.

    (quote)The report, titled


    The report, titled “Segregation and Performance,” is the first installment in a larger initiative called the Minnesota School Choice Project, which will provide an expansive look at charter education in the Twin Cities.

    Previous research from the Institute has shown that Twin Cities charter schools suffer from a high degree of racial and economic segregation, while producing mediocre academic performance. The new report demonstrates that both trends continue unabated: of the 50 most segregated schools in the region, 45 are charters. After controlling for demographic factors, academic proficiency in charter schools tends to be slightly lower than in traditional public schools.

    But this new analysis also singles out a large group of charter schools for additional scrutiny. In this subset of schools, low-income children of color are almost completely isolated in homogeneous environments. The report dubs these schools “poverty academies,” noting that they have been intentionally created by charter school components as an alternative to racial and economic integration. In poverty academies, economic and racial concentration have been adopted as educational strategies, theoretically because they provide an avenue to target “compensatory” education toward historically disadvantaged groups.

    However, analysis in the report suggests that the old-fashioned approach of integration would better serve disadvantaged groups than poverty academies. Data shows that students from historically disadvantaged groups perform better in schools that achieve even low or moderate levels of integration. For example, for some ages and groups, even schools that remain above 80 percent low-income or nonwhite appear to offer better academic opportunity than poverty academies.

    The new report shows that integration remains indispensable to anyone wishing to close achievement gaps or reduce inequality in education.

    (end quote)

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/05/2018 - 04:36 pm.

      The report you site

      ….comes from Myron Orfield’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, which is a pretty notorious anti-charter outfit that is funded, in part, by the teachers’ union.

      Which, as I pointed out, sees charter schools as a direct threat to its members’ employment in traditional district schools.

      I mean, we all have our biases. So it’s not just Myron. But Myron is hardly an objective source on the toplc of public charters vs. traditional skills and neither are his funders.

      Charter schools are usually begun precisely to serve students who are not doing well in traditional district schools. which, if you look at the data in Minnesota, are overwhelmingly children of color.

      So following their mission, charters will disproportionately serve…….children of color.

      Like a lot of parents, I really don’t care what public model people choose……I just want schools that work well for all kinds of kids. If traditional district schools work well, great! If charters work well, great! If either public model leads to persistent failure, well, then it’s time to re-organize and re-launch those schools.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2018 - 09:45 am.

        “We All Have Our Biases”

        “But Myron is hardly an objective source on the topIc of public charters vs. traditional skills and neither are his funders.” Myron–or Professor Orfield, if we’re showing respect–published a report with data. Do you have any comparable data? Or just anecdotes?

        • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/06/2018 - 12:13 pm.

          Myron is actually a neighbor of mine…

          …we’ve known each other for years and years. He’s been my State rep and State Senator at various times too. So I like him although we disagree big-time on this issue. Anyhow, I meant no disrespect.

          There’s lots of studies out here. The Center for Re-inventing Public Education has done a lot of work and they tend to be pretty rigorous on both charters and traditional district schools. Here’s a link to their report: Are charter schools working: a look at the evidence

          Here’s the summary for those who don’t want to wade that deep into the weeds:

          Are charter schools working? That is, are students in charter schools learning as much or more than their counterparts in district-run public schools? While public and political debates rage about the charter sector’s efficacy, it is crucial to systematically consider the most rigorous studies to understand how in fact charter schools are serving students across the nation.

          Since 2008, CRPE has commissioned Julian R. Betts and Y. Emily Tang, both economists at the University of California, San Diego, to conduct periodic reviews of the research on charter school achievement. This working paper presents their latest analysis of the available evidence on charter schools and student achievement, focusing on lottery-based and value-added studies.

          The authors find that, for the set of charter schools, locations, and years that have been studied to date:

          *** Charter schools on average produce results that are at least on par with and, in many cases, better than district-run public schools

          *** Charter schools are producing higher achievement gains in math relative to their district-run counterparts in most grade levels, particularly in middle school, and gains in reading that are similar to district-run schools in reading

          *** Charter school effect size has risen for both math and reading over time, though this trend is not statistically significant

          A small and growing body of literature on the relationship between charter school attendance and outcomes apart from achievement finds further evidence of large positive impacts of charter schools on high school graduation, college enrollment, and behavioral issues

          The findings outlined in this working paper highlight the opportunities inherent in identifying which charter schools outperform and underperform their district-run counterparts and in understanding the conditions under which charter schools thrive or fall short in terms of improving outcomes for their students.


          Lynnel again: Education is complicated. It’s hard to create and sustain great public schools, whether traditional or charter. What works for one group may not work for another. Which is why, as a progressive who believes in the public education, I think we need a good range of public options and progressives who are declaring war on charters—which are mostly White progressives–should knock it off and stop trying to block the choices of Black and Brown parents.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/06/2018 - 02:09 pm.

            Funding Equity

            My perspective is that Charters get significantly less funding per student than MPLS schools. Is that correct?

            One of my readers works in a charter that caters to mostly Somali children for better or worse.

            I think it is probably unfortunate for the kids that they are surrounded by similar kids, however I can see how it is comforting to the Parents.

            Now should folks like me insist we know better what their children need and force them to integrate? I don’t think so…

  3. Submitted by Scott Walters on 03/05/2018 - 11:20 am.

    Yes, it probably is.

    But you have some good points.
    I don’t think “the data in this article are seriously flawed.” There may not be enough of them, or rigorous enough analysis of them, but that doesn’t make them flawed.

    This article rings pretty true. Minnesota’s racial equality gaps stand out, especially compared to Minnesota’s relatively good performance in gender equality.

    State Ranking in gender equality: 5
    State Ranking in racial education gap: 21
    State Ranking in racial pay gap: 38
    State Ranking in racial employment gap: 47

    I think playing the race card in Minnesota is a pretty safe play. I wish it weren’t, but if wishes were horses…

    The author’s interpretation is certainly plausible, and provides a simple explanation of the phenomenon as described by the data presented. If you have a different explanation that also fits the data, then we may have a testable hypothesis that more data may help resolve.

  4. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/05/2018 - 11:51 am.

    “It keeps white people at the center of the issue, i.e. black people cannot thrive without our wonderful presence.”

    And there, succinctly stated, is the Democratic party’s strategy all wrapped up. It pervades the left’s position on anything having to do with minorities: voting; education; employment; housing; you name it.

    I, for one, am encouraged to see black families reject the left’s soft racism of lowered expectations. Bravo!

    • Submitted by richard owens on 03/06/2018 - 11:12 am.


      Thanks for the insult. If all Democrats were gone tomorrow nothing would improve, I assure you.

      If schools were funded adequately Republicans would cut those tax revenues once more.
      Suburbs would bestow great teachers and recruit sports teams while neighborhood schools suffer more, even transportation is an issue for them. Separate is still not equal.

      Back to the actual issue:

      If students are to be successful, early learning is essential. Maria Montessori proved it with street urchins a long time ago:
      * Kids need lots of attention in the first years of life, long before they begin public school age.
      * Children need immersion in spoken words, books, self-initiated play in supportive environments.
      * Children need parents present at those magical early years- and yet parents’ work might be a shift that keeps them earning instead of nurturing.
      * Single parents might need to pay a babysitter most of her pay just to be able to work. Paid leave? IT’S A NO-BRAINER if you want success later.

      BLAME. It’s useless. Give it up.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/06/2018 - 03:35 pm.


        Please help me understand. MPLS schools is probably the highest $/student districts in the State. How much more is needed to “turn things around”?

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/07/2018 - 05:34 am.

        “If schools were funded adequately…”

        I love this game.

        So, tell me; how much is adequate?

        How much do we need to spend to get even 90% of Public school students to graduate high school, with a high school level mastery of math, reading and writing?

        More than 40% of the state’s budget goes to fund k-12 education, but that’s not adequate…So go ahead, put a number on it.

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/07/2018 - 01:58 pm.

          Good idea — Let’s put some numbers on it

          According to a 2017 StarTribune article, MN was spending $11,949 per pupil in (in 2016, probably).

          Here are the tuition rates at MN’s “top ten” private schools:

          Shattuck St. Mary’s: $46,800 (grades 6–12)

          Groves Academy: $29,090 (1–12)

          St. Paul Academy – Summit: $27,500 (K–12)

          Academy of Whole Learning: $26,550 (K–12)

          St. Paul Academy – Summit: $23,310 (K–12)

          Saint Thomas Academy: $21,100 (K–12)

          The International School Of MN: $19,000 (NS–12)

          The Marshall School: $17,600 (4–12)

          St. Johnps Preparatory: $15,999 (6–12)

          Cyprus Classical Academy: $15,155 (PK-6)

          The web site claims, “The average private school tuition in Minnesota is approximately $6,730 per year.” How exactly that “average” gets worked out (besides the standard way) isn’t clear. But if you want to look through the list and try to figure it out, you’ll find a lot of private school tuition numbers there.

          As you’ll notice if you look, it’s a real jigsaw puzzle of the differing grade levels offered by all of the schools (they say there are 49 high schools, 121 elementary and 84 pre-schools listed and within those groupings there seem to be differing grades offered, etc.) and many of the least costly schools are religious schools. For example, the least expensive school listed is Zion Lutheran (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) in Cologne, MN, with a tuition of $1,100 for pre-k through 8th grade. What happens after 8th grade (or the grade at which any of the schools listed leave off) isn’t clear, but that seems to be fairly typical (which is another thing that makes that “average” tricky to figure).

          Anyway . . . While the site claims the average tuition of all those private high schools, elementary and pre-schools is $6,700 per year, the average cost of the private schools listed above — four of which are K-12, one being first grade through 12 and one offering nursery school through 12th — is more than $24,000 per year.

          If that’s anywhere near accurate and typical, that would mean the cost of a k-12 education is twice as expensive at a private school than a public school. (Can’t help but wonder if the “educational outcomes” are twice as good. I doubt it, but that’s a separate issue you can check on if you want to know how they compare.)

          So I don’t know . . . What do you think the cost of public education ought to be? Somewhere in the middle ($18,000)? More in line with states like Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, wherever? (And, speaking of that, that StarTrib article says MN has never been near the top or bottom of the list and mostly closer to the middle of the pack. In the year being looked at, MN was 18th).

          I’m waaaaaay too “education-expensing” illiterate to be able to even GUESS what “adequate” might be. But seeing as you seem to know it’s costing way too much, maybe you could provide a little perspective by putting a few numbers on whatever the ideal, or adequate, amount actually is.

  5. Submitted by joe smith on 03/05/2018 - 11:58 am.


    All parents should take control of their children’s education. Charter schools along with school vouchers allow parents to decide what school is best for their child. With 70%+ of children of color not able to read or do math at grade level, public schools have failed them.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/05/2018 - 02:16 pm.


      That kids perform worse at charter and voucher schools.

      Not fantastic!!

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/05/2018 - 03:40 pm.

        Hardly the Point

        Charter schools are lucrative profit centers for investment companies. When you add in the fact that most, if not all, employees are non-unionized (thus helping to break one of the last segments of the workforce to have near-universal representation), and that charters are yet another way to monetize a public good, you have a nearly ideal set up.

        The real beauty of the plan is that the operators can bleat that what they do “is all for the kids.” Self-identified liberals and so-called progressives can latch on to that thought, thus becoming willing participants in the corporate takeover of America.

        • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/05/2018 - 04:42 pm.

          Oh puhleeze, RB Holbrook

          Please city ANY evidence that “charter schools are lucrative profit centers for investment companies.”

          Because trust me, that would come as news to any directors of charter schools in Minnesota,all of which are always low on funds. (As are traditional district schools.)

          Education is highly labor-intensive and complicated. Frankly, it’s not a lucrative profit for any outfit who is performing it with integrity, which is why it is something that mostly falls on government ad rightly.

          I’m against for-profit schools , just as I’m against for-profit prisons and for-profit health care because I don’t think these models have led to great delivery of services. In fact, it tends to go im the opposite direction.

          The idea that charter schools in MN are lucrative profit centers for investment companies is just….well, kooky.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2018 - 09:34 am.

            Well, Now . . .

            Why would Bain Capital be putting so much money into charter schools if there were no profits to be made? Is that investment company doing it just for the kids?

            Apart from the opportunities to make a profit, there are other reasons corporate America is so fond of charter schools. The idea of eliminating one of the last unionized work forces in America is irresistible. Surely, as a progressive and a liberal you support the collective bargaining rights of all workers, don’t you?

          • Submitted by Ed Day on 03/06/2018 - 10:32 am.

            Renting from cronies, tax code manipulation

            A quick search of “charter schools and investment companies” indicates there might be reason to believe some unscrupulous characters start charter schools as profit centers. The most common ways appear to be legal — renting classroom space at above-market rates and taking advantage of loopholes in the tax code.

            The lack of rigorous oversight could also allow charters to provide marginal services for years while providing salaries for friends to be administrators, all with taxpayer dollars.

            This is unfortunate because many students truly need viable options aside from traditional schools.

            • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/06/2018 - 11:56 am.

              The key in both public spheres, i.e. charter & district

              ……is to have rigorous over-sight

              Neither Betsy DeVos or the unions are crazy about rigorous oversight. In fact, not wanting accountability seems to be where both sides are in agreement.

              I totally agree with you, Ed Day. That’s why I remain against for-profit schools….or prisons…or health-care.

              As for RB Holbrook regarding Bain Capital investing in charter schools: don’t know about it, put in a link. Corporations give lots of money to education—-at least in the Twin Cities, most of it goes to traditional district schools. And some goes to charters. I’m glad because both public models need support.

              RE: collective bargaining rights: I do support them, although I think the rights of adult employees need to be balanced by the right of children to a good education. In our current contracts, which go on for hundreds of pages, it’s pretty clear that the rights of adult employees far outweigh the mission of education. And for progressives like me, who really do believe in the cause of public education, that’s not good.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 03/05/2018 - 06:24 pm.

        So children at charter

        schools do worse than students of color at Mpls schools? Students of color are at less than 30% grade level in math and reading at charter schools? I don’t believe that for one minute!!

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2018 - 09:48 am.

          Believe What You Want

          The Minnesota School Choice Project did an actual statistical study of the outcomes of charter schools. The study was more than clever little anecdotes about bars in Detroit, but actually looked at real world results. One of their key findings is that “[c]harter schools continue to underperform traditional public schools, after controlling for student demographics and other characteristics.”

          Of course, Ms. Mickelsen dismisses the study as being produced by a “a pretty notorious anti-charter outfit.” Apparently, there is some evil associated with opposition to charter schools, but leaving that aside. there is hard data in the study.

        • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/06/2018 - 12:03 pm.

          The results are mixed.

          Some charters do better than district public schools; some are the same; some do worse. Which is why people like me would argue for more rigorous oversight and closing down charters that get consistently poor results.

          I think we should do the same for traditional district schools too—if we’re serious about delivering a good PUBLIC education. Kids can’t rewind their childhood. When we fail them, it takes a serious toll.

          You can look up the results of all public schools at the MN Dept. of Education: school by school and compare. It’s laborious, but it can be revealing: Here’s a link to MCA scores:–30001000000__groupType–district__test–allAccount__subject–M__grade–all__p–5

          The Strib used to publish a list of schools that are “beating the odds” with low-income kids of color and it tended to be mostly charters but there are also some district schools on it—but usually not district schools in the urban area.

          The new way the Strib lists these schools makes it more difficult to compare schools, but here’s the link:

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 08:44 am.

          Apples and Oranges

          Doing these comparisons is nearly impossible. The reality is that Parents matter more than race, income, school, etc.

          So the big question is who tracking if the child has good role models and support at home?

          Charters and Magnets should do better than Status Quo Publics because the Parent(s) cared enough about “school” to take the time to sign up.

          Where as Status Quo Publics are the default … They get everyone, including the really unlucky kids. (ie poor support at home)

          On the other hand Status Quo Publics do often have more facilities and resources.

    • Submitted by Toni Bergner on 03/07/2018 - 02:54 pm.

      Public Schools

      No ….. public schools have not failed them …… they have failed at public schools. Does it occur to some people that kids and parents are in charge of their education and it is not the school or teachers that fail them? Does every doctor or medical professional convince every patient to live a healthy lifestyle ….. and therefore we blame doctors or medical professionals for that failure? Look at every profession and client ….. is it the professional’s fault that there is failure ….. or is it the client who fails? People, families, kids make poor choices.

  6. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 03/05/2018 - 12:23 pm.

    You blame progressives for the bigotry of conservatives?

    If conservatives had their way, we would still have slavery. When they lost that, they thanked progressives for not looting the South by taking away black votes and rights through terrorism up to an including random lynchings. They preserved segregated schools for years after they were illegal, met peaceful protesters with police dogs, fire hoses, bombings and assassination. And today the bigotry is getting stronger.

    Government cannot prevent racism, but it can act until those who grew up before the 1960s finally got around to civil rights. If so much evil wasn’t involved in the fear and hate, it would be be better today as 21st century kids are much more willing to live with diversity than their parents. Liberals need to advocate for what ends racism, not enable it to continue. Private education can help with that. Example – Hebrew schools. Set up special private weekend and summer that treat pride in heritage, a love for learning and tools for coping with racism. Fund raise so poor kids can attend, and if Republicans want to spend money on private education find to get poor kids to tge front of the line, because the poor of all races deserve a lot more help than they are get.

    Spending $50 million in precious government dollars so one very entitled child named Barron doesn’t to change schools when you consider the need is absurd. Fact is, we have no barons in our society, except for robber baron conservatives who oppress the poor pump up their own egos. They have have an invisible sign on their desk – The bucks stop here.

    We don’t conservative greed and bigotry. We change our tactics not to make ourselves feel better, but to change the world for the better.

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/05/2018 - 04:53 pm.

      No, I think there’s more than enough blame for bigotry

      …to go around and I certainly do NOT blame progressives for what conservatives are doing right now.

      I’m proud to be a progressive Democrat and I’m proud of my party’s record on a lot of civil rights issues.

      On the subject of education, however, my beloved progressive team is often on the wrong side of the issue We are defending and protecting an educational delivery model that was/is designed by White People, for White People, overwhelmingly employs White People and is delivering consistently awful results for children of color.

      Black parents have asked us to change it for years. We don’t. So they are now going to other kinds of public schools.

      This will disrupt a lot of jobs but I think as progressives, we need to keep our eye on the ball and that is to create public schools that work for all of our children. Right now we seem to be protecting a system that only works for White children and there’s nothing terribly progressive about that.

      I can go on and on (and on!) about all the things conservatives/GOPers are doing right now that I think is just shameful. But I’ll spare you because I bet you and I agree on that.

  7. Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/05/2018 - 02:20 pm.

    Progressive Democrats

    Don’t put out P.R. pieces for corporate education “reformers” and union-busters. If you can’t be honest in what you write, at least be honest about who you are. You have been bashing public schools for years.

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/05/2018 - 06:37 pm.

      Actually, I love public schools….I went to ’em, my kids went

      ….to them.

      This whole fight is about creating great public schools that work for all different kinds of kids.

      I don’t think traditional district schools are the one and only model way to deliver public education.. I support any public school model that is effective for the kids it is trying to serve .

      Arguing that traditional public schools are the only “true” public school is like arguing that print newspapers are the only true form of journalism……that models like Minnpost can’t work because it’s not like the old way we used to deliver the news,

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/06/2018 - 03:33 pm.


      Is someone who wants to change the priorities of the Union considered a “Union Buster”?

      I am fine with Unions if they would focus on improving compensation and job security for Teachers who:

      – choose positions in the most challenging class rooms

      – are successful in teaching the kids in the classroom

      – are valued by the Parents of the children

      Their typical focus on improving compensation and job security for Teachers who:

      – stay in the district for a long time

      – obtain college degrees

      Does little to help the kids who need the most help.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/05/2018 - 03:27 pm.

    Oh please

    If you want write a piece that promotes charter schools then just do it, don’t pretend your writing about racial equity. If you’re a neoliberal who signed off on the market inspired charter school movement, don’t pretend you speak for progressives and mischaracterize our concerns, speak for yourself. So segregation was never a big concern of yours, as a white person it didn’t effect your life, and still doesn’t… bully for you. I don’t see a legitimate point here.

    Progressives aren’t complaining about the school choices people of color make, and school integration was never about white comfort zones, it was about educational equity. If you look at comparative competency scores since the student population started re-segregating you’ll notice huge disparities between children of color and white students. THAT’S what progressive are complaining. It also happens to be the primary complaint of people of color.

    Separate but equal was struck down because it was really separate and unequal. We have clear evidence that the charter school movement has failed to deliver it’s promise of better schools, and it has definitely promoted racial segregation. So charters have made MPLS schools comparable to Detroit bars of the 80’s? Whatever. Are you calling THAT progress?

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/05/2018 - 06:43 pm.

      Unfortunately, we also have clear evidence….

      that traditional district schools have failed to deliver on their promise of an equal education for all. In Minneapolis, we have decades and decades of evidence that is stark and troubling.

      Look, there are some great traditional schools out there…..and there are some really lousy ones. Same deal for charter schools.

      We need accountability for all of our public models. ; we need change for all of our public models that aren’t working.

      What we shouldn’t be attempting to do is force Black parents back into traditional district models that have failed their kids for generations because we have decided that this model is the best one for White people. And that’s what I fear you’re proposing by insisting we stick to the traditional way we have been delivering public education in Minneapolis.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/06/2018 - 10:03 am.

        Who said anything about “tradition”?

        If you want to fix public schools stop putzing around with defunct consumer models and fix them.

        American public schools were never based on “tradition”. This business of attaching the adjective: “traditional” to: “public schools” is nothing but a rhetorical ploy. We don’t have “traditional” public schools, we just public schools. The closest thing to a “traditional” school we might have would be private religious schools.

        Even the “one size fits all” model was defunct by the late 60s until the Back to Basics movement revived it in the 80s… and those back to basics folks were also the charter school champions of the era. And by the way, the charter school movement was literally a segregationist strategy for bypassing desegregated public school in the early 70s. The back to basics movement was all about suppressing innovation and experimentation in public schools, it wasn’t about tradition, it was about controlling intellect.

        The market model of “competing” with public schools instead of improving them has simply diverted and diluted limited resources. We’ve obscured rather than focused on the education mission by pretending some supermen or women were going to “invent” education… that was always magical thinking.

        So you spend 30 years wrenching up the education system and then point at the education system and complain that it doesn’t work. Brilliant. And NOW all of the sudden your worried about segregation? And your model for desegregation is Detroit bars in the 80s? Only a consumerist could fail to see the difference between a bar and a public school. Hint: Brown v. Board didn’t apply to bars and restaraunts…THAT was a different set of civil rights legislation. Nobody ever bused black people to white bars.

        If anyone is serious about understand segregation and desegregation walk away from this nonsense and read: “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South” by Osha Gray Davidson. It’s a true story about a black activist mother and a KKK father who had kids attending the same schools that ware trying to desegregate in Durham NC in the late 60s early 70s. I’m telling you if you actually care about this stuff, that book will blow your mind.

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/06/2018 - 07:10 pm.

          Just have to interject

          “Only a consumerist could fail to see the difference between a bar and a public school.”

          Not taking sides here but saying that if that sentence was taken out of this context and set somewhere on its own I’m pretty sure it would still be as funny as it seems.

          “Two guys from the Chamber of Commerce on their way back to headquarters decide to swing into the nearest junior high for another quick after-lunch drink. They walk in, head straight to the bar and ask the person behind it where they’re hiding the stools and who let all the kids in.”

          Or something like that.

          And I can ALMOST see the busing black people to white bars (“back in the day”) thing showing up in one of those “Black-ish” marketing meeting racial conversations (with Wanda Sykes rolling her eyes and saying, “Oh yeah! Those were the days! You shoulda seen the looks on all those faces when we all came strolin’ in, flashin’ our Chamber of Commerce free drink tickets and callin’ out to the band, ‘Play Some Funky Music, White Boy!’ . . . Ummhmm. Oh yeah . . . Youda LOVED that alright.”)

          Anyway . . . Good one.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/06/2018 - 03:08 pm.


      Please remember that we tax payers spend money to educate children…

      We do not spend money to pay for a school system…

      Though sometimes it seems the Public School Bureaucracy and Public Employees forget that at times.

      If they can not ensure the kids learn, time for other systems and methods.

      Why is that so unacceptable to many here?

      Do you prefer that kids stay in a school that they think is failing them?

      Be it because of some issue with the school or the challenging student body that attends.

  9. Submitted by chuck holtman on 03/05/2018 - 05:40 pm.

    I have talked and worked with many progressives

    in my community on school issues. Almost to a person, their means of defining diversity, desire for their kids and communities to have diverse public schools, and concerns about charter schools have been rooted in moral commitment and informed thinking about public policy. Your attribution of attitudes and ignorance is profoundly condescending, tendentious and embarrassing to read. If you know white folks who actually hold the views you describe, number one they’re certainly not “progressives,” and number two, you need to meet some different white folks.

    And no progressive is going to remain in a bar that starts playing the Starland Vocal Band.

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/05/2018 - 06:48 pm.

    Many thanks

    A retired 30-year veteran of public high school classrooms (in another state), I was trying to figure out how to illuminate Ms. Mickelsen’s egregiously one-sided apology for both segregated and charter schools. Fortunately, there are plenty of articulate voices in the MinnPost readership to do the task with more efficiency than I’d be able to manage.

    My thanks especially to Neal Rovick for providing a portion of the report, which essentially reveals Ms. Mickelsen’s column to be an apologia for a social and educational ill, rather than the benefit she implies, but also to Pat Terry, RB Holbrook, Joel Stegner, and Paul Udstrand.

    The original notion of charter schools — as places of innovation and experiment that could be shared and applied in public schools — was one that I applauded and supported. Alas, that concept was long ago appropriated and perverted by various forces on the right for whom the concept of “the common good” and truly public institutions has become anathema. We are much the poorer as a result, and if Ms. Mickelsen were intellectually honest, she’d acknowledge that reality.

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/06/2018 - 12:17 pm.

      Ray, with all due respect, I think

      ….you should spend some time talking to parents of color who are sending their children to charter schools in the Twin Cities. They are not hard to find. Seriously. I once shared your views and I was changed by sitting down and listening to parents and their stories.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/06/2018 - 12:32 pm.

      Just one small historical correction

      The charter movement actually began as an instrument of the right. School choice, vouchers, and charters were all part of a strategy to preserve segregation at a time when America’s right wing was trying decide whether abortion or desegregation were the most powerful wedge issues for conservatives. They were effective segregation strategies so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that as they’ve been adopted segregation had increased.

      What happened in the late 70s and 80s was a little conservative inspired hysteria regarding the alleged failure of our public schools which culminated in the publication of: “A Nation At Risk” in 1983. NAR claimed to have discovered or at least documented a alarming trend of declining SAT scores that had been debated since the 70s. The statistical methods and reliability of the data used in NAR would eventually be questioned but the hysteria spread to liberal quarters where consensus emerged that public schools were failing and some combination of back to basics classrooms and private innovation was the only solution. The liberal buy-in for the charter school movement was primarily a reflection of the ascendance of neoliberalism among the “New Democrats” combined with long standing antagonism towards public education on the Republican side. In the midst of all this vouchers, charters, and school choice re-emerged as more popular options albeit by then disassociated with their origins in the 60s and 70s.

      We know that the alarmist analysis of the 70s and 80s represented by NAR was flawed because despite widespread adoption of back to basics, charter schools, vouchers, and school choice, no real progress has been made towards creating a state of the art education system in the US. We’re still complaining about whether or not High School graduates are prepared for college, and the disparities, gaps, and inequities that alarmed us so much in the 80s remain entrenched and have in many ways gotten worse.

      As for progressives, we never bought into any of this hooey and we warned everyone that none of this crap was going to work. So you can’t blame us for whatever is going on in MPLS.

  11. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/05/2018 - 08:32 pm.

    Very interesting commentary

    I’m glad that some parents choose schools for their children that they think will give them the best opportunity to learn. Some people send their kids to Harvard or Yale. Some to all same gender schools. Some to military schools. I’d like to think that this might follow an idea called “freedom of association” which is one of the many wonderful things about this country.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2018 - 12:05 pm.

      Freedom of Association

      The issue of the freedom to send a child to the school of your choice is not the entire point here. The point really is how far the state should go in subsidizing that exercise of freedoms. According to the Supreme Court, I have the freedom to own a gun, but is anyone seriously suggesting the state should pay for me to get one?

      The Minnesota Constitution says that “it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools.” The purpose of this schools is not to teach kids a trade, to create compliant employees for Job Creators, or to make sure every parent gets exactly what they want. No, the purpose is to ensure the “stability of a republican form of government” by making the people “intelligent.” Schools are a common good. They are not an amenity or a parental fashion choice.

      I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting eliminating all parental choice in the matter of a child’s education. The question is how the state fulfills its obligations to all citizens.

      • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 03/06/2018 - 02:21 pm.

        Hey, the good news is that we seem to agree

        …….on what the Minnesota Constitution says about education and that schools are a common good, not a fashion choice

        I think the state needs to support all models of public education: district and charter.

        I am against for-profit models. I think vouchers are problematic. I support collective bargaining rights.

        So I think we actually agree on a lot of the basics.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2018 - 04:19 pm.

          Since We’re Agreeing

          I am not completely opposed to the idea of educational reform. The Calvinist in me believes all human institutions are inherently flawed, so making things better is always possible.

          My suspicion of charters stems from the lack of oversight. At the most basic level, as a taxpayer, I want accountability for how public funds are spent. As a parent and a citizen, I want the education dollars spent in the most effective way possible. I also recognize the community value of strong public schools.

          Harmony reigns.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 08:55 am.


            Which do you think is more important to our communities?

            1. Strong Status Quo Public Schools

            2. Ensuring that every child succeeds academically

            Historical and current evidence indicates that #1 can not ensure #2.
            And that #1 is not willing to embrace improvements to change this.


            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/07/2018 - 11:44 am.

              Historical and Current Evidence

              “Historical and current evidence indicates that #1 can not ensure #2.” Anecdotal evidence, perhaps. Even so, would a school really be “strong” if children were not being educated?

              “And that #1 is not willing to embrace improvements to change this.” That’s thinking inside the bubble. There is more willingness to embrace change amongst the teaching profession than you may have been lead to believe. The changes that teachers would regard as helpful are not limited to things like bulldozing job security* or making pay raises a matter of the school administration’s discretion.

              *From the local school board to the White House, the modern conservative loves job terminations.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 02:30 pm.


                No Terminations Required.

                Just pay based on the challenge level of the classroom and the results attained.


                Based on the degrees / years a Teacher has worked.

                If Teachers want to make more they and are up for the challenge, they relocate to where the unlucky kids are that truly need some super effort.

                If Teacher want a more relaxing class, they can move to an easier classroom and make less.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/07/2018 - 03:44 pm.

                  Results Attained

                  How do we measure that? Are we going to rely on standardized testing, the bane of imaginative teachers and the instigator of fraud?

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 04:44 pm.


                    I’m flexible…

                    Do you have a better way to ensure that kids are graduating with a level of proficiency that our society deems acceptable?

                    Please remember that No Child Left Behind testing did not create the fact that a lot of kids were being passed through the system without adequate proficiency. It just quantified exactly how bad the problem was and how many kids were being Left Behind.

                    Would you prefer that we stop measuring and close our eyes again?

                    How will that help the unluckiest kids escape poverty?

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/08/2018 - 10:09 am.


                      Flexible is good. I think standardized testing can be a part of the mix, but over-reliance on it doesn’t help.

                      “Please remember that No Child Left Behind testing did not create the fact that a lot of kids were being passed through the system without adequate proficiency.” No, but it created an added incentive to do so, and to do so fraudulently. NCLB also exacerbated the problem of “teaching to the test,” which may get good numerical results, but isn’t necessarily serving to educate students.

                      “It just quantified exactly how bad the problem was and how many kids were being Left Behind.” Well, as our resident statistics maven, surely you would agree that it is more accurate to say that it measured only which students passed a test on that day. We choose to define that as our measure of learning, contrary to all common sense (Funny true story: My former employer’s daughter was about the same age as my daughter. When my daughter was admitted to the gifted and talented program based on standardized test scores, and employer’s daughter did not, the employer explained to me for at least 20 minutes how standardized tests do not measure “real” intelligence or learning).

                      “Would you prefer that we stop measuring and close our eyes again?” I would prefer a better measurement. I would also prefer that parents be real advocates for their children, and stop accepting things like social promotions.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 11:08 am.

                      Not Perfect

                      I agree that Standardized tests aren’t perfect… My daughters always struggled with them because they are not quick enough, they like to take their time. But those tests are the best thing we have available right now.

                      If you come up with something better, I am happy to listen.

                      Please also remember that the public school systems were manipulating results / cheating long before standardized tests. Just think of the millions of children they passed through the system who were not academically capable…

                      As one Teacher explained it to me. She has 30 kids in the class, 25 really want to learn and 5 are not interested in being there… How much should she punish the 25 to ensure the 5 participate and excel?

                      These are challenging topics.

            • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/07/2018 - 02:13 pm.

              Just out of curiosity

              How does a community ensure “that every child succeeds academically”?

              Are you aware of any communities in which #2 is a reality?

              Is there any current evidence that indicates #2 is something that can be ensured?

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 03:20 pm.

                Not that I know of… Our society seems to be more interested in taking care of the adults.

                Some insist that adults in the Public school systems need to be protected against accountability.

                Some insist that we pay for degrees / years instead of results.

                Some think that everyone has the right to have/raise kids whether they are responsible capable Parents or not.

                Some demand lower taxes instead of supporting early childhood education for the unluckiest kids.

                Some refuse to insist that incapable / irresponsible parents be forced to improve and learn / perform.

                The irony of course is that both tribes keep blaming each other instead of working together to help the unlucky kids. 🙁

                • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/07/2018 - 06:00 pm.

                  Um . . . Not the point

                  Your comment (above) presents two choices communities can make:

                  1) Maintain what you see as the “Status Quo”; or

                  2) Ensure “that every child succeeds academically.”

                  What you’re saying is communities need to stop choosing to accept the “Status Quo” (as you define it) and do something else in order to ensure their children’s success.

                  Yet when someone asks you if that something else exists you say, “Not that I’m aware of.”

                  So what you’re actually saying is communities should reject the “Status Quo” as you define it.

                  And that’s all.

                  You seem to have several vague theories as to what to replace it with (the opposite of the complaints you listed in your reply, I guess — whatever exactly that would look like) but nothing in the non-theoretical world you can point to that has even ensured ANY community’s children would succeed to the degree they do under that “Status Quo,” let alone the degree that would “ensure” their academic success.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 09:09 am.


                    I am a big fan of the Harlem Children’s Zone system.

                    Hold Parents accountable
                    Hold Social and Education personnel accountable

                    And focus on the kids.

                    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 03/09/2018 - 08:40 am.

                      Well, OK.

                      The HCZ model is interesting, but it envisions a far larger role for the school in society than what we have today. Turning schools into true community centers providing things like tax preparation services and nutritional programs is not what your party has in mind for public education.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/09/2018 - 01:03 pm.

                      Neither side is willing to follow it. Remember that social services and educational employee expectations and accountability is key to their model.

                      It will not be nearly as successful when burdened with government bureaucracy, union negotiations, tenured teachers, etc.

  12. Submitted by richard owens on 03/06/2018 - 10:10 am.

    White People Can’t Dance – Dave Chappelle

    The theory gets tested…

    Good skits take time…

  13. Submitted by James Wilkinson on 03/06/2018 - 02:46 pm.

    results and costs

    I can endorse almost anything that will actually help the students who are not succeeding. The CRPE study cited provides some hope for some students in some schools, but LM does not actuallychallenge the local IMO report showing different results here. And such hope as there is is based, it appears, solely on test scores.

    I have often wondered why we are not seeing profiles of successful charter graduates – now in professions, trades, arts, etc. If all they can do, at best, is raise scores by 2 or 3 percentiles on standardized tests that everyone (almost) agree are inadequate or a scam, where is the benefit?

    Please tell us what the results in the real world are for the students who started with SEED Academy in 1992. That’s 25+ years ago. I see that WCCO reported that some graduates are now back teaching at SEED/Harvest. That is commendable. What other achievements can be pointed to?

    And while MN may not (yet) have hedge funds finding ways to get the hands on tax money, there seems to be no limit on what administrators get paid ($273,000 six years ago) at SEED Harvest.
    And they sure don’t pay their teachers much – average $31,000 to $50,000 depending on grade level. (Guessing this is 2016 data.)

  14. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 03/06/2018 - 03:15 pm.

    Literacy is a reason students are leaving

    First the comment by Mr. Udstrand that “The charter movement actually began as an instrument of the right” is patently false and very Trumpian in its lack of truthfulness. Minnesota started the first charter schools in the nation and it was white, liberal progressives who did so. Just ask Ember Reichgott Junge and Bob Wedl who were and are both very committed progressives who started this movement. An apology is in order.

    I wanted to add to the discussion that Black parents should be given more credit for their choices. I do wonder if one of the reasons they are choosing charter schools-especially those like Harvest who actually teach reading and are successful-is because of the MPS white centered “Balanced Literacy” approach to reading. Despite a new initiative in the reading curriculum the MPS web page still identifies this as their approach.

    Folks, there are two general approaches to elementary schools and the acquisition of reading skills. One is “Balanced Literacy” and the other is direct instruction of reading. Balanced Literacy, the MPS choice for decades (of failure) is ideal for white middle class students who already know how to read or are coming into school with a vocabulary of 30,0000 words and rich life experiences. It also works with kids whose abilities will allow them to read with any curriculum. It fails with students who struggle with reading and thus the poor MPS results. Direct instructional approaches, which among the progressive set is as well liked as Jared Kushner, does work well with children who are challenged to learn to read for any reason.

    Check out the MPS LIteracy Plan, which I must allow may be out of date. But as written it is a perfect plan to assure that children do not learn to read. This has been proven over and over in MPS for decades. Look at your data. The big improvement this year is that there is actually a curriculum. You must be kidding!?! MPS is only adopting a curriculum in 2018?? I understand that they are going to begin measuring student oral reading progress-a method pioneered in the MPS schools in special education 40 years ago and used for decades in other districts for all kids. At least we have a good if very late start.

    Meanwhile Harvest, using a direct reading rather than a literacy approach and with a population with similar characteristics is succeeding. I think Black parents have known for a long time that the MPS do not teach reading and so now that they can choose they are going where it is taught. By the way there is a movement by white suburban parents-the so called “Dyslexia Movement”-who want the same thing.

    I am very sympathetic to the challenges of the schools and barriers that are erected for students to learn that have nothing to do with schools. But I do think we have to acknowledge that the Balanced Literacy approach is not working with the students now attending MPS. A much more aggressive approach than the ‘good beginning’ is needed.

    I know that those involved and committed to this approach have the best intentions but the question does need to be asked of why is it still in place after so much failure when there are known alternatives. This article for me raises the question, “Is it because it is a comfortable approach for white middle class students?” Is it Afternoon Delight? Black parents and the white dyslexia movement are both telling schools your BL approach is not working.

    The MPS, St. Paul, Anoka, Rosemount and many other schools in MInnesota-most of them- will raise their reputations once they ditch Balanced Literacy and master the first expectation of our society for schools-teach the children to read. In addition to being a perfect plan to assure that students do not read, failure to do so is also a perfect excuse for the right wing to blow up public education.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/07/2018 - 10:10 am.

      Charter “history” etc.

      Yes, the first Charter School opened in MPLS in 1992. However, as I said, the actual history behind the charters, vouchers, and school choice dates back to the late 60s and early 70s. The neoliberals who championed MN charters in the late 80s didn’t invent the idea, they just thought they did.

      Yes, neoliberals like to call themselves “progressives” when it suits them, but at the time triangulating liberals like those promoting charter schools were denying that they were even “liberal” much less progressive. This was a competitive business model pretending to be innovative education policy, by definition it was anti-progressive. This is just another example of centrist or moderate conservatives thinking they’re liberals, or just calling themselves liberals.

      Since no one here has in any way shape or form criticized black parents for the “choices” they make, this was, is, and remains an argument in search of an opponent. In fact the only real criticism of black parents we can discern from conversation is a criticism of those black parents who have not yet “chosen” a charter school. The black parents being criticized are the ones who have left their kids in the public school system, not those have chosen charters. You can’t blame progressives for THAT criticism.

      Sure, some parents are happy with their choices, but that consumer satisfaction clearly hasn’t produced the big promised revolution in education. That’s not a criticism of black parents or any other parents and their “choices”, it’s just data based observation.

      As for literacy, effective state of the art methods for teaching literacy exist and can be implemented whenever we’re ready to do so. Let us know when you want to stop talking about consumer satisfaction and start teaching students how to read.

      Over-all one observation we can make is that over the last 30 years black literacy rates have plateaued and some places even declined after decades of steady improvement starting in the 1950s. Obviously the charter school movement hasn’t budged the needle regarding black literacy rates, even if some individual charters have had some success. We can’t necessarily blame charters for stalled literacy rates, but we can certainly observe that charters didn’t deliver the promised revolution of literacy, and there was never really any reason to assume they could.

  15. Submitted by Ron Spokeman on 03/07/2018 - 10:32 am.

    A different view

    I had to create an account to comment on this one; it seems most views are from people who are having an episode of cognitive dissonance and are trying to resolve their pre-existing framework of left-wing views with evidence that it may be hurting people of color instead of helping.

    I have a different view on the matter. First- great article. I usually can’t stomach articles that touch on the topic of race relations in our county because they’re so ridiculously biased towards the left-wing. This is an excellently written piece that doesn’t engage in the usual self-congratulatory, victim/oppressor, narrow view of the media on race.

    My view that I would like to add to this conversation is that there should be an exploration of these racially segregated charter schools to ensure that they meet the same educational standards that the public schools are held to. Too often in this country and our state, in a pusillanimous effort to resolve racial tension, lower standards are accepted for certain demographics. I am concerned that these charter schools which embrace a “culture” may be using that as an excuse to lower standards and deflect any regulatory oversight, which results in their students being given a free pass through high school even if they are not qualified to receive the same diploma that their public school counterparts do. There was an article entitled “What Really Happened At The School Where Every Graduate Got Into College” over at NPR News back in November that details one example of this happening.

    This promotion of “culture” as the reason segregation is needed can be accurately thought of in a different light as giving up on a demographic. Maybe this is the only way our society, which is currently ripping itself apart because of racial tensions, can resolve the differences between demographics- by lowering the bar for some demographics and pretending its because of cultural reasons. I don’t think we should be giving up this easily, though, as we’re not that many generations removed from some demographics having lower statuses in the eyes of our government.

    If we continue down this path of deregulation because of “culture,” we risk further fracturing our nation and state. These are important entities that need to be held as important pieces of our children’s identity, and need to be held higher than whatever individual Americans or Minnesotans identify as. Children who are the product of these segregated schools will not only be very disadvantaged in the labor market if they have to get along with members of other races, but will be actually dangerous to a unified, cohesive, and free nation as it is certain they will think of their personal “culture” as superior to all others. We’re just beginning to get over whites being legally able to discriminate against other races; we shouldn’t be starting down the destructive path of letting that pendulum swing wildly in the other direction.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/07/2018 - 11:37 am.

    Full circle

    Setting aside the nonsense about segregation I’m looking at Ms. Mickelsen’s comments:

    “I think the state needs to support all models of public education: district and charter.

    I am against for-profit models. I think vouchers are problematic. I support collective bargaining rights.

    So I think we actually agree on a lot of the basics.”

    Most of these principles now seem to be shared by a number charter supporters, some have said they believe in well regulated charters for instance.

    Here’s the thing: We’re back where we started in the 1980s. It’s important to remember that the charters we’re looking in MN today are not the charters that came out of the box in the 90’s. Many of the original charters failed in a variety of ways and the principles charters now “agree” with had to be imposed over the years. You can say your against vouchers but charters and school choice are funded by a de facto voucher system. The more contemporary charter school proponents talk about charters, the more those schools look public schools, not alternatives to public schools, hardly an educational revolution of any kind.

    The problem with neoliberalism was always it’s unnecessary and toxic complexity. The neoliberal mentality assumes that EVERYTHING has to be converted into a competitive market in order to yield efficiency and innovation. Aside from simply being a bogus assumption, it typically stalls innovation and efficiency rather than promoting it. So you create a competitive consumer regime,then the market fails and you have to start regulating the market, and so it goes until someone realizes that decades have gone by and kids still aren’t learning how to read. Neoliberalism assumed that by converting everything into a competitive model we were reinventing everything, that was a bizarre fantasy.

    So guys like me look at the fact that we’ve spent decades circling back to where we started without any significant improvement and hundred of millions of dollars wasted and we point out:

    In 1979 public schools WERE innovative and experimental. We built schools without windows in the classrooms, and experimented with modular scheduling and open campuses. We invented language immersion schools, and mini schools, and buses picked up students at high school and drove them out to Henn Co. Vo-Tech in the middle of the day. We had a broadcasting radio station with an FCC license in the basement of my high school. And that was all by 1979, and more and more ideas were flowing into the pipeline every year.

    We never needed to “invent” an education system, and it was silly to think that a bunch of people who knew nothing about education would be the best inventors in the first place. Had we not stifled innovation and experimentation in the public schools in the name of getting back to basics in the first place, we would likely have made far more progress by now. As it is we’re decades behind many other nations and where we could have been.

  17. Submitted by Joe Musich on 03/07/2018 - 09:30 pm.

    Wow !

    Some inflammatory remarks. Where did this come from ? “……..comes from Myron Orfield’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, which is a pretty notorious anti-charter outfit that is funded, in part, by the teachers’ union….” This statement is pure unadulterated mischaracterization. This is something that can happen when the data gathered goes up against a firmly held opinion. A dollar like data is what it is. It is neither anti or pro anything. The attempt to use data inaccurately to defend a position is not what the function of data. It is a corruption of the information the victimizes people and the very process of the gathering. This fine nation has had dispicable history of using public education for other ends. And that seems continuing here. This article has been in no way helpful to public education or education of the public.

  18. Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 09:20 am.


    As I have noted and asked above…

    There are many similarities a differences between Status Quo and Charter Publics.

    – SQ’s are the default and get Parent(s) who do not know of other options or have no desire to go through the effort.

    – Charters get Parent(s) who are either dissatisfied with the SQ or want something different. And are sometime ready to sign responsibility agreements.

    – SQ’s likely get more special needs kids because they have more services

    – Race, poverty levels, academic capability levels, language capabilities, etc are likely a mixed bag.

    So given all of this… Does someone here know what the funding difference is between a MPLS SQ and a Charter per typical child? Is my educated guess that the SQ gets 80% more in the ball park?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/08/2018 - 10:05 am.

      The problem John is…

      The problem was always the neoliberal assumption that the status quo can only be challenged or modified by monetizing education and children, and converting public school systems into a competitive markets. This is an obviously ridiculous model for change, and clearly after 30 years, it has failed to deliver a state of the art education system.

      We have an education system, and we already had an education system, and if we wanted a better system we could have improved it. The idea that a competitive market with monetized students was ONLY way to improve our public schools was simply facile.

      The neoliberal fantasy of converting public infrastructure and institutions into privatized or quasi privatized markets is way past it’s expiration date.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 12:01 pm.

        Change Resistance

        The reality for better or worse is that changing and improving large bureaucratic organizations is very difficult. Humans simply have a whole bunch of emotions and rationalizations for resisting change.

        To say “we could have improved it” without some strong external force is unrealistic.

        I mean NCLB and accountability pressures have been strongly applied for ~16 years and pretty much no significant changes / improvements have occurred in the Status Quo public education systems. If you doubt this, check out grad rates, test scores, employment rules, comp policies, etc.

        Instead the system and individuals have done as organizations often do when pressed to change and improve, they resisted… they said change “that” instead… they said if we do that instead it will get worse… etc…

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 03/08/2018 - 07:59 pm.

          NCLB was the brain child of two men who never attended a public school in their lives: President George W. Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy. If you have no direct knowledge of public schools or teaching, you tend to assume that those low-income kids just need to be whipped into shape.

          But the actual result of NCLB was that administrators and teachers became so scared that their schools would be subject to reorganization that they did a lot of counter-productive things, such as changing the answers of less-able students, teaching to the test, and eliminating all subjects and activities that did not contribute directly to higher test scores.

          I knew teachers who took early retirement rather than teach under such regimes. Hearing their descriptions of what happened–no recess, no creative activities, no content classes such as social studies, literature, or science until after the tests, just reading and math drills–I felt as if a side effect of NCLB was the creation of Epsilons.

          Those of you who have read Alduous Huxley’s “Brave New World” will understand that allusion. In that dystopian novel, children are all grown in labs and labeled with Greek letters, from Alpha to Epsilon, to indicate their future status in society. Epsilons are conditioned with electric shocks to make them averse to books and beauty so that they will be content to do menial jobs.

          Now imagine a real-iife child coming to school eager to learn and full of curiosity about the world, only to be subjected to endless drills. There are drills in phonics–I have no objection to phonics per se–but never any interesting content to read. There are drills in math, but no interesting problems to solve or practical applications.

          The result: a child who hates school.

          Even on the college level, as I learned in my years of teaching, the student’s level of interest can make all the difference in achievement. Students who took my classes in Japanese simply because their parents said, “You can get a good job with a major company if you speak Japanese” (not true, but parents believed it) tended to do the least possible amount of studying and quit after a semester or a year.

          Students who took Japanese out of an interest in the country outperformed everyone else and tended to come back for more classes. Even students who started out apathetic could become interested in the culture or the quirkiness of the language and make amazing improvements, the most noteworthy case being a young woman who had a 76% at midterm and brought it up to 90% by the end of the semester, simply because she had discovered an interest in J-pop.

          We KNOW what makes for a superb education, and affluent parents pay $25,000 a year to send their children to private elementary schools. But the main virtue of these schools is not that they are private. It is that they have small classes, state-of-the-art facilities, a challenging curriculum (yet no standardized tests), innovative teaching methods, and a full roster of enriching co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

          We have people griping about Minneapolis spending far less than that per pupil for a system of students who are more difficult to teach: English learners, homeless children, children with disabilities, children in foster care, malnourished children, children with untreated health problems, and children who have witnessed or been subjected to violence, none of whom, except possibly the English learners, are to be found in the $25,000 schools.

          What if we spent $25,000 per pupil and created the equivalent of a private school for every child? Even troubled children do better in small classes, where the teachers get to know what makes each student tick and can tailor the lessons for the individual’s strengths.

          It is also worth noting that no one ever just “reads.” We always read SOMETHING, whether for information or pleasure. Find out what a child is interested in, hand him or her a book about that subject, and soon you’ll have a reader. Present content in interesting ways, and you’ll have children who beg for more history, science, geography, or whatever. Give the children real-world math problems, and they will see the value of math. Give them plenty of recess, and they won’t fidget. Give them art and music, and they will have new ways to express themselves.

          After all, imagine yourself with a choice of two jobs that pay equally well.

          In one, you do the same things every day but are never told why you are doing them, only that you will be evaluated frequently and that your job depends on improving from evaluation to evaluation. You have no designated coffee or lunch breaks and are expected to get by with a sandwich at your desk.

          In the other job, you get you use your best skills to engage in a variety of activities while working toward a clear goal, and when you are evaluated, it is with an eye toward helping you improve your performance. You get two 15-minute breaks and an hour for lunch.

          Only a masochist would choose the first job, and yet we expect children to submit to the school equivalent and then wonder why they’re not learning.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/09/2018 - 09:03 am.

            Thank you Karen

            I appreciate your analysis.

            As for resistance to “change” I would only point out that as difficult as change may be, that difficulty is only multiplied when you add layers of unnecessary and superfluous complexity on top of the mission. Sure, it may be hard to change public schools, but changing public schools or improving them is a lot more simple and less complex than converting them into competitive markets, re-inventing the concept of education, and THEN making changes. The idea that capitalist market mentalities are the only way to “disrupt” institutions and foster change ignores the fact that for all but around the last 400 years of human history, capitalism didn’t exist, yet somehow human beings got out of caves, and into civilized society long before Adam Smith came along.

            I would say that anyone who thinks we HAVE to convert everything into a monetized competitive market in order to make progress or implement significant change simply doesn’t the human nature. It’s the difference between living in a world of manufactured stereotypes and living in the real world.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/09/2018 - 11:31 am.


              I guess I disagree. I am thinking private owners have been exchanging personally held goods for their personal advantage for a lot longer than we have had governments, money, taxes, public employees, etc. Markets, values on items and allowing them to be exchanged to improve things is more natural than government intervention and control.

              So what method would you have recommended to “disrupt” the public school near monopoly to foster change ?

              Or was passing through millions of children who could not pass basic proficiency tests acceptable in your opinion?

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/10/2018 - 09:48 am.


                It’s kind of strange that you of all people John don’t seem to have a clear concept of capitalism. Be that as it may neither the pyramids, the Great Wall, or the aqueducts of Rome were built by private contractors. In fact the vast majority of great human discoveries and advances had little if anything to do with commerce. Human beings as a species have a natural tendency as social animals to seek efficiencies, improve life, explore their environment, and care about each other.

                I know this fact is at odds with myopic rants off Ayn Rand and her dystopic “visions” but it is nevertheless reality.

                Educators, construction workers, truck drivers, engineers, medical workers, plow drivers, human beings in general take pride in their work, and care about what they do and doing it well, some more than others but THAT’S what you find if you look at human history. People see a need for something, and try to help.

                A week after watching the Twin Towers come down in 2001 my dad started drawing plans for a wheel chair that could move people down stairs. He didn’t do this because he saw a “market”, he did because he knew that people died that day because they couldn’t get down those stairs. Had my dad been able to build one, or one hundred, he would have given them away for free rather than watch people die.

                Educators are no different. They care about what they do and they want to do it well.

                So for instance back in the 1980s a Teacher in St. Louis Park by the name of lyle Gerard helped create the states first Spanish Immersion School. Lyle wasn’t an entrepreneur, he was a high school teacher. Lyle got out of the Army after WWII and used the GI Bill to get his college degree in education, and spent the rest of his life teaching in public schools. Like most teachers he cared deeply about his profession, his students, and education. Being an educated professional (as apposed to a software engineer) Lyle was well aware of the fact that students in many other countries have a distinct advantage over US students because they are fluent in more than one language. Being an educated and competent teacher he also knew how to teach languages so he knew that immersion on the elementary level was the most practical and efficient model. Lyle developed a proposal and pitched it to the St. Louis Park public school board, that proposal became the St. Louis Park Spanish Immersion School. THAT’S how change and improvement happens, and that’s how it happened within the public school environment. Lyle wasn’t trying to create a market for immersion schools, he was just doing his job well. He never got a bonus, or a dividend check, or even raise (he was after all a Union worker).

                What Lyle would like to have seen is for every elementary school in SLP to have become a language immersion school of some kind. But the back to basics movement made that impossible because second languages weren’t considered “basic”, there’s no: “L” in the three: “R’s”.

                The irony is that now the complaint about SLP’s Spanish Immersion School is that it’s a de facto charter school that frustrated parents can’t get their kids into.

                This is just one example of innovation from that era, I could provide dozens more. “Back to Basics” killed most of those experiments and innovation and the charter movement,to the extent that even produced innovations, limited those innovations to individual schools. The competitive model inhibits systemic progress because it focuses on individual “laboratories” that compete with the system at large rather than try to improve the system at large. Look at the language these guys use, they divide schools between those that are “traditional” and everyone else. Why would you even expect that to produce comprehensive reform? Why would you surprised that it hasn’t produced comprehensive reform? .

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/10/2018 - 07:43 pm.


                  That was a very nice story and yet our public education system continues to fail millions of kids. Which of course contributes to them and their families staying trapped in a cycle of generational poverty.

                  The irony of course is that our children’s class sizes are higher than need be in part because of intense collective bargaining by the Public Employees. And of course demanding more compensation, more benefits, less work hours, more jobs security, more work rules, etc is a very capitalistic thing.

                  Now being a supporter of capitalism, I can appreciate people negotiating hard to benefit themselves financially. However I also believe that they need to deliver results as part of the deal.

                  So since we are the “payers / customers” in this transaction and the future of our children is at stake. Again, how do we improve the situation and promote changes.

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/11/2018 - 12:15 pm.

                    To summarize

                    The impulse to characterize all human endeavors, or even most human endeavors as some form of commerce or retail transaction is a dysfunctional impulse that typically produces dysfunctional responses. To the extent that we’ve had these enduring problems with our education system it’s the result of that dysfunctional response the problem. Education is not a retail transaction, and public education is not a form of commerce.

                    The attempt to blame dedicated and professional educators for the “failues” of the education system, much less large class sizes; is a specious analysis that flows out of the very dysfunctional impulse we’ve been discussing. These attacks on teacher compensation, benefits, and job security are simply a simply anti labor features of a capitalism’s ubiquitous and ongoing drive to suppress wages. The prominent feature of retail models of education is that customers in retail environments always want to pay less for their purchase while demanding better quality merchandise. The idea that lower wages, fewer benefits, and more job insecurity will produce better teachers and improved educational outcomes is a consumer fantasy, born of a dysfunctional impulse, it’s literally magical thinking.

                    Historically humans improve their situations by studying problems and making intelligent observations. Those observations are used to construct intelligent and informed responses or solutions. Typically we identify problems and then enlist intelligent people who know they’re doing and we build solutions. That’s how we got to the moon for instance with NASA. THAT’S how we will improve our education system if and when we ever get around to actually trying to improve it rather than busting unions, re-imagining our schools as entrepreneurial laboratories, treating schools as battle grounds for culture wars, and whining about taxes. I think we’ll amazed at how much easier it will be to improve education once we stop doing everything an anything other than trying to improve education, as means of improving education.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/11/2018 - 04:54 pm.

                      Good Value

                      The financial exchange here seems pretty undeniable.

                      – The government takes money from Tax Payers.

                      – The government hires education, social service and many other individuals to help our young citizens develop and learn.

                      – The Public Employee Unions collective bargain to raise the compensation, benefits and job security of their “tenured employees” .

                      – Unfortunately many of or young individuals are not achieving society’s stated goals.

                      Now I have great respect for most of the individuals who work to help and develop these young people. I do not blame them personally for the failure of the system to deliver the results we all desire. And I believe our society should work harder to hold Parents accountable.

                      For decades we tried your positive thinking will yield results method and the unlucky kids still suffered. Now it is time for some measuring and accountability.

                      By the way, I am happy to pay more for quality and performance. What will it take to have no child left behind in 5 years? How will we hold the people promising this accountable?

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2018 - 08:57 am.


                      “For decades we tried your positive thinking will yield results method and the unlucky kids still suffered. Now it is time for some measuring and accountability.”

                      For decades we’ve tried your competitive market model and the result has be a nearly incoherent attempt to improve our educations system, an attempt that has clearly failed. Rational problem solving based in reliable information and intelligent design isn’t “positive” thinking, it’s just the smartest way to approach any given problem. Assuming that a Superman or Superwoman is going to appear and provide a better education system by virtue of competitive market is more comparable to irrational positivism.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/12/2018 - 11:19 am.


                      I guess you are correct that both have been around for decades… However the Status Quo model has been around much longer and it still left far too many kids behind.

                      The accountability driven system is only ~16 years old. I think we can give it awhile longer.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2018 - 12:24 pm.

                      Not to belabor the point but…

                      “Accountability” in the form of charters has been around a lot longer than 16 years. You can claim to be “disrupter” of some kind for the first 20 years of failure, but after that you’re just a failure.

                      The idea that there was no “accountability” until we tried to redefine schools as competitive markets is simply a false statement as is the notion that there can be no accountability outside of commerce or markets. Defining “accountability” purely in terms of consumer satisfaction is a dysfunctional impulse.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/09/2018 - 11:16 am.


            NCLB was never about “whipping kids into shape”…

            It was about applying pressure to an inefficient and ineffective public education system that was allowing millions of children to be passed through it without learning the expected content. And instituting Plan, Do, Check, Act.

            In essence it simply graded the effectiveness of the output of the schools (children’s academic capability) and found it lacking. At which point some Administrators and Teachers decided to try and cheat on “the exam” instead of actually changing and improving the system.

            That is what I found most ironic and sadly humorous… The people who teach, test and grade students for a living freaked out when their efforts were indirectly measured and graded.

            What would they have told a child that was struggling in their class?

            Would they have lowered expectations? or
            Asked the child to work harder, change their study process, etc?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/09/2018 - 11:45 am.

            One more note, often accountability critics insist that tests in some way “force teachers to teach to the test”. Now I have been taught by many different methods over my 52 years of learning. And I usually do pretty good on standardized tests.

            My point is that tests really do not care how one is taught as long as the student knows the material. 🙂

            • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 03/12/2018 - 10:53 am.

              All that standardized tests measure is the ability to do well on standardized tests.

              We had standardized tests when I was in elementary school, the annual Iowa Test of Basic Skills. However, they were used for internal evaluation purposes only, not for deciding whether the school would be reorganized, i.e. whether all the teachers would be fired.

              There was therefore no reason to cheat by erasing and replacing wrong answers, as some teachers were caught doing in one district, or to tell the special education students, the ESL students, the students who tend to freeze and go blank when under pressure, and others who might perform poorly to stay home that day.

              The poorly performing schools may be performing poorly because they have “bad teachers,” but it is more likely that they are performing poorly because the students come from stressed families, with parents who are overworked and tired (working two jobs to survive), incarcerated, addicted to alcohol or drugs, mentally ill, selling drugs or prostituting themselves out of the home, some of the above, all of the above. The entire family may be homeless, not knowing where they are going to sleep that night.

              In such circumstances, exceptionally bright students may still thrive intellectually. But for average students to thrive, they need a stable home life, with parents who care about and model appropriate behavior and provide what growing children need: nutritious food, regular medical and dental care, and enriching experiences.

              I remember reading an essay by a man who taught high school on the East Coast. He wrote that he had spent several years in an inner city high school in New York that was full of students from dysfunctional families. These students performed abysmally on standardized tests. After he had completely burned out on teaching in that environment, he got a job in an affluent suburb of New York City. These students almost always did well on standardized tests. He asked the question, “Am I a good teacher or a bad teacher? Was I a bad teacher who suddenly turned into a good teacher when I moved to the suburbs?”

              Here’s an athletic analogy. Suppose there are two track teams competing in a meet. One team has state-of-the-art shoes, properly laced, but the other has to run with the laces of each shoe tied together. If the team with that essentially has their feet hobbled keeps losing, do we say that it’s because they have a bad coach?

              Look, everyone in a school knows who the outstanding teachers are and who the awful teachers are. The other teachers know it, and the students know it, and if awful teachers are present, it is the fault of the administrators for not noticing their awfulness before granting them tenure. Most teachers are average, just as most doctors, lawyers, accountants, farmers, carpenters, truck drivers, and members of every other occupation are.

              Saying that “bad teachers” or “unions that protect bad teachers” (they don’t; they only require due process before firing a teacher) are the reason that some students perform poorly is a right-wing excuse for failing to confront the problems of the larger society, especially the problems of wages that are too low to live on (and remember, SOMEBODY has to do the dirty, dull, and debilitating jobs), homelessness caused by overpriced housing, lack of respect for jobs that do not require a college degree, lack of safe and affordable childcare for parents who need to work odd hours, and the despair that motivates people to drift into substance abuse.

              These are areas where what right-wingers see as the Great and All-Powerful God Known As The Market has failed utterly.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/12/2018 - 11:32 am.

                Contributing Factors

                I rarely blame anyone for anything, I believe in the concept of contributing factors. I happily acknowledge that 70% of our academic achievement problem resides with poor Parenting, ineffectual Social Services, etc. And I for one support only letting “licensed Parents” have kids… Unfortunately many people think almost anyone should be allowed to make and keep a baby, no matter how irresponsible, unlearned, immature, incapable, etc they are. I have no idea how to address this.

                As for the 30% which is owned by our Public Education system, I believe in compensation and job security based job difficulty and results. Not on tenure and degrees.

                If you have a better quality control method of measuring that the children have learned the agreed to content than a standardized test. Please share with us the idea.

                • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/13/2018 - 03:09 pm.

                  Licensed Parents

                  While it’s good to know you rarely blame anyone for anything — and while I realize you have interjected the concept of “licensed parents” while having “no idea how to address this idea” — I can’t help but be compelled to request that you give us at least a rough sketch of the ideas you have HAD to have (to support and mention it) of how it might work and, importantly, what the (all-important corrective) consequences might be for unlicensed parents who, through, I guess, unauthorized and illegal procreative activities, caused the creation of, as you’ve often put it, yet another “unfortunate child.”

                  Immediate and permanent separation from those children who would be placed with licensed adoptive parents? Fines and Re-education? Incarceration? Sterilization (which I assume you would see as the simplest, most efficient and cost-effective solution)?

                  Please expand and clarify.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/12/2018 - 01:54 pm.

                Better Idea

                How would you measure the knowledge of High School Students to ensure the school system had fulfilled its obligation to them and the tax payers?

                I agree that makes no sense to compare totally different student bodies. The goal is mainly to ensure each student gets 1+ years of knowledge improvement each year.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2018 - 12:45 pm.


              To the extent that “liberal” charter proponents have aligned themselves with Republicans or other conservative groups (and shame on them for doing so in the first place) they now must share the dubious distinction of Republicans who have a severe and obvious credibility problem whenever they try brag about their standards of “accountability”.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 03/08/2018 - 11:17 am.

      There is extensive data available on this.

      Let me Google it for you.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 12:54 pm.


        You are correct, that is a lot of data… However it is very little useful information in its current form.

        How about this assumption of mine…

        Charters only get a portion of the State funding and none of the local funding.
        Status quos get all of the State funding and all of the local funding.


        • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 03/08/2018 - 03:23 pm.

          From a state perspective, they pretty much get the same funding. The primary exception would be if they choose not to provide their own transportation, in which case part of those dollars go back to the district in which they are located so that they can provide the service.

          The lack of local funding is the largest difference.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 04:15 pm.


            Page 9 and 10 of the Mpls financial statement shows quite a few revenue sources…

            Not sure if charters get the “Operating Grants and Contributions”?

            • Submitted by Ed Day on 03/08/2018 - 11:21 pm.

              Probably more complicated than necessary

              As been mentioned before, the biggest deal is that charters don’t get any of the local funding, but they are eligible for most of the categorical funding for things like extended day, English Language Learners, free lunch eligibility, etc., if they are relevant.

              So my guess is probably a no on “Operating Grants and Contributions.”

            • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 03/09/2018 - 08:38 am.


              You can look up grant opportunities and who is eligible for them.


              For instance, the above link shows the current active grant opportunities — most of which are available to all “Local Education Agencies” which are either public school districts or charter schools. The grants themselves then frequently have other rules or qualifications based on the issue the grant is trying to address.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2018 - 08:39 am.

    By the way…

    It’s a mistake to characterize our public education system as some kind of complete disaster in the first place. We all agree that substantial and urgently needed improvements are in order, but our public schools do in fact graduate millions of well educated and successful students every year who go on to succeed in careers and universities.

    Another problem with the charter movement is that to some extent, as a competitive market model, it’s marketing focused on parental anxieties that weren’t necessarily reality based. The primary function of marketing and branding in a consumer society is to convince people that should buy stuff that they don’t really need, or that some thing they can buy is a VAST improvement over some other thing they can buy. This is why consumer societies almost by definition are so incredibly wasteful. This is the conversion of education into a competitive market is likely to more wasteful than productive in terms of resolving deficiencies and inequities.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/12/2018 - 11:41 am.


      Who is saying that our public education system is some kind of complete disaster?

      Personally I think the status quo public education system worked great for my daughters. That is because they were blessed to have 2 parents that were smart and dedicated to steering them through the system and holding them accountable for their behaviors.

      Unfortunately a large portion of kids in America are unlucky because they do not have those benefits. That means that we either need to hold Parents accountable for doing what Parents are supposed to do. Or we need to modify the education system so that it can handle the unlucky kids more effectively.

      I would prefer that we did both.

  20. Submitted by Benjamin Steele on 08/19/2018 - 11:07 am.

    Class Conflict

    The unstated factor is socioeconomic class.

    Most of the white parents and black parents who chose to take their kids to other schools do so because they have the class privilege (i.e., money, resources, and opportunities) to do so. Yes, blacks are disproportionately poor. But it also remains true that the majority of the poor are white.

    The main segregation happening is by class with poor whites and poor blacks (both with higher rates of malnutrition, heavy metal toxicity, etc) being left behind in underfunded failing schools. I can promise you that few poor kids, no matter their race, ever escape this class trap.

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