Even supporters surprised by the strong approval for Minneapolis school levy

Even ardent supporters were amazed at the winning margin Tuesday for Minneapolis Public Schools’ “Strong Schools Strong City” operating levy referendum, which garnered 70 percent approval in a heavy voter turnout.

“It surprised me,” says School Board Member Pam Costain. “I was guardedly optimistic that we could win, but watching the economy in free fall, I didn’t expect a margin like this.”
The new school tax will raise $60 million a year for eight years beginning with the 2009-2010 school year. The increase works out to about $17 more a month in property taxes for the average Minneapolis homeowner.
Costain says the money is necessary for the district to execute its strategic plan, which has at its heart a promise to make every Minneapolis student ready for college.
“On the one hand, it’s about really turning achievement around,” says Costain. “And two, it’s about holding ourselves very transparent and accountable. The public has a right to expect us to do it. No excuses.”
The district touted accountability in its campaign leading up to the election. Costain says that’s not just rhetoric. She says the district will report to an independent referendum oversight committee, which will monitor how the levy funds are used and report regularly to the public.
“I, personally, as a board member, am also expecting results in the coming year,” says Costain.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Doug Mann on 11/06/2008 - 08:43 am.

    The Minneapolis School District’s Strategic Plan is not focused on closing the school quality gap. We know high teacher turnover rates are a big obstacle to effective teaching. And high teacher turnover rates in high-minority, high-poverty schools is a result of administrative action. The district does not allow many of its newly hired teachers get through their 3 year probationary period. There is a special teacher tenure act for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth which allows these districts to fire all teachers on probationary status at the close of the school year and replace them with new teachers the following year. About two-thirds of these teachers find employment with suburban school districts. This is common practice in urban school districts across the US with high concentrations of black and poor students. The Strategic Plan does not even address this issue. Ironically, federal title 1 money has been used to cover teacher training costs in these urban teacher training factories: Title 1 of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Money that should be used to close the school quality gap is supporting practices that perpetuate it. – Doug Mann

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