MinnPost's education reporting is made possible by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

Billboard critique sits right across from school district HQ

MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
Why aim this particular billboard at district HQ?

The billboard pictured above hangs across the street from Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) headquarters. It is paid for by Better Ed, an offshoot of a think-tank called Intellectual Takeout.

For the last year, Better Ed has generated mailers, both digital and the old-fashioned kind, criticizing MPS for being an expensive sinkhole. The far-right group’s communiqués often are accompanied by racially suggestive graphics.

The argument — constructed using dollar figures no one I know can replicate — seems to be that MPS spends more getting less in the way of results than Edina, Eden Prairie and other districts. (And yes, I and others have attempted to reach out for clarification and comment, to no avail.)

But why aim this particular billboard at district HQ? Located on West Broadway in north Minneapolis, the building is miles from the neighborhoods occupied by voters to whom Better Ed’s anti-investment message is ostensibly aimed. Nor is it a corridor frequented by policymakers who might pick up on it. 

No, my guess is it’s intended to shame the men and women who go to work every day at the Davis Center — to send the message that the outside world is sitting in judgment. And to draw attention to Better Ed, which delights in responding to critics by declaring reactions a sign that it is more than a guy with a blog and a mailing list.

Too bad the money and energy it took to figure out how to position this message directly in front of MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s office windows wasn’t put to use coming up with something constructive.  

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 03/11/2014 - 11:14 am.

    Interesting take

    I like the fact that you gave this sign even the modest write that you did here. It shows you folks are paying attention. I think the failure rate is much worse than the sign depicts however. The Columbia Heights school district failed all three of my kids and had the audacity to blame it on a broken home—where both parents still reside and are completely intact!!! Things like catching math teachers that can’t teach math!!!.. Silly stuff like that.

    Lets begin to stop with all the take down noise, and how the teachers are so underpaid, and over worked, and all that… If the rest of us had schedules and pay scales like these folks did, we”d be a lot like Europe. No wonder we can can still out design and out produce Europe if we so choose to do so again. And economically; have you looked at Europe’s economies… Not so hot.

    I’m all for disbanding the MEA and abolishing the unions. It’s time to pay the teachers according to their results; not the dictates of a contract.

    • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 03/11/2014 - 03:42 pm.

      It’s good to see the hardcore

      Righties agenda laid out so clearly. I hope more people read Mr. Kline’s comment.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/11/2014 - 02:57 pm.

    Interesting take

    I, too, like the fact that Beth gave this sign a bit of a write-up, and I’m inclined to agree with her subsequent analysis. The point is not to adopt sensible policies, whatever they might be, or adopt more effective strategies, whatever those might be, but simply to do whatever a billboard can to embarrass the people at MSP.

    As for Mr. Kline, just as you can lead a horse to water, but not force it to drink, you can lead a student to math…

    I agree that the Columbia Heights district – as a relative newbie to the Twin Cities, allow me to remind Mr. Kline that Columbia Heights is *not* Minneapolis – seems to have settled upon a novel explanation for his children’s failure “to learn math,” if that is, in fact, what happened. Just what “failing to learn math” might actually mean, I’m not sure, but it’s difficult to believe that Mr. Kline’s children themselves didn’t play at least some minor role in this academic lack of success.

    Indeed, if everyone in this country had schedules and pay scales like public school teachers, a whole lot of people would see their standard of living drop significantly, and even more families would find themselves in a position where both parents must work, or one parent has to work two jobs, in order to maintain a “median” standard of living. It *is* too bad we’re not more like the Europe Mr. Kline mentions, since teachers in Europe generally are paid significantly *more* than the median wage. In this country it tends to be significantly *less.*

    It’s refreshing to find that Mr. Kline, unlike some of his philosophical allies, is at least willing to display his prejudices and lack of knowledge right out in the open where we can all see them. My personal bias is that *students* ought to be held accountable for their own academic results. I know that’s a very quaint, 19th-century kind of notion, but I’m fond of it nonetheless.

Leave a Reply