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Senate Republicans offer plan to break up Minneapolis School District

Senate Republicans wish to break the Minneapolis School District into six new districts, in an effort to streamline bureaucracy.

State Sen. David Hann: "When you have this situation in large districts like Minneapolis, the answer is to make them smaller, more responsive."
MinnPost file photo by James Nord

The Senate Republican caucus today will offer a plan to split the Minneapolis public school district into six districts, in an effort to make it more nimble in addressing such issues as the achievement gap.

“One of the inspirations was a MinnPost interview with [departing Minneapolis school board member] Alberto Monserrate where he described the district as a bureaucratic nightmare that no one can overcome,” said state Sen. David Hann, the senate minority leader and chief author of the bill. 

“Everybody that I’ve talked to agrees that we need to find a way to streamline decision-making and focus on the classroom,” he says. “When you have this situation in large districts like Minneapolis, the answer is to make them smaller, more responsive… so families can have more impact.”

Under the proposal, the Minneapolis school board would be authorized to determine the composition of the six districts. The six districts would choose a superintendent, hold school board elections, and decide whether it wants unionized or non-unionized teachers, among many issues. The districts would be free of state mandates.

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The legislature, Hann said, has authority to do this, stemming from a statute that allows the legislature to consolidate school districts when necessary.

Hann says he’s reached out to Monserrate and sent him a copy of the bill. He’s also had discussions with Peter Hutchinson, who has experience running Minneapolis schools. Hann has not had conversations with DFLers in the state senate, but, he said, “there’s nothing partisan about this. This is a proposal to change a structure that most people believe has some problems that need to be resolved.” 

Non-partisan perhaps, but the bill would not give the Minneapolis school district a choice in the matter. The school board would need to comply by a certain date and if it doesn’t, the bill would authorize the governor to step in. “Just so you don’t have an interminable process to figure this out,” Hann said.

It’s a pilot plan and not a guarantee that it would result in improvements in the achievement gap, but Hann feels it’s an option more school districts would try if given the opportunity.