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Senate Republicans offer plan to break up Minneapolis School District

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

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.

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.

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/05/2015 - 10:17 am.


    “Free of state mandates?” “Non-union teachers?” “No choice for the existing MPS district to comply?” “School board to determine the composition of the six districts?”

    Sounds to me like a recipe for a particularly ugly fragmentation / privatization / further segregation of Minneapolis public schools, and a flagrant contradiction of GOP Congressman Kline’s position that “…We’re not mandate people.” If it’s “free of state mandates,” who’s mandating the MPS Board to comply or else, should the law be adopted?

    If the legislature adopts this decidedly partisan suggestion, we should expect disaster.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/05/2015 - 10:18 am.

    Kudos to Sen Hann and the GOP Senate caucus! But what of SPPS? It is just as fouled up as MPS, involves the same players and the same issues.

    Please make it a Twin Cities wide initiative.

  3. Submitted by joe smith on 03/05/2015 - 10:36 am.

    Smaller and more nimble beats bigger and slower in the business world when dealing with large problems. I think most would agree that what we’ve been doing for Mpls schools hasn’t worked, so a change is warranted. More family involvement can only help.

  4. Submitted by Brian Kelley on 03/05/2015 - 11:04 am.

    Hmm… Where Have I Heard This Before?

    Better Ed’s been calling for this same thing for some time. This group claims to be nonpartisan, but their clearly in bed with the Republicans. Its not about the children. Its all just a ploy to privatize education.

  5. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/05/2015 - 11:18 am.

    Maybe a good idea…

    But, if it is a non-partisan bill could Hann not find a single co-sponsor who actually represents a portion of MPS? Or someone from the other party? I’m sure Hann would not appreciate some Minneapolis DFLer offering valuable insight to correct the problems of Eden Prairie.

  6. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 03/05/2015 - 11:36 am.

    I propose a compromise

    How about a deal. The legislature can force a breakup of the Minneapolis Public Schools if they also force a breakup of the Eden Prairie Schools in Senator Hann’s district. Seems fair to me.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/05/2015 - 12:06 pm.


    So much for “local” control. Does this mean some republicans are starting to recognize the advantages of state mandates?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/05/2015 - 01:28 pm.

      The GOP likes local control till they don”t.

      Remember the old days when local law enforcement made the decision on concealed carry permits? Local control at its’ best: the guys on the street dealing with crime decide who should and should not get a permit to carry a handgun. Of course when the GOP disagreed with those decisions rather than find local solutions they found the state mandate fine and dandy: one size fit’s all.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/05/2015 - 04:59 pm.


        The only “state mandate” in your example is the state mandate to be free men. One size does fit all when that size frees us all.

        By the way, I still had to trudge down to the local police department to complete the 6-page form for the “right” to buy a side arm.

        I can remember (1970) when I just walked into the sporting goods store and walked out with my Colt 45.

        Those were the days.

  8. Submitted by Linda Miller on 03/05/2015 - 01:35 pm.

    I agree with Nathaniel Finch

    Break up Eden Prairie also if this is such a good idea.

  9. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/05/2015 - 02:01 pm.

    The phrase “no state mandates” cannot be true, unless this legislator simply has no clue what he’s proposing. One School Board for six separate and distinct “districts”? All six duplicating the administrative chores?

    So the smaller Minneapolis “districts” would no longer have to educate the disabled or handicapped (an unfunded mandate causing enormous trouble in our public schools). No specific length of school year. No need to diversify the children taught. No curricular basics required. No standards. No per-student money allocated (these are all mandates by the state of the feds). And a long et cetera.


  10. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/05/2015 - 02:34 pm.

    One bureaucracy into two or more

    It seems to me that increasing the number of bureaucrats by increasing the number of entities is a non-starter. Also, maybe the state mandates need to be looked at rather than giving schools/districts carte blanche. I really don’t think that lowering the bar will induce better outcomes.

  11. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 03/05/2015 - 03:31 pm.

    The little-spoken fact

    Sen. Hann’s idea is just more political baloney, a way to divert attention from the very real social problems that lead to — one could say create — disparities in achievement.

    Black households seem to be disproportionally poor, with parents whose own educations likely have been truncated by poverty. So we should be surprised that children from these households have trouble in school? Granted, there may be no absolute correlation, but I think you have to be willfully opaque not to see a relationship.

    This is not to debate whose “fault” it is that such a high proportion of African-Americans live in or near poverty. But I think it’s reasonable to think that if poor people can have decent-paying jobs, decent, stable housing, access to decent nutrition and health care, day care so single parents can get and keep jobs, that their improved lives will have some positive effect on parental ability to nurture and supervise children and encourage them toward scholastic success. When you don’t know if you’ll have food for the week, I suspect that it’s difficult to turn your attention in any other direction.

    I’m a very independent voter, but I can’t help but notice which political party is less willing to help poor people attain the list of life necessities above. Sen. Hann is a member.

  12. Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 03/05/2015 - 03:33 pm.

    Hmmm. District lines?

    Another possible motive not yet mentioned, These six new districts will be divided geographically so the white kids get to go to school with the white kids and the kids of color get to go to school with all the other kids of color. Another way to look at it (which is the problem we currently have with district boundaries state wide) – the middle class neighborhoods can set lower property taxes and the poor neighborhoods have regressive taxation to raise the same amount of $. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. That’s just the way the GOP likes things. Non-partisan my donkey.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/06/2015 - 01:12 pm.


      That’s exactly what I was thinking. The result will most surely be further containing poverty into smaller districts. It might make the numbers look good for some of the districts (and worse for others), but it almost certainly will not increase the success for those kids that are missing out on success already.

  13. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/05/2015 - 04:48 pm.

    Hope and change

    It is fun to see the “industrial education complex” and the “establishment” lash out at hope and change.

  14. Submitted by Susan Young on 03/05/2015 - 05:02 pm.

    How does the legislation equalize the six tax bases?

    So, you have a “district” in SW Minneapolis, and a district in NE Minneapolis, and a district in North Minneapolis, and a district or two in South Minneapolis…essentially a “district” per high school. The tax bases for these districts will be enormously different…perpetuating inequity and making it even more difficult to close achievement gaps. Those of us in the Save North effort called out the differing resources among the District schools….how would this proposal “fix” the funding??

  15. Submitted by Ted Hathaway on 03/05/2015 - 09:08 pm.

    Bigger is Badder?

    Senator Hann (my Senator, by the way) declares, “When you have this situation in large districts like Minneapolis, the answer is to make them smaller, more responsive.” At least MPS is in a single municipality. What about Anoka-Hennepin, which has more students, encompasses 13 municipalities and crosses county lines? Should we break that up, too? Maybe we should. Why have some districts of that size in the metro along side far smaller districts (e.g., St. Louis Park). If size is the crux of the problem, let’s look at that. But I suspect it’s more than that.

    I have to wonder about a prescription coming from a representative of a rather homogenous and very well off district like SW Minnetonka and Eden Prairie for problems in a highly diverse (racially, economically) city like Minneapolis. I agree MPS has major problems, but just breaking it up won’t solve anything. The proposal feels like just shuffling the deck rather than coming up with anything of real substance.

  16. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/06/2015 - 06:41 am.

    Playing to the grandstand

    Doesn’t sound like much effort went into this proposal. While I don’t oppose this idea on principal the fact that it came out of nowhere with no input from or previous warning to the school district tells me it is a pretty half-baked idea. Also it seems to me that the likely outcome of this would be to make one or two successful districts, especially in the southwest, and four districts that would have less resources, more poverty, less involved parents. But that goes along with the Republican inclination to leave behind the poorest and most needy of our citizens.

  17. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/06/2015 - 06:41 am.

    It’s Really Quite Sad

    That our Republican friends,…

    being unable to examine the actual problems of Minneapolis,….

    the demographic issues, population distribution, income disparities, etc.,…

    the stresses being suffered by so many of the families of so many students in the Minneapolis school district,…

    stresses which are far greater than those in most suburban or rural areas,…

    can only fall back on taking shots out of the darkness of their stubborn and rigidly maintained ignorance,…

    seeking to MANDATE a complete reorganization of the Minneapolis school district in a way they’d NEVER tolerate in the districts in which they reside,…

    with the assumption that six small districts will have far less clout than one large district,…

    and can be far more easily blamed for their own problems and swept aside,…

    and privatized/chartered for fun and profit of the cronies of those same Republicans.

  18. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/06/2015 - 07:52 am.

    I believe the phrase is, “divide and conquer”.

  19. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 03/06/2015 - 02:33 pm.

    Anoka-Hennepin and St Paul school districts

    Are both larger than Mpls. Pure politics by the republicans

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/11/2015 - 10:25 am.

    Hann Shmann

    You try to give a guy the benefit of the doubt and then he goes on Public Radio. The problem with republicans is they talk about “innovation” and “efficiency” but they have absolutely no clue how to produce it. The failure to produce innovation and efficiency is then compounded by magical thinking that assumes that no matter underfunded any public endeavor is, budget and tax cuts will manifest innovation and efficiency that eliminate any need for additional revenue or funding.

    So the solution for MPLS isn’t to look at whether or not they have the resources they need to deal with a difficult and diverse student population… the solution is to “reorganize” the district because doing so will make it’s problems magically disappear. This is typical executive mediocrity pretending to be innovation. We’ve all seen effects of corporate “re-orgs” and magic ain’t the result.

    Repubilcan’s appear to hate MPLS, and they’re just shy of outright hostile towards public education. When they claim to be offering a “solution” for MPLS public schools you want to give them the benefit of the doubt but you can’t trust, you have to verify. So you listen to Hann on public radio and when he’s asked why if the republicans are so interested in helping the MPLS Schools (remember what great big giant defenders of “local” control in education republicans are after all), they didn’t consult with MPLS (which is a democratic stronghold) regarding their big solution… how does Hann respond? “Well the Governor didn’t consult with us before is made his tax plan”. OK, say goodnight Gracie. This isn’t about doing anything helpful for MPLS public schools, it’s pay-back for Dayton’s tax plan. Is there NOTHING these guys won’t politicize?

    Whatever. Aren’t these guys supposed to be working a budget of some kind?

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