Columnist Katherine Kersten named to school integration aid panel

Katherine Kersten, a conservative Sunday columnist for the Star Tribune and a Center for the American Experiment Fellow, is one of 12 members on the new state panel that will “evaluate the use of state integration aid for K-12 schools.”

Kersten was one of three on the panel named by the Republican-led state House. The state Senate also named three, and six were named by State Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

The group will look at the use of the portion of state school funding that goes to school districts to pay for integration efforts. They will make recommendations to the Legislature.

Kersten wrote an opinion piece for the newspaper in September about the Harvest Preparatory School in north Minneapolis that has predominantly black students and has had tremendous success with achievement scores. She’s also written pieces critical of the Muslim-oriented TiZA school in Inver Grove Heights that led to a state investigation and shutdown of the school.

The task force members are:

Commissioner’s Appointees:

  • Helen Bassett, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale School Board member
  • William Green, professor, Macalester College and former Minneapolis superintendent
  • Myron Orfield, executive director, Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota
  • Betty McAllister, retired middle school principal, Nobles County Integration Collaborative
  • State DFL Rep. Carlos Mariani of St. Paul
  • Scott A. Thomas, educational equity coordinator for the Rosemont/Apple Valley/Eagan School District

House appointees:

  • Robert A. Erickson, Lakeville School Board member
  • Katherine Kersten, Center for the American Experiment Fellow
  • Peter A. Swanson, attorney, Golden Valley

Senate appointees:

  • The Rev. Robert Battle, senior pastor of Berean Church of God in Christ, St. Paul
  • Arthur Brown, University of Minnesota family development research associate, Minneapolis
  • GOP State Sen. Pam Wolf, representing Spring Lake Park and Blaine.

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Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 11/08/2011 - 02:45 pm.

    Katherine Kersten is a very good choice. However, integration or funds for integration have very little to do with academic achievement. Kersten will learn this very soon, if she doesn’t already know it.
    How strongly the child’s parents value education is the most influential factor. If the parents don’t give a rip, neither will the child.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/08/2011 - 03:42 pm.

    The fox has just been appointed to the hen house.

  3. Submitted by David Greene on 11/08/2011 - 04:48 pm.


    Many studies demonstrate that integration DOES improve academic achievement – for ALL kids, including whites.

    Kersten is the kind of appointee meant to throw bombs and create public pressure to end integration efforts. It’s sickening. The pro-segregation movement is based on bigotry and ignorance. As usual, the Republicans refuse to consider scientific data.

  4. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 11/08/2011 - 05:25 pm.

    Mr. Greene,

    Neither you or the researchers appear to have grown up where I grew up as a middle class white ethnic. When blacks moved in en masse, the crime rates went up and we had riots in the schools.

    Don’t you even think of telling me otherwise – I lived through it.

  5. Submitted by David Greene on 11/08/2011 - 06:39 pm.


    What else was going on in your neighborhood? Where whites moving out? Was redlining playing a role?

    Historical analysis shows that crime followed white flight, not the other way around. Strange how concentrated poverty, lack of opportunity and segregation do that to a community. Even so, crime in such communities has dropped significantly. There is no black hoard.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/08/2011 - 06:49 pm.

    “Many studies demonstrate that integration DOES improve academic achievement – for ALL kids, including whites.”

    If that’s true, David, then why do Twin Cities metro area government schools have the highest achievement gap in the country?

    Can you provide *one* study to give warrant to your claim?

  7. Submitted by Joe Musich on 11/08/2011 - 08:28 pm.

    Outrageous decision, no wait beyond outrageous. Not even a keep your enemies close thing. Just outright stupid. Nothing nothing to offer. I think it’s off to somewhere else.

  8. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/09/2011 - 08:13 am.

    Forced school integration is an inherently racist policy supported by people who believe that minority kids can’t learn unless they’re sitting next to white kids.

    “Integration aid” is a fraudulent tactic to simply shovel more public money into the government schools to be used for whatever the admin can label as “integration efforts.”

  9. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/09/2011 - 08:59 am.

    Since you asked about reasons for the achievement gap, Mr. Swift, here is a study for you to look at:

    The Poverty Gap is the Achievement Gap


  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/09/2011 - 09:23 am.

    Kersten is an odd choice – appointing a propagandist of the far right to evaluate a program – a concept – to address an issue that she likely doesn’t believe merits attention at all – but the panel was appointed, in part, by the Republican-led state House, and “Republican” lately means “right-wing,” so we shouldn’t be surprised.

    I’m inclined to agree with David Greene (#3). Kersten is something of a political bomb-thrower locally, and from what I’ve read in the ‘Strib since arriving here, she’s about as well-informed as Mrs. Bachmann. It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of bombs she throws.

    I would not dismiss Rosalind’s comment (#1) out of hand. Parental interest is usually very important to a child’s academic success, or the lack thereof, but parental influence is not the only influence on a child’s development. Culture matters, as well, and with today’s technology, it’s more difficult by far to hide discrimination – or the lack thereof.

    My school was part of a court-ordered desegregation effort years ago in another state. My experience as a staff member was that the first year required some adjustments, both in the halls and in the classrooms, but after that, academic standards remained about the same. I had some very good white students, some very good black students, and one very good student whose mother had smuggled him out of Iran. I also had some unmotivated students of every ethnic persuasion save the Iranian. I had black girls who were already mothers at 16, and I had white girls who were already mothers at 16. Neither were especially diligent students, but I understood, having raised a child myself, that they often had other demands on their time that most kids didn’t have to deal with.

    I wouldn’t think of arguing with Mr. Krasnoff’s experience, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that his experience was replicated in every other similar case of integration. We had fights at my school, and even a couple of racially-charged ones, but not markedly more fights than we’d had in the years before the court order, and nothing took place that approached a “riot.” I can’t speak to the crime rate in the community, but it remained pretty solidly lower-middle-class, as it had been, and continues to be. Adolescents often make rash decisions that don’t serve their long-term interests. I don’t think that’s a race-specific characteristic.

    I continue to find Mr. Swift’s and Mr. Tester’s references to “government” schools – as if they were imposed by some foreign power – amusing. It’s a common phrase and reference point among right-wing know-nothings. Few public entities in this country are more locally-controlled than the local school district, and not even city councils are more responsive to local concerns. Mr. Tester does continue to provide us with ample evidence of his own prejudices, and I enjoyed his attempt to turn racism on its head, but Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka dealt with his viewpoint more than a half-century ago.

  11. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/09/2011 - 10:11 am.

    It may interest white bureaucrats like Mr. Schoch to know, given his one-school frame of reference, that surveys show that black parents are among the most supportive of eliminating forced integration in favor of neighborhood schools, and let the racial chips fall where they may.

    I went to predominantly black neighborhood schools where I was in the minority as being a non-black person. Many of the staff and faculty were black and lived in the neighborhood and attended the same AME or Baptist churches as the children and their parents.

    In high school, although I was a good student, I was not the best. Our valedictorian was black as was more than half of our honor role. I competed for the role of starting quarterback with a black player. Even though I was the better quarterback by some measures, he won the job because he was bigger and faster than I was.

    The system was a meritocracy, where people were recognized and rewarded not based on race but because they had earned it. That’s the system that older black people grew up in, prior to Brown v. Board of Education, and that’s why when asked, older black parents and grandparents want to return to that system today.

  12. Submitted by David Greene on 11/09/2011 - 10:58 am.

    @Thomas (#6)

    Why do we have a high achievement gap? Because our schools are some of the most segregated in the country.

  13. Submitted by Paul Scott on 11/09/2011 - 01:39 pm.

    I think Mr. Tester means that he competed for the position of starting quarterback. Or was it a theatrical production? Anyway, perhaps it is unintentional, but for a guy writing about meritocracy and race, his story is oddly ambiguous about who deserved the spot. He had certain unstated qualities, while the starting quarterback was simply physically gifted. hmmm…

  14. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/09/2011 - 01:44 pm.

    “…It may interest white bureaucrats like Mr. Schoch to know, given his one-school frame of reference, that surveys show that black parents are among the most supportive of eliminating forced integration in favor of neighborhood schools, and let the racial chips fall where they may.”

    And a proud white bureaucrat I was, though it would appear that Mr. Tester’s frame of reference is little different than my own. I nonetheless do find it interesting that Mr. Tester is able to make sweeping generalizations about my life based on his experience. In fact, some of my students’ parents thought busing was a great idea, others did not. Some of those in support were black, others were white. Some in opposition were black, others were white. I found it difficult to draw sweeping conclusions from the evidence I had in front of me during parent conferences and on school-wide parent nights.

    If Minnesota’s legislature would fulfill its constitutional obligation to fund education fully and equitably, there might be some truth to Mr. Tester’s wish to have the “racial chips fall where they may,” but that doesn’t appear to have happened in Minnesota in quite a while, and certainly not in the couple of years that I’ve been here. Without equitable funding, one argument that I’ve encountered – I leave to others to debate its applicability – in regard to “forced integration” is that, without busing or some other means, the current inequitable funding practice essentially makes one’s place or neighborhood of residence a kind of inescapable penalty if that place or neighborhood happens to be a poor one. In effect, the children are punished for the poverty of their parents.

    The wealthy will always be able to pick and choose the style and kind of education their children receive, so I leave them out of the discussion. I went to a private prep school for a few years myself, but that doesn’t represent the experience of most children or their parents. Were the legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty, and provide resources available to every child that were essentially equal, socioeconomic status might be less of an issue, and merit might, in fact, be the operative principle. I see no evidence at present, however, that that’s the way the system works. Segregation by race still tends to be segregation by socioeconomic class in this country, and to a significant degree, in this state. Given the widely-known long-term consequences to both the local and the larger society as a result of the lack of education, segregated schools reflect an interesting, but logic-defying attitude that suggests “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

    I don’t think Ms. Kersten’s – or Mr. Tester’s – repetition of that notion is going to be helpful.

  15. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/09/2011 - 02:51 pm.

    Rest assured Mr. Scott that I felt I should have been the starter because I was a better passer and smarter play-caller (we called our own plays then).

    While I recognized that the coaches got to choose which misguided criteria they would use to select the starter, I could see some merit in size and speed over passing accuracy and play-calling depending upon your overall offensive philosophy.

  16. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/09/2011 - 02:57 pm.

    You’re right, Ray. People who went to private prep schools are far more empathetic and qualified to resolve the public school racial integration issue than people who haven’t.

  17. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 11/09/2011 - 04:27 pm.

    Mr. Greene: The objective facts are just what they are, whether or not anyone wishes to believe them. Block busting or red-lining was not part of the equation in my neighborhood. I am talking about a city back east, just to make it clear.

    Mr. Schoch, the same problem was replicated elsewhere in my city. The neighborhoods and the schools went to hell. Detroit is an example of how everything can go wrong. Minneapolis is no exception to the white flight rule.

    My JHS became 95% minority due to white flight and it was no picnic for those of us who remained. The race riots, the crime at the JHS and High School. The specialized HS that I tested for had problems there as well and the subway ride was not safe. The perps who attacked me and attacked others were black. Finally, my liberal (read: “progressive”) parents had enough, and we moved out as well.

    No one here in Minnesota can lecture me on race relations. No one.

  18. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 11/09/2011 - 05:47 pm.

    Wow. There’s a lot of confusing the impact of poverty and race in the comments here. The issue in Minnesota is the segregation along racial lines follows segregation along poverty lines, and school funding that’s neighborhood/district-driven follows as well.

    It may be news to older black people who grew up prior to Brown v. Board of Education that they were in a meritocracy.

    I also played high school quarterback, converted from running back because of injuries to other players, because I was smart enough to learn the position in a hurry. But I forget the part about where the coaches evaluated us on smart play calling. I think they were mostly interested in making touchdowns and stopping them, and that’s why, despite my intellectual gifts, I went on to play defense.

  19. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/09/2011 - 11:31 pm.

    “It may be news to older black people who grew up prior to Brown v. Board of Education that they were in a meritocracy.”

    Herman Cain would tell you he is exhibit A.

  20. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 11/10/2011 - 12:56 am.

    Mr. Quimby, we no longer live in a civil society that has de jure segregation. That has been outlawed. We have de facto segregation due to economics and race.

  21. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 11/10/2011 - 11:23 am.

    Ms Kersten is a thoughtful, intelligent commentator as are several individuals from the other end of the political spectrum. I appreciate hearing all viewpoints. What are some of you afraid of?

  22. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 11/10/2011 - 02:26 pm.

    Herman Cain was 9 years old when the Brown case went to the Supreme Court. I don’t think he qualifies as growing up prior to it.

  23. Submitted by David Greene on 11/10/2011 - 03:47 pm.

    @Neal (#17)

    Detroit is in fact the prototypical example of the harm caused by redlining, post-war FHA policy and the while flight encouraged by both. The wealthy move out, the tax base declines, poverty sets in, there are few resources to address it, crime increases. Wash, rinse and repeat.

    Just about everything done in Detroit this century, policy-wise, through at least the 1960’s, was exactly the wrong thing to do. The city is only now beginning to recover.

    Detroit didn’t fall because black people moved in. It fell because black people were forced to move into certain areas and had their ability to build wealth curtailed while at the same time generous subsidies encouraged relatively wealthy white people to move out.

  24. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 11/12/2011 - 11:42 pm.

    If crime didn’t increase when blacks moved in, there’d be no problem….right? Everyone would have seen the light, correct?

    Mr. Greene can now educate us on the benefits of the welfare-single motherhood-no fathers allowed policy that has destroyed the black family and has been a guaranteed employment agency for a class of professional social workers and non-profits.

    Go ahead. I’ll wait as you move into North Minneapolis.

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