Building A Movement For Racial Equity in Minnesota
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2008 Minneapolis Public Schools Referendum
In 2008 the Education Equity Organizing Collaborative was approached by the Minneapolis School Board to support the 60 million dollar Strong Schools Strong City referendum. This referendum was a request to voters to provide additional education funding from local property taxes for Minneapolis Public Schools students. The EEOC told the school board they would not support the referendum without first doing a racial, cultural and economic impact analysis of the impact on kids of color and American Indian kids in the district.
The analysis included two core questions; what would be the equity impact on our children, especially kids of color and American Indian kids if the referendum was not approved and what would be the equity impact on our kids if the referendum was approved?
The EEOC conducted the analysis and it showed that without successful passage of the referendum, racial and economic disparities will worsen for our kids, class size will double and we will lose more teachers of color. Second, without specific ongoing attention to the racial equity impact of policies and practices used to meet racial equity goals, the referendum and strategic plan will fail to anticipate unequal outcomes, and maintain or reinforce current disparities.
After the analysis the EEOC and communities of color decided voting yes on the referendum was essential – but clearly, it was not enough. We would support the referendum, but only if there was real accountability attached. This was a leverage opportunity for communities of color and a chance to begin to change the power dynamics between MPS and parents of color. The MPS district agreed to two accountability sessions with communities of color around the goals of the referendum.
Yet, during the planning of the accountability sessions, MPS began their Changing School Options initiative.
Minneapolis Public Schools Changing School Options (CSO):
Changing School Options consisted of three recommendations created by the Minneapolis Public School District to solve their decline in enrollment and the transportation costs of school choice.
The EEOC studied the MPS CSO recommendations and it was clear that the recommendations did not include an impact assessment showing the level of the disruption for students of color and American Indian students. However, the recommendations did show that communities of color would be pitted against one another and divided.
The EEOC had already built relationships with key members of the school board during our referendum campaign. These members wanted to move equity but didn’t have the tools to do so. Many of these members were part of the Race and Equity subcommittee of the Minneapolis School Board, but at the time the subcommittee had no mission or goals that were committed to equity. The EEOC advised the subcommittee to communicate with their fellow board members and get board support for the request that the district administration conduct a race, cultural and economic impact assessment of all three CSO recommendations.
The assessment that was used was the Racial Equity Pocket Guide written by Jermaine Toney, lead policy analysis for the Organizing Apprenticeship Project. This analysis would once again assess impact the recommendations would have on students of color and American Indian students and measure the level of disruption each choices would have.
When presented with the option to use the assessment, the board voted unanimously in favor of the analysis. The board saw the importance of being fully informed before making a decision that would affect so many students in the district.
The results of the assessment showed the best recommendation was the one that was more expensive but had the least disruption for students of color. More importantly, with the data broken down by race the district was able to see how each community would be affected by the Changing School Options and take steps towards easing that disruption. For example, the American Indian community, who represented 6% of the district, would be impacted 26%. In order to combat this, the American Indian community got the district to work with each family on a case by case basis to lessen the disruption the recommendation would have. In addition, by closing two elementary schools the district would sever a pathway to a Middle School critical to the Somali community. To work with this issue, the Somali community got the district to fold one school into another and keep it open, which allowed the pathway to the Middle School to continue.