On paper, the Minneapolis Public School’s School Board is one of the most progressive in memory. Of the nine voting members...
Six of them are “against” corporate reform - the intentional divestment and privatization of our schools. Rebecca Gagnon, who for a while was a lone minority voice against this, is now Board Chair.
Five are people of color, four are women, most have a direct tie to the District, K12 education, or both.
Many of them asked me and dozens perhaps hundreds of people I know who are far liberal to left to support their campaigns, many many of whom door knocked, donated, and more.
All nine use the language of racial equity. (For those of you who don’t know, “racial equity” has been the codeword of corporate reformers who rightly point out the racism in our schools while proposing everything but - preferring it seems to use the cause of students, parents, and communities of color to make them more miserable. This does generate more need for ‘change’ though!).
So you imagine my sadness, if sadly not surprise, when at the March Board Meeting who spoke from the public comment podium asking for their programs not to be cut? March is budget time. Was it the staff at the Davis Center, who make so much money and do so little for our students? No. Was it programs that cater to the white, affluent District within a District who are often deeply racist or intentionally exclude students of color? No. The people forced to come out to try to save their programs were overwhelmingly those run for the benefit of working class people of color, with a far greater representation of staff of color than other programs. The people coming out to speak and support looked like what we’d want our District to look like.
Did the School Board stand up and say “Wait! We shouldn’t make decisions that only hurt people of color, that’s racist, the opposite of our mission?” No. Board Chair Gagnon cut people off, as has always been done, and business as usual happened*.
I hope that all our Board members who have a conscience will figure out why, despite having a majority of “strongly progressive members” and a consensus of “racial equity” people, the same old song prevails.
It is their time to figure out how, or our time to rethink them.
Why? In the last month, just from the people we know via our small network of social justice educators, at least five staff of color in Minneapolis Public Schools have been wrongly fired or blacklisted, plus at least one social justice minded white teacher - and certainly many many more we don’t know about.
We’ve seen this for years and we’re not taking it anymore.
Officially, the School Board has to approve the firings of all staff in MPS, and do so every Board Meeting. However, it is uniformly a rubber stamp, even when the Administration has blatantly violated its own policies - around for example, racism. It is also conveniently put at the very end of the agenda when almost none of the public is there.
It is time for this to change, and that will take collective struggle. It’s time to realize that regardless of who is on the School Board it is the power of the people that will determine what happens in our schools - that is in our hands!
We fought for the Grow Your Own Program to be 100% people of color, the first year it was over 80%. We fought police in schools and are glad to see others pick up that fight. We fought alongside others to cancel the racist, sexist Reading Horizons curriculum and won. We fought alongside others to fire the Interim Superintendent and not hire a Corporate Reform candidate, and won.
Step up and organize. Step up and fight. Fight for the staff of color leading the way. Fight for social justice in education and the revolutionary education movement we need to make that possible. Fight with other union members demanding cuts at the Davis Center not in our schools. Fight for everyone who has been pushed out of MPS for advocating for students, parents, and justice.
This is no time to sit on the sidelines - come out and bring your co-workers, families, and friends to this Tuesday's Board Meeting! April 18th, 5pm, 1250 W Broadway Ave - www.facebook.com/events/1901032760176615/
*Now protest did get some results - nothing new - and the one exception to working class people of color speaking for their schools or programs was the unhappy Kenwood parents (a wealthy neighborhood in Minneapolis) who came out in force protesting massive class sizes in their elementary school. They had been lied to, bullied, and ignored by the District, and told they couldn’t volunteer or use their time or energy to improve their school. What they had not been told is that they have so many students because many white families refuse to send their children to neighborhood schools, hence Southwest, majority white schools have bigger class sizes than planned, and Title 1 funds are likely already being misallocated to more greatly support the affluent District within the Minneapolis Public Schools. That said, our cause is with such parents too - we must both challenge them to send students to their neighborhood schools to make our whole District better, and engage their energy and resources in this quest rather than mirroring their horrible treatment by the District, who increasingly thinks equity for white middle and upper class parents is treating them like shit - the same as they treat working class parents of color - that’s equity right? Everyone loses?