by Nicole Vulcan

The NAACP and several parents of Minneapolis schoolchildren enlisted two University staff members in their fight against what they perceive as educational inadequacy in Minneapolis public schools.
In a settlement proposal issued to Attorney General Mike Hatch Feb. 19, the Minneapolis NAACP and parents gave the state an ultimatum: Open the doors to public schools or face further litigation.
The NAACP filed suit against the state in September 1995, mirrored by another suit, Xiong vs. State of Minnesota, filed in February 1998. The groups claim segregation of students leads to inadequate education.
Figures, like a 42 percent dropout rate for Minneapolis public schools, provided by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning, sparked the NAACP’s concern. Statewide suburban schools only suffer an 11 percent dropout rate.
The NAACP’s proposal also pointed out that nearly 60 percent of Minneapolis eighth graders failed the math portion of the Minnesota Basic Standards Test in 1998. Only 32 percent failed statewide.
“The state has set standards, and two thirds of the kids are not passing,” said John Schulman, the NAACP’s attorney.
According to the proposal, if the state Legislature accepts the terms of the NAACP’s proposal and works to implement those terms, the suits will be dropped. However, mediation is still proceeding in both cases.
The NAACP, with the help of community organizations like Parents in Community Action, is organizing a rally March 15 on the steps of the state Capitol. A meeting was planned for Tuesday at La Raza in Coffman Union to involve University students in the rally, but because of poor weather, only a few people showed up.
The reason for involving students, said Ray Roybal, a University graduate and coordinator of the community groups, is that “there is no student who is not a political animal.”
Additionally, Roybal said, “If the University and other colleges do not turn out people of color as graduates, it is only half their fault. K-12 is the other half.”
Terry Schultz, an educational policy and administration lecturer, and Van Mueller, a professor in the same department, were hired by the NAACP to compare schools in Minneapolis with others in the suburbs.
Schultz and Mueller visited five elementary schools and five high schools in Minneapolis, and five of each in the suburbs for their research.
“What we found is that though the teachers in Minneapolis work extremely hard, they can’t serve such a high concentration of kids with such great need,” Schultz said.
The solution? Part of it, according to the NAACP’s proposal, is to allow children and parents to choose which school they will attend, urban or suburban. Though this policy is already in effect, some schools have taken to closing their doors once they are full.
Questions about space in schools have already been raised, but the NAACP is remaining firm on the issue of open enrollment.
“This is a matter of people saying, ‘These are not children of Minneapolis; they are children of the state of Minnesota,'” Schultz said.
Under the terms of the proposal, a school would be put on probation if 50 percent of the students fail the skills tests for two successive years. If the school fails for the third year in a row, teachers and administrators of the school will be dismissed.
The proposal also suggests the formulation of 10 Neighborhood Parent Centers. The centers’ main goal would be to educate parents on choosing the best school for a child, and would be staffed by parents with children in public schools in the metropolitan area.
The attorney general’s office has the option to issue a counter proposal. However, since the cases are still in mediation, a counter proposal will be on the back burner, said Leslie Sandberg, press secretary for the office.