Minneapolis Mayoral Candidates Debate Education Issues

by Jane Campbell

Six Minneapolis Mayoral candidates debated Monday night on public education policies in the city.

According to a Star Tribune poll, public education is the top concern among voters for the Minneapolis Mayoral race. The recent federal No Child Left Behind law has highlighted the city's achievement gap.

Current Mayor RT Rybak recently told MinnPost that he wished he would have spent more time on education during his 12 years in office.

All candidates, except Mark Andrews, agreed the "last-in, first-out" state teacher layoff law needs to be changed.

Other public education policies, like improved but fewer standardized tests and a reduced number of school suspensions, were agreed upon by all candidates.

Candidate Jackie Cherryhomes said parents seek charter schools instead of public education because charter schools frequently offer smaller classes, longer days, and a better relationship with the school.

Ward 13 City Councilmember and candidate Betsy Hodges agreed with Cherryhomes. "People are trying other options because they think they'll get a better result," she said, according to Star Tribune.

Independence Party-endorsed candidate Stephanie Woodruff introduced a new part of her education plan to reduce the achievment gap, including a donation of half of the $106,000 mayoral salary.

"If students of color do not advance in their reading and writing proficiency, then I will not collect that other half of my salary," she said, according to Minneapolis Public Radio.

Fewer than half of students in the Minneapolis public schoo system graduate from high school, and minority students are still falling behind in academic achievement.