Learningthe hard way

Minneapolis Public Schools look for hope in the face of bleak predictions.

Minneapolis Public Schools have been dysfunctional for several years, and things seem to be getting worse. Since 2000, the school system has cut over $100 million from its budget; its enrollment has decreased by 25 percent; and it has laid off over 1,000 teachers. This disaster has reached such proportions that the citizens of Minneapolis will hardly bat an eye at the $16 million budget shortfall for this coming year; it’s easy to swallow compared to the $30 million in 2002 and $28 million in 2003.

The public image of Minneapolis schools has also taken a hit through recent headline-grabbing debacles. Former superintendent Thandiwe Peebles’ disgraceful resignation, school board member Chris Stewart’s racist Web site, and frustrated and misguided comments by Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels have contributed to Minneapolis’ troubles.

Samuels’ most recent remarks were fired toward North Minneapolis underachievement, and others, also looking to place blame, have been quick to point the finger at Gov. Tim Pawlenty for a lack of funding. The north side is not the only region with subpar graduation rates, and Pawlenty’s budget proposal for this coming year would leave traditionally well-off suburban schools in the red as well. While the appointment of Bill Green, the first permanent superintendent in over a year, offers the hope of stability in the school system’s highest office, it’s hard to feel optimistic.

Future projections of the budget show continued deficits. Such a deep predicament has no clear solutions, but the new superintendent and fresh school board members will hopefully bring novel ideas to this old problem. Minneapolis citizens must also do whatever possible to be involved in the education of the city’s youth. We cannot merely hope that our politicians will save the day.

Strong education can positively impact all facets of society; so too can weak education undermine. We all have a vested interest in the success of the Minneapolis Public Schools, for if the schools continue to rot, our city will suffer the consequences.