If a group of Republican Minnesota lawmakers have their way, the Minneapolis School District would be broken into six smaller districts — each with a separate superintendent, leadership group and elected school board. The purpose, GOP lawmakers say, is to improve achievement in a district that continues to post low average test scores and graduation rates.
While those concerns are valid, the breakup plan is not. Creating additional districts would create more bureaucracy and additional expenses. It also has the potential to make the new districts even more racially segregated.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and some members of his caucus propose that the current Minneapolis school board decide how to divide up the 35,000-student district. If the board could not reach agreement, the governor would step in. In 2017, city residents would elect six new boards, and the reconfigured system would be in place for the start of school in 2018.
Some states have taken over struggling urban districts. Mayoral control has been another option, while some districts have switched from elected to appointed school boards or some combination of both. Other districts have contracted with private firms or nonprofits to manage their most challenged schools. These approaches have had mixed results.
Meanwhile, some school systems around the country have done the opposite of what the GOP senators suggest and have formed larger districts through consolidation to create more racially and economically integrated schools.
Hann’s plan is unlikely to find support from the DFL-controlled Senate or Gov. Mark Dayton. Still, Minnesotans should welcome a constructive debate of new ideas to improve education.
Ultimately, to make a difference, any school governance or leadership change must have a positive impact on what happens in classrooms between teachers and students, and lead to greater family engagement in the educational success of Minnesota kids.