A class-action lawsuit that claims the state is failing to meet its responsibilities to poor and minority students will be moving to trial.
In a ruling Friday, Hennepin County District Judge Susan M. Robiner found that the November lawsuit from a group of Minneapolis and St. Paul school district parents and a community organization had enough legal grounds to continue and refused a move by the state and a group of charter schools and parents to dismiss the case.
The case should go to trial next September, said Dan Shulman, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The suit, brought by seven parents from Minneapolis and St. Paul and a Minnesota nonprofit, argue that the state knew about segregation trends based on race and poverty but that it didn’t uphold its responsibility to give students “an adequate and equitable education.”
It points to school attendance boundary lines and charter schools as factors that have heightened segregation.
Attorneys for the state defendants, including Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and the state Senate and the House of Representatives, moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the plaintiffs didn’t find intentional discrimination.
A group of charter schools and parents also moved to dismiss, arguing that charters don’t have to follow desegregation laws.
Robiner denied the motions.
The Minnesota Department of Education can’t comment on pending litigation, spokesman Josh Collins said, but the department “is committed to helping every student achieve academic success.”
A 2015 Star Tribune analysis reported that elementary students in Minneapolis and St. Paul go to schools that are more racially segregated than they have been in a generation.
Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public elementary schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Jack Perry, an attorney representing the charters, said it was a victory that the judge also dismissed the argument that a discrimination case can proceed based on de facto segregation, which is the racial isolation of students that happens by choice rather than by law.
“Round one went to the charter schools,” Perry said.
In October, the Education Department submitted a plan to desegregate schools that would have put charters under the state desegregation plan for the first time.
In March, an administrative law judge rejected the department’s proposed rule.
“The state and the charter schools know what the evidence is and what the data says,” said John Shulman, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case.
“Right now, the country and the world are looking at Minnesota, and it does not look good.”