Minneapolis schools may withdraw from desegregation program

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2011 - 11:01 PM

Minneapolis school district is considering whether to withdraw from West Metro Education Program.

The Minneapolis school district is considering withdrawing from a partnership with west-suburban school districts intended to help desegregate schools.

Minneapolis' decision to re-evaluate its commitment to the West Metro Education Program (WMEP) is part of a broader examination of the district's integration policies, including its efforts to desegregate its own schools, school officials said. The issue was discussed Monday at a school board committee meeting.

"There's some questions about whether [the WMEP effort] is still relevant," Minneapolis school board vice chair Alberto Monserrate said. "From what we've seen ... the students aren't doing much better."

The district will give notice in January of intent to withdraw, allowing administrators time to determine if the program is meeting its goal to produce integrated schools that close the achievement gap between white and non-white students.

Staff and school board members will review data and hold hearings before rendering a final decision on whether the district will withdraw. That decision won't come until months later, and, if approved, wouldn't take effect until the 2013-14 school year.

This is not the first time Minneapolis has considered withdrawing from WMEP. In 2009, former Superintendent Bill Green suggested exiting, but backlash, primarily from parents, led the school board to table the decision.

Across the metro area and state, school integration efforts are facing renewed scrutiny. This fall, after intense public debate, the East Metro Integration District decided against closing its two voluntarily integrated schools. In Eden Prairie, the superintendent's decision to shift boundaries to integrate schools led to tension with her school board and an early departure.

This summer, the Legislature decided to scrap integration aid, beginning in 2013, that primarily went to the Twin Cities and Duluth to encourage integration. A 12-member panel will offer recommendations on how to redistribute funds.

It's unclear what would become of WMEP if Minneapolis left, because the district provides half the students at the two schools run by the collaborative -- fine-arts schools in Crystal and downtown Minneapolis. WMEP Superintendent Daniel Jett did not return calls.

Pulling out of WMEP would not end the district's commitment to The Choice Is Yours, a program under which 2,100 students who live in the city get transportation to schools in other districts.

The state-funded program, which costs about $14 million per year, was part of the settlement of a Minneapolis NAACP lawsuit against the state that alleged state practices concentrated poverty in the city, hampering the district's ability to offer students an adequate education.

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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