Community deserves access to Mpls. teacher contract talks

  • Article by: MICAH THORNQUIST
  • Updated: January 13, 2014 - 6:20 PM

Faced with complicated issues such as income and racial disparities, no one should be left out.

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Thirty-seven percent of African-American students graduate on time from Minneapolis public schools (MPS), compared with 71 percent of white students. At the same time, the on-time graduation rate for high-income students is about 65 percent, while their low-income classmates — those receiving free and reduced-price lunch — barely scrape by at 35 percent. Based on these numbers, MPS students are facing achievement gaps of 30 and 34 percent, and while all those invested in K-12 education agree that this is a significant problem, unfortunately, we cannot seem to agree on a solution.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) and the Minneapolis School District are scheduled to continue their contract negotiations and, hopefully, search for solutions to these disparities at their next meeting on Jan. 23. Unfortunately, MFT is set to continue this conversation about the community without the community. As an MPS alum, and someone who has taught MPS middle school students for the past six years, I truly believe that the community’s voice — and especially students’ voices — should be heard.

As a member of Students for Education Reform, I stand beside my classmates in an effort to reopen negotiations, and I challenge MFT to think about what is being lost because the community is left out. Or rather, to look at it more positively, I ask MFT to consider all that could be gained by reopening negotiations to the public. The answer is: a lot.

Reopening negotiations would allow everyone invested in the education of Minneapolis students to collaborate on solutions. Open negotiations would provide students, parents and other affected community members with a way to know what is being discussed and a platform to have their voices heard. Ultimately, it would provide a pathway for all community members to come together and create positive change, specifically through an open and constructive discussion of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s “SHIFT” plan.

We are all fighting for the kids, so don’t shut us out.

Micah Thornquist is a member of Students for Education Reform at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. ­Peter, Minn.

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