Readers Write: (Dec. 11): Minneapolis public schools, state budget, Lebanon Hills park

  • Updated: December 10, 2013 - 5:50 PM

Public schools can’t be an equalizer if they’re treated like a Black Friday marketplace.

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MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS

Public schools were turned into a market

Minneapolis school board member Carla Bates hit the nail on the head in getting to the root of the district’s problems (“Why I oppose Southwest High addition,” Dec. 10). Open enrollment and the charter movement have created a competitive market for public schools in which parents are consumers and there are guaranteed winners and losers. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to public education because it undermines collective interest in the system as a whole as parents scramble to get the best deal for their child: a kind of Black Friday of schooling.

Public education is intended to be the great equalizer in an unequal society. However, it can’t even begin to serve that purpose when racial and class inequalities in society at large are replicated between schools.

Open enrollment has allowed white, middle-class parents to hoard their privilege by concentrating it in certain schools. What these parents either fail or refuse to recognize is that the resources and opportunities their children enjoy come at the expense of those available to poor and nonwhite children who need them most, and who deserve them every bit as much.

MONICA ERLING, Minneapolis

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While Bates works on the long-term planning issues for the school district, the board should do the right thing and build the addition to Southwest High School. Crippling a successful program will not bring students to attend other schools, nor will it satisfy the abstract goal of equality. If open enrollment has offered parents attractive alternatives to Minneapolis schools, the board needs to compete for these students with high-quality academic and athletic offerings, including first-class facilities. The political courage Bates refers to is required to admit that the actively involved parents who support Southwest are not equally distributed across the city. These parents are the difference between strong-performing programs and the mediocre alternatives. They will seek out the best placement for their kids regardless of the board’s spending decisions.

GEORGE HUTCHINSON, Minneapolis

STATE BUDGET

Taxpayers, government are together in this

A Dec. 10 letter, referring to the state budget surplus, claims: “That money does not belong to the state of Minnesota; it belongs to its taxpayers.”

As is often the case these days, the government is set apart from the people. In the United States, the government and the people are one and the same.

Our civil society works from neighborhoods to “the state of Minnesota” because we understand we are interconnected. To claim otherwise is to disenfranchise yourself from power. Language matters.

BRYAN HAUGEN, Mayer

• • •

The Dec. 8 editorial calling for substantially boosting the budget reserve was the best advice the Legislature, the political parties and Minnesotans could get. And, congratulations to Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter for putting an early damper on talk of tax cuts and spending increases while dealing with a preliminary budget projection — it’s not in the bank, folks.

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