COMMENTS of the WEEK | What about the schools?

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Last week we ran three pieces on problems and puzzles continually debated in public education. The three stories were of different events and topics: one on Minneapolis school budgets (especially at Lucy Laney) and two on charter school segregation. Reading them together immediately prompts a thought that all the topics are closely intertwined. I wonder how Daily Planet readers see them. Rather than highlighting comments in this week’s column, we invite your comments on these important issues. 

One article was by Daily Planet reporter Sarah Lahm, Minneapolis school budgets — and a parent’s passionate plea. It covered the request of principal and parents for extra funding to expand (from math to reading/writing) a co-teaching model at Lucy Laney elementary school. Parents and principal made their case at a meeting with school officials and school board members.

Lahm’s report included an open letter from a Lucy Laney parent. The letter and news report made clear that budgeting and teacher-assignment procedures leave Lucy Laney with high staff turnover and a concentration of lower-paid, less experienced teachers. The school families there are poor and predominantly African-American. The parent charged in his letter that “students with the highest needs are being taken advantage of by the system.”

A second education story, by Kayla Steinberg, reported on racial/ethnic concentration in 44 Minneapolis charter schools. It presented a chart, “Segregation in Minneapolis Charter Schools,” with statistics for the year 2011-2012. The story asked, “Why are charter schools so segregated?” and answered that the figures reflect “many charter schools’ culturally-focused missions” — African-America, Latino and Asian. It pointed out also an implication of the statistics, that “many Minneapolis charter-school students are not learning alongside students of diverse races.”

Almost as if in response to that story, Joe Nathan’s School Talk blog on April 25 posted remarks made on February 11 by Bill Wilson, director of a much praised St. Paul charter school. Wilson was appearing before the Minnesota Senate Education Committee, not talking about the statistics in our report but about “pseudo segregation arguments” the senators were hearing from elsewhere. Joe Nathan’s headline on his blog: Long-time civil rights activist challenges charter school/segregation charges. Wilson’s blunt summary: “The fact that a charter school may enroll a very high percentage of one ethnic group or another, does not fit the definition of segregation. It’s far different than what I experienced as a child when our family was told [by government imposition] where to send me.”

Are there important overlaps among the issues raised in these stories? Reader comments are the lifeblood of community conversation in the Daily Planet. Join in. Agree or disagree. Praise or criticize. Be brief, be civil, be heard!