When St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva posted the district’s new Strong Schools, Strong Communities plan on the SPPS website February 1st, the immediate reaction was strong parental and public outcry. While Silva defends the proposal as a pro-student, community-building endeavor
We believe, the changes we are making will reconnect many students to the communities where they live – truly making the schools the heart of our community.
in reality it is a budget-trimming maneuver that ends access to or slates closure of many district magnate and charter schools for students city-wide, as well as effectively ends true open enrollment options in St. Paul, particularly for students in low-income neighborhoods of the city (where “neighborhood school” performances tend to be low and choices limited). A top priority of the plan is to cut transportation outside narrowly-defined “neighborhood school zones,” leaving an island of poor students trapped at less-desirable schools near their housing. Silva and SPPS also hope to transplant quality schools from their current locations to alternative facilities where the highest percentage of enrolled students live-this often means pulling a high-quality charter or magnet school from the transportation zone of a low-income neighborhood thus making it inaccessible to students who tend to have less options for mobility.
MPR news put this question to its online readers today: Should cash-strapped schools end mandatory busing?, citing Chuck Marohn’s Strong Towns Blog, in which Marohn calls for the abolition of Minnesota’s mandatory busing statute. What Marohn doesn’t address is that public school busing is about much more than, as he calls it, “door to door” service and provisions for isolated rural farm kids. It’s also about providing equal opportunity to students across the educational spectrum, and granting true access to the pioneering Open Enrollment program that Minnesota schools trail-blazed.
And if the heated debate at St. Paul school board meetings, the parental protest at work on local Facebook pages and community groups, or the crummy precedent of other U.S. school districts attempting the same sort of penny-pinching school shuffle are indicators, the answer is: No. We should not end mandatory busing. Find the cash to fund quality public education for everyone-in the classroom and on the bus.
Upcoming Community Information Sessions on SPPS “Strong Schools, Srong Communities” Proposal:
Thur., Feb. 10, 7-8:30 p.m., Humboldt High School
Mon., Feb. 14, 7-8:30 p.m., Harding High School