Revamping Minneapolis Public Schools


A $28 million budget deficit is facing the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) in the 2009-10 school year. To cut spending, the school district is looking toward major changes in transportation and enrollment areas. The administration will make a recommendation to the Board of Education on April 14, followed by another round of community input.

For a more detailed look at the proposed changes, visit the
Minneapolis Public School website

On March 10, about 30 parents and teachers met in the gym of Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in North Minneapolis, to discuss what some of these changes might be. This was one of a series of meetings that MPS is holding at schools across the city to give parents and teachers a voice in what happens to their schools.

The two main issues discussed at the meeting were and busing.

Many Minneapolis families are choosing to send their kids to schools outside of their neighborhoods or to schools in the suburbs.

“5,000 students are choosing to go elsewhere,” said Pat Pratt-Cook, Chief of Human Resources and Accountability for the Minneapolis Public Schools. “It’s a combination of demographics and choosing other options. We have to make a way for people to stay in the district.”

Because so many students are not attending their community schools, many school buildings do not have enough students to fill all their classrooms and money is wasted on running the empty space. According to Minneapolis Public School data, North High School only has enough students to fill 52% of the building. Jill Sterer-Zeitlin, Special Advisor to the Superintendent, said that $4-5 million is spent annually on running extra space in the schools.

The second issued discussed at the meeting was the money spent on busing students. MPS spends $33 million each year on transportation.

To address these issues in elementary and high schools, the school district has come up with a list of options presented to parents and teachers in February and March meetings.

The options discussed include:

• consolidating 2-4 elementary schools,

• only allowing kids to go to elementary schools in their area, or

• allowing parents to choose to either send their kids to their community school or to a limited number of magnet schools.

These options would cut the amount of busing needed for elementary schools, but Sterer-Zeitlin said parents have expressed concern over the lack of choices they would have and about the schools becoming more segregated. In some of the feedback published on the MPS website, one parent said that if kids could only attend the school in their community, they would be “concerned that families that live in areas of concentrated poverty will continue to have unequal access to quality education.”

High school options included:

• only allowing kids to attend their community high school,

• limiting the amount of busing provided by the city, and

• leasing extra space in the schools.

Parents at the meeting were concerned about making sure resources were spent equally in poorer parts of the city if kids were forced to attend their community school. One parent said, “It’s not just equal. You have to give more (funding) to schools that are behind others.”

Colleen Wood, a parent at the meeting, said that out of all the options, the one to limit busing but still let kids attend whichever high school they wanted, seemed like the best choice. “It still gives parents and students a choice,” she said. “They aren’t married to the community school if it doesn’t fit.”

Sterer-Zeitlin said that depending on which changes the school district decides to make, the savings could range from $7-$12 million.

Sadie Lundquist is a student at the University of Minnesota and an intern at the TC Daily Planet.