OPINION | My perspective of MPS budget issues

MPS definitely has a budgetary problem.  What caused that problem?   Several factors (groups) have caused the budgetary issues facing MPS.  It is not only the administration, school board, but also the parents and teachers in the district which have caused many of our financial woes.1.Parents want what is best for their kids.For example, parents want IB programs, gifted and talent programs, etc.  The IB program is costing the district millions of dollars for startup, maintenance, exams, teacher training, and it all goes overseas to Geneva.   Some of these dollars come out the general fund as well as the referendum dollars. Some are paid for by grants which have a limited life span.  Are parents willing to give up IB in order to have some of the other amenities they want in the school?  From what I have heard the answer is a resounding NO.  In life one has to choose what is best for all and that is not happening in MPS.  Look at overcrowded classrooms.  Parents want to send their kids to the “best successful schools” like SW.  If the boundary originally established by administration, does not allow them to go to their preferred school  they raise a hue and cry to get the board to change the boundaries so that their kids can go to the “better” school.  Some of them if they do not get their way threaten the district with sending their kids to charter schools, private schools or leaving the district.  When they succeed we can get an overcrowded school.   Active enthused parents do not want to send their kids to a poorly performing school and they, the parents, community are needed in these schools.2. School board members also want what is best for the students. However they need to evaluate the impact of the decisions made.  For example boundary changes, selling buildings to charter schools, authorizing charter schools, removing successful programs from schools, making all schools IB, making drastic cuts to schools suddenly,  without giving parents time to evaluate what is happening as well as the impact of these cuts.  I mentioned above the impact of changing boundaries and IB.   Some charter schools are very successful and are supposed to share their “best practices” with MPS.  Some do share but are those best practices a reality for MPS with its time constraints and financial woes.  To me, authorizing a charter school or leasing our buildings to charters creates a financial woe to the district.  For example, charters sometimes use only a portion of an entire building, meaning that MPS has to maintain the rest of the building and make sure that the charter school is keeping up MPS standards for maintenance.    In addition charters pull MPS kids out of the system and thus reduce the revenue from these kids to help defray the cuts that are now currently in progress and potentially cause increase in class sizes and the laying off of teachers or other staff.  In the big picture I feel that this school board, the previous school boards and superintendents do not feel that MPS is capable of educating all the students that reside in MPS.3. Continue Reading

Teacher Incentive Pay

There is a lot of controversy about teacher incentives and how we motivate teachers to do a better job with our students.  Somehow there is the belief that teachers should be able to overcome any obstacles to make students learn.  Fine.  Now the staet is involved in seeking money from the government in the “Race to the Top” which has a requirement that the proposal has included t Continue Reading

VOICES | Teaching to students’, not industry’s, needs

Margaret Virum taught in the Minneapolis Public Schools nearly 50 years. She has been listed among the most prestigious alumni from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and received many honors for her innovative teaching before her death one year ago. Rebecca Bauer is an English teacher at St. Paul Central High School
After becoming a teacher 16 years ago, I wrote Miss Virum a letter telling her how much it had meant to me to be a first and second grader in her class and the many ways in which her teaching had not only influenced me as a reader, writer and future teacher, but also how her classroom was a safe haven from a home that had often been in turmoil during those years. I recalled for her the many memories I had of her creative projects and the ways she blended experiential learning and individualized instruction so that each student had an opportunity to feel valued and visible in her classroom. Continue Reading

Alternative licensure programs help districts ‘think outside the box’

Years of planning, hundreds of applicants and mass enthusiasm aside, Teach For America may not be able to open in the Twin Cities next year. The project could be delayed if fundraising goals aren’t met by July. At the same time, school administrators are waiting for the opening as they look for all available options to close the achievement gap in area public schools. Teach For America, which hires college graduates to teach in underperforming schools while earning their teaching degrees, is just one alternative licensure program in the United States. These programs are extremely successful, school officials say, because they recruit graduates strong in core learning subjects like math or science that would usually go into other fields. Continue Reading

Why stay? For the love of teaching

Fifty percent of U.S. urban public school teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. Why do they leave-and why do they stay? Ask any public school teacher why they got into teaching and why they stay and you will get the same answer: It’s the kids. Even among those who leave teaching, many regret losing the connection that motivated them to choose teaching as their career. It’s a tough time to be a teacher. Continue Reading

TRUTH TO TELL – JAN 16: EDUCATION IN MINNESOTA: Who Judges Teachers and Teaching?

TRUTH TO TELLJAN 16: EDUCATION IN MINNESOTA: Who judges Teachers and Teaching?The national education magazine, Education Week, has issued the latest in a multi-year report card on state education systems entitled, “Quality Counts.” While there may be serious questions about Minnesota’s commitment to educational excellence overall, what should be the criteria for judging the success of our system and is it fair to compare states at all with their diverse sets of laws, rules, regulations, governance structures, and labor contracts, and, if it is what does a “D+” in the Teaching Profession category even as we receive a B+ in Chance for Success.TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with education professional, a legislator, teacher reps and a parent on the credibility and ideas contained in “Quality Counts” report and whether or not the media is overblowing report card grades given out by what is essentially another media outlet.GUESTS:MAUREEN PRENN, Acting Dean, College of Education, Minnesota University at MankatoKATE TOWLE, Active Parent (11 years) and Member, Minneapolis District Parent Advisory Council.REP. MINDY GREILING, Chair of Education Finance Committee, MN House of Representatives and former Teacher, St. Paul Public Schools.———–Truth to Tell Podcasts are available for all archived TTT shows. Subscribe in a reader HERE Continue Reading