What does loss of integration funds really mean?

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Where do our desegregation dollars go?  We’ve been told that desegregation dollars are being wasted.  The Republican led state legislature wants to cut districts like Saint Paul by more than $30 million. The fact that they want to spread that money to their own suburban districts is painfully obvious. It is hard to make logic based arguments, when most people don’t even understand what these integration dollars are used for. So, here is a primer for where these dollars go in a district like Saint Paul.

Student Placement Center

A student placement center is likely a formality in many suburban districts. When a student transfers in, their records are pretty straightforward, and they are placed accordingly. There will be a few exceptions, but those can be handled on a case-by-case basis.

In a district like Saint Paul, a placement center becomes the first place for care and concern of a whole child. Last year, Saint Paul welcomed 635 students of the lowest possible English language level. This year they have already accepted 600. Many of these students have spent their entire lives and schooling in refugee camps. Some of them have spent their entire lives in tents. The placement center assesses them for academic placement and any medical needs. These additions happen throughout the entire year. New students are placed even in May. Are these costs that suburban districts must deal with in an ongoing way?  A large urban district might have to place hundreds of students in the middle of a semester. How many students transfer into a suburban district in the middle of a term?

Integration funds pay for 100% of our placement center.

School choice and bussing.

Integration funds are used for bussing and to fund all of our Magnet and Language Academy schools. This is the most Orwellian part of the Republican’s cuts. Out of one side of their mouth they tout the mystical healing powers of competition and choice. However, they want to cut all of our funding that makes choice feasible to the poor. Our language academies have done a phenomenal job of balancing race and poverty. For example, L’Etoile Du Nord French Immersion, in the heart of one of our poorest neighborhoods is one of the few schools in the whole state of Minnesota to receive a distinguished Great Schools recognition. They spend $11,000 per student, compared to $9,000 for the state average. It seems like their funds have paid off.

International Baccalaureate Program (IB)

Internationally recognized programs of excellence, IB programs have a track record of raising expectations for all students. Integration funds help at least one of our high schools to offer IB programs to 100% of their students. Putting integration funds into a IB program is throwing money into a proven, and high expectation strategy. We need to raise expectations for all students. Cutting our high expectation programs is not the way to do that.

Tangential Effects

I teach at a racially isolated school. The school is about 90% non-white. I have some students that are 4 or even 5 years behind grade level. We make it our goal to get them all to grade level. When we don’t, we re-group, re-vamp, and go at it again. We constantly adjust to meet their needs. On the other hand, I also have several students who literally score off the charts in Mathematics. These students are all non-white and non-wealthy. We will have to cut at least 30 staff members from our school alone if these cuts go through. Our class sizes will sky rocket. I have 40 students in some classes. How is having more than that going to help? At least half the students have some sort of high need. I don’t have one or two students that need extra attention. These cuts will increase class sizes for the neediest students.

So, our integration dollars are used to place and care for some of the most vulnerable kids in our society. Our integration dollars are used to offer options and choices to our students. Our integration dollars are used to implement the most cutting edge and most demanding programs. How is cutting all those things going to help? We will have to maintain some of those programs, which means class size will go from 40 to 50 or even 60. How is this even conscionable?