This first blockquote is from a succinct, yet definitive, summation of what’s been happening nationwide.
Education is in crisis because of the calculated effort to turn it into a business with a bottom line. Schools are closed and opened as though they were chain stores, not community institutions. Teachers are fired based on flawed measures. Disruption is considered a strategy rather than misguided and inhumane policy. Children and educators alike are simply data points, to be manipulated by economists, statisticians, entrepreneurs, and dabblers in policy.
Education has lost its way, lost its purpose, lost its definition. Where once it was about enlightening and empowering young minds with knowledge, exploring new worlds, learning about science and history, and unleashing the imagination of each child, it has become a scripted process of producing test scores that can supply data.
Education is in crisis. And we must organize to resist, to push back, to fight the mechanization of learning, and the standardization of children.
Here’s what that’s led to in Minneapolis:
A significant problem, according to the NEPC, is that portfolio models have been sold as a way to “overcome problems of poverty and structural inequality and under-resourced schools” only through “changes to the school management structure.” A portfolio approach to school reform does not naturally confront the deep “societal inequities” that have created great concentrations of poverty in urban districts, and instead, expects schools to close gaps without additional state funding or economic policy support.
And, it can cut out democratic decision-making, often by replacing or overriding elected school boards and state government, and putting schools in the hands of private operators or funders – mostly at the expense of poor communities of color (whose voting rights are also currently under attack in many states, as the NEPC policy brief points out).
We can see this happening before our eyes in Minneapolis, through the growing influence of MN Comeback – the privately funded, privately managed group that says it would like to completely “remake” Minneapolis’s public school system, primarily by funding the Community Partnership Schools/portfolio plan – minus public oversight.
(Bright Light Small City)
And this would be more like it. Actually getting significantly more state money for support services appears to be up in the air, at best, this legislative session.
Minnesota’s diversity should be its greatest strength, but our neglect of nonwhite students has stifled our progress toward growth and equity. This problem can be solved. By designating specific funding for student support services, such as counselors and after-school programs, Minnesota can ensure that all children have the opportunities they need to thrive and succeed.
Wraparound services help create an environment where students are encouraged and supported in their learning, all the way to high-school graduation. Learning is not limited to the classroom, and Minnesota shouldn’t limit its education resources there, either. Many schools in other parts of the country have developed successful student support services, but our state lacks holistic strategies and resources to implement them on a statewide basis. Legislative funding that is specifically designated for student support systems is a crucial first step to developing an equitable education system.