If you need a real world example of what institutional racism looks like in practice, the Minneapolis Public Schools proposed budget cuts could be your master class.
By now you know that MPS’ original budget for 2018-19 was a struggle to complete because it attempted to course-correct years of fiscal mismanagement through strategic budget cuts. The superintendent and school board had to make those cuts while maintaining as much support for students in poverty as possible.
You should also know that a band of intolerant and equity-adverse Southwest parents wrote a resolution to restore their schools’ funds that Director Rebecca Gagnon introduced and a majority of board members passed at the board’s April 10th meeting.
On April 20th district leaders revealed their rejiggered budget, and, as expected, the cuts are to to programs and services critical to the needs of children of color and those in poverty.
- MPS will cut staff in the central office responsible for executing suspensions and expulsions. That function will return to the schools even though it came to the general counsel’s office so MPS could address racial disparities found by the Federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights;
- Middle schools, where suspensions tend to spike for black boys, will lose their athletics directors even though athletics bond boys to schools;
- The money used to recruit and hire teachers of color will be cut;
- Departments focused on reducing racialized gaps in student achievement – including research and evaluation, and the Office of Innovation – will be cut;
And then there are cuts to the “Academics” department. The budget document says these cuts will “have varying impact to schools, students and staff,” but it isn’t specific what programs will take the biggest hit.
However, a letter sent to union leaders on April 18th showed the biggest cuts going to critical programs for students of color.
The letter shows Multilingual services cut by 36%, Indian education by 17%, and the Office of Black Male Student Achievement 14%.
Teaching and learning is takes a whopping 23% cut.
What you won’t find in all of this is any cut to the board of education’s budget. When approach by staff about absorbing some of the pain the answer was a sharp “no.” Cut anything but the board.
Clearly the new budget is unacceptable for a city that talks so much about “equity,” but seems to produce so little of it when white privilege controls the politics.
Parents and concerned citizens in every other part of the city have registered complaints, including Edison and Roosevelt High Schools, and the Pillsbury Community.
The Parent Teacher Organization at Pillsbury Community School sent a letter to the board expressing concerns, saying “We are hurt, and disappointed by the actions of the board members who voted for this resolution.”
“We would like to see a solid effort to focus on the district as a whole, and not bow to special interests that only serve to benefit a few”
A Facebook post on Edison Activity Council’s page said:
“This resolution works against equity. It is about protecting the privilege of a vocal group of organized parents at Washburn High School. While it is certainly every school community’s right to advocate for their specific school, it is your job to do what is best for the district. We have many students impacted by racial disparities in this city; this resolution jeopardizes any work towards progress in the district. All of you have talked about your support of equity in the past but clearly it is not a current priority for the 5 board members that voted to support this resolution.”
We could say it no better.
MPS board members will need to approve these new cuts at their May meeting. Members and allies of BAE will be in the board’s grill until they make good on their equity talk.