The success of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is of utmost importance to the students who attend district schools, the families who rely on the district to deliver an excellent education, the citizens who pay for its services through their state and local taxes, and the community that counts on it to produce educated, informed and engaged citizens.
If our public schools are strong, our community is strong. If they are weak or uneven or inequitable in the delivery of outcomes, then all of us will bear the consequences. Put another way, if MPS is performing well, it is an important lever in maintaining our strength as a city and state and providing the foundation for our region’s prosperity. If it is not serving all children well, their future and the future of the city is severely impacted.
Minneapolis Public Schools is a large, complex legacy institution with 36,500 students, 61 schools, 5,300 staff, and an annual operating budget of more than $600 million dollars. By comparison, the Minneapolis Park District has a budget of $80 million and a regular staff of 550. Governing our school district is an enormous task which is why electing a highly competent and focused school board is of utmost importance.
With so much riding on Minneapolis having high-quality schools and a well-managed and financially sound school district, it is a shame that school board elections do not garner more attention, that board directors are not held more accountable for their decisions and that candidates are not vetted more carefully before being elected.
In off-year elections, an individual can win a district school board seat with as few as 9,000 votes, and even in a presidential year, the winning number is about 15,000 votes. In recent years we have even had some non-contested races, especially in district elections. This year, for example, only one person – the incumbent – is on the ballot in all three of the district seats up for election. This non-competitive electoral environment is not healthy for our schools or our students and may mean directors are not held accountable for their decisions.
Minneapolis Public Schools has struggled for years with a yawning academic achievement gap, vastly different school resources based on geography and parent influence, financial management issues, loss of students to other options and complex issues related to teacher contracts. If we want a strong and transparent debate about these issues and good decisions, we need strong and transparent leaders representing us on the school board. Our community’s lack of focus on school board elections and school board decision-making must be addressed if our schools are to improve.
If you want more information on governance, elections and the school board more generally, please see this fact sheet.
Please be one of the voters who takes the time to learn the issues, researches the candidates and makes a well-informed vote on Tuesday, November 6! Attend the Unbound candidate forum with host Tom Weber on Tuesday, October 22.
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