Minority Students DO Deserve Better

Two Minnesota college instructors recently declared in MinnPost that white parents should “keep your children enrolled in their current or local public school” to show “anti-racism.”

Abby Rombalski, an instructor at the University of Minnesota, and Anita Chikkatur, an assistant professor at Carleton College, said that funding public schools is one part of paying “a large educational debt” that white America owes Black students.

“Well-resourced, culturally relevant public schools are an important facet of society that values Black lives and BIPOC children,” they said. “Leaning into your local public school is an anti-racist move to support schools through enrollment, advocacy, and community building.”

Hmm. It’s curious that Rombalski and Chikkatur believe so strongly that public schools are “paying back” students of color by providing them with the education they need.

Research and data show that Minnesota is one of America’s most generous public funders of districts with high populations of low-income students and students of color. The data also conclude that the state’s public schools—particularly in Minneapolis—have failed to meet the educational needs of these students for decades.

It is no secret that families of color in Minneapolis have long wearied of empty promises from district leaders and are using school choice options to flee their neighborhood schools in search of learning environments that prioritize the academic and safety needs of their students.

Without choice, these families would have had to accept the disappointing and inefficient results of the status quo, no matter how many white students stay in the district.

Rombalski and Chikkatur argue that maintaining funding for public schools “ensures that these schools can continue to offer learning options for all children” and when families transfer their kids, they put funding for public schools “at risk.” That’s never been the case. Funding for public schools consistently increases, and just as consistently, many students receive an inferior education. On top of that, parents who send their child to a different learning environment still pay taxes that fund public schools.

Policymakers should not rush to restore the public school system’s inefficient state by throwing more and more money at it. Classroom disruptions caused by COVID-19 have forced some parents and educators to innovate the way learning occurs. State leaders should make these options accessible for all families, particularly low-income students and students of color whose learning needs have already been underserved for years. No matter the color of the family, parents should be empowered to access the learning environment that best meets the needs of their child.

Reality check: Parents have good reason to look elsewhere for quality education. Instead of mindlessly guilt-tripping families into supporting a malfunctioning status quo—that benefits the teachers’ union more than students—we should use this opportunity to reform and disrupt an inequitable education system.