Minneapolis Public Schools board approves controversial redistricting plan

The Minneapolis Public Schools board virtually approved a controversial redistricting plan last week that is set to take effect fall 2021.

Superintendent Ed Graff’s Comprehensive District Design (CDD) plan will redraw school attendance boundaries that will shuffle thousands of students to new schools and “reduce and relocate magnet schools to the center of the city in an effort to address racial disparities, a nagging achievement gap and an anticipated budget deficit of nearly $20 million,” reports the Star Tribune.

District officials say the redesign will help achieve better racial balance and avoid the potential shuttering of under-enrolled schools.

The plan will also cut some of the district’s most popular programs and require significant investment. Ongoing operating costs for the restructuring will total about $11 million per year, and the district anticipates it will have to spend more than $560 million on capital projects over the next five years.

The CDD has been in the works since December 2017, but many parents, teachers and faculty had hoped the board would delay voting on a major reorganization plan given the current coronavirus pandemic. Before the vote, the board received more than 300 written public comments, of which more than 90 percent were opposed to the redistricting plan, and over two hours of voicemail testimony both for and against the plan, the Star Tribune continues.

Most agreed systemic change is needed, but many said the district showed little proof that this plan will narrow the achievement gap or make Minneapolis schools more financially sustainable.

“Without concrete evidence in the modeling of the plan, I don’t trust that simply shuffling more kids to neighborhood schools is enough to fix the achievement gap. And I haven’t seen proof that it will do that,” said Hannah Neely, who has two children enrolled at Seward Montessori School.

This isn’t the first time Minneapolis school leaders have vowed to improve academic achievement. The district has lost thousands of students of color to charter schools and neighboring school districts over the past couple of years, with low student performance, academic disparities, and safety concerns cited as top reasons families fled.

Will the CDD plan manifest itself into the improvements the Minneapolis Public Schools district desperately needs, or will it be another lofty pledge that encourages more families to look elsewhere for a learning environment that better meets their child’s needs?