School districts’ losing streak continues as voters again reject most referendums
School districts continue to put referendum proposals before voters but a skeptical electorate keeps rejecting more proposals than not.
Abby Rombalski (University of Minnesota) and Anita Chikkatur (Carleton College) opined in MinnPost that white parents should “keep your children enrolled in their current or local public school” to show “anti-racism.”
…[W]hite America owes Black students a large educational debt, and funding public schools is one part of paying back that debt.
Well-resourced, culturally relevant public schools are an important facet of society that values Black lives and BIPOC children. … Leaning into your local public school is an anti-racist move to support schools through enrollment, advocacy, and community building.
Hmm. It’s curious Rombalski and Chikkatur so strongly believe that public schools are “paying back” students of color by providing them with the education they need. Despite research that shows Minnesota is one of the most generous states in the nation with regard to funding for districts with high populations of low-income students and students of color, the state’s public school system has failed to meet the educational needs of these student populations for decades.
Before COVID-19, families of color were fleeing their neighborhood school district in search of a learning environment that put the academic and safety needs of their student first. For example, parents in the Minneapolis district were tired of the lofty pledges from district leadership that did not manifest into real improvements. It’s because of school choice that families and students can access different learning environments than their neighborhood school district. Otherwise, they would have had to contend with the disappointing and inefficient results of the status quo.
We should not rush to restore the inefficient state of the public school system. Parents and educators are innovating the way learning occurs, and state leaders have an opportunity to make these options more 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.
Rombalski and Chikkatur argue that maintaining funding for public schools “ensures that these schools can continue to offer learning options for all children” and if families transfer their kids that puts funding for public schools “at risk.” The problem is, though, that funding for public schools consistently increases, and all children are not receiving the learning they need to be successful. And parents who send their child to a different learning environment still pay taxes that go toward public school funding.
Reality check: There is a reason parents are looking elsewhere, and instead of undermining that choice and guilt-tripping families into supporting a malfunctioning status quo, we should use this opportunity to reform and disrupt an inequitable education system.