Sunday, August 14, 2005

Minneapolis: "There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result."

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:23 AM |  

At Our House, Margaret Martin has an excellent piece putting a personal face on crime in Minneapolis (city motto: "There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result."). Read the whole thing -- it’s excellent.

One part that specifically caught my interest was this paragraph --
In our part of North Minneapolis, it’s clear that many parents have voted with their feet by sending their kids out of the neighborhood to charter schools and private schools. During the school year we barely ever see the kids next door, they are so highly scheduled to keep them busy. During our recent block meeting we talked to a few kids who are going to the local public schools. One is going to a school she thinks is OK or at least it is OK for her. She’s taking all AP classes. She did complain however about the recent spate of layoffs and defections of good teachers from her school. "All the good teachers are leaving and all the bad ones are staying."
A observation: While as Margaret notes, many parents are sending their children to schools outside their neighborhoods, many are not. This point was brought home at a Partnership for Choice in Education-sponsored speaker series on school choice. I posted about it at the time --
This week I attended a lecture given by Rebbeca Nieves Huffman, a highly-degreed Hispanic woman and President of Hispanic CREO, an organization promoting educational opportunities for Hispanic children. Following her prepared presentation, she opened for questions.

A woman from the Minnesota Department of Education asked about a current state program that buses kids from the inner city to the suburbs. She wondered why the Hispanic kids didn't take advantage of it.Ms. Huffman was professional and gentle explaining cultural issues and some types of possible outreach programs. Then a young Hispanic man from the audience (I’d met him earlier in the day at San Miquel School in Minneapolis, where he has a daughter and nieces and nephews) was given the microphone.

Basically he told the woman from the MDE that Hispanic parents didn’t send their kids to the suburbs because they are afraid their kids would get the crap beat out of them.The woman from the MDE didn't get it. The Hispanic community doesn’t necessarily want to send their kids to “white” schools. They want good neighborhood schools -- integrated by the make-up of the neighborhood. No parent of any color wants to put his kid on a bus for a couple hours everyday just to send her to a school where she has no common ground for building solid relationships with her classmates.
The point is, contrary to the “beneficent white man” point of view that underlies liberal thinking, many minority parents do not believe that their kids necessarily get a better education because they sit next to a white kid. They want good neighborhood schools that reflect their neighborhood poplation, which the massive state bureaucracy we’ve created is incapable of delivering simply because it’s so cobbled together with mandates, rules, regulations and the like that its focus is no longer education; the school system is the bosom of the nanny state and an employment agency for middle-class minorities.

I’m willing to bet that nearly everyone of those kids that tramp to a bus stop every morning to go to school outside their neighborhood walks past or lives nearby a neighborhood parochial school, San Miguel being a case in point, for which they can’t afford tuition.

Strong neighborhoods need strong neighborhood schools. “Meaningful school choice” like the Hann/Buesgens legislation -- introduced in the last legislative session and abandoned in the special session in favor of the Rino (“reform” in name only) bastardization of a “pay for performance” plan for teachers -- would have provided low-income urban families the opportunity to take advantage of an existing neighborhood school.

Kudos to families that take the initiative to find the best possible education for their children -- inside or outside their neighborhoods. Shame on the legislature for not providing them the freedom to find that education in their own neighborhood.