March 2, 2006
African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis are rapidly abandoning the district's public schools, going to charter schools and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools. Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools, says Katherine Kersten, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
As a result, Minneapolis schools are losing both raw numbers of students and "market share."
- In 1999-2000, district enrollment was about 48,000; this year, it's about 38,600; enrollment projections predict only 33,400 in 2008.
- In 2003-04, black enrollment was down 7.8 percent, or 1,565 students; in 2004-05, black enrollment dropped another 6 percent.
Black parents have good reasons to look elsewhere, says Kersten:
- Last year, only 28 percent of black eighth-graders in the Minneapolis public schools passed the state's basic skills math test; 47 percent passed the reading test.
- The black graduation rate hovers around 50 percent, and the district's racial achievement gap remains distressingly wide.
Louis King, a black leader who served on the Minneapolis School Board from 1996 to 2000, puts it bluntly: "Today, I can't recommend in good conscience that an African-American family send their children to the Minneapolis public schools. The facts are irrefutable: These schools are not preparing our children to compete in the world." King's advice? "The best way to get attention is not to protest, but to shop somewhere else."
Minneapolis families seeking to escape troubled schools are fortunate to have the options they do. That's not the case in many other states, where artificial barriers -- from enrollment caps to severe underfunding -- have stymied the growth of charter schools, says Kersten.
Source: Katherine Kersten, "Don't Protest, Just Shop Somewhere Else," Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2006.
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