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Minnesota was the first state to pass a charter law in 1991. As blogger Sarah Lahm wrote in the Progressive in 2019, the new charters were exempt from most state regulations, including desegregation. A number of its charters are segregated by race and ethnicity, intentionally so, because the charter industry believes that segregation is culturally affirming. This situation led to a lawsuit to assure the rights of children of color in the state.
So now leading figures in the state charter lobby want to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would make segregated schools acceptable, while adding that school quality would be determined by standardized tests.
Blogger Rob Levine explains:
The Page Amendment is best understood if you recognize these foundations’ overall public education strategies. For 30 years the Minneapolis Foundation and its allies have been creating, funding, and persuading the legislature to loosen requirements on charter schools in the state. Over that same period, they have been pushing for data (test) driven education policies. The proposed Page Amendment would enshrine standardized test scores in the state constitution as measure of educational quality, and remove language courts have used to fight school segregation. So for the foundations the proposed amendment is a two-fer. But it’s even more than that…
One need only look at the two charter chains that get the most money from the foundations – Hiawatha Academies and KIPP Minnesota – to understand that threat. Hiawatha is a chain of five charter schools based in Minneapolis whose student population is about 88% Hispanic, in a city that is about 10% Hispanic…
It’s a similar story at the foundations’ second-most funded charter school chain, KIPP Minnesota, where the school population is 96% Black in a city that is less than 20% Black, and has been that way since it opened in 2008…
The proposed amendment both adds and removes language from the section of the Minnesota Constitution that involves public education. Currently, Article XIII, Section 1 of the Constitution provides, in part:
“…it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state” [emphasis added]
The Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling in July, 2018, sending the Cruz-Guzman case back to the district court, said this when ruling for the plaintiff’s motion to proceed with the case, writing:
“It is self-evident that a segregated system of public schools is not ‘general,’ ‘uniform,’ ‘thorough,’ or ‘efficient.’” [emphasis added]
But the proposed Page Amendment removes the words general, thorough and efficient, and recasts “uniform” as the results of standardized tests.
So this is what corporate reform has wrought in Minnesota. A renewed belief in racial segregation and a determination to enshrine standardized testing in the state constitution.