In spite of significant public opposition, and amid growing concerns surrounding the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19, six members of the nine-member Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Board voted to approve an expensive, confusing, and controversial Comprehensive District Design Plan (CDD) on Tuesday evening, May 12. Full implementation of the CDD is expected to cost MPS nearly one half of a billion dollars ($500,000), including hundreds of millions in capital expenditures, despite the fact that MPS currently has a multi-million-dollar deficit and declining enrollment year after year. To date, no financial audit has been conducted of the CDD, which is a major concern for many parents across the District.
Also lacking is a full EDIA (Equity and Diversity Impact Assessment) of the CDD. MPS Board policy requires an EDIA on policies that will have a significant impact on student learning and resource allocation, and yet the board deliberately voted to violate their own policy and proceed without an EDIA on the CDD.
“School board members acknowledged that they are in violation of some of their own financial and equity-related policies by voting on this plan, supposedly in the name of equity. Thousands of students will experience significant disruption as a result of this plan and many may be forced to abruptly change schools next year. Immigrant students and students of color will also face disproportionate impacts as a result of this plan,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and North Minneapolis resident.
MPS leaders have labeled the CDD as an “equity” plan that would close the academic gaps between white students and students of color, although ironically there has been no assessment nor comprehensive academic plan presented.
Immigrant families and those who work with them have raised strong concerns that minority students will disproportionately face impacts by losing access to dual immersion programs, high quality magnet schools, and the shifting of schools from K-8 to K-5. Concerns have also been raised about the proposed increase in size of middle schools, which are expected to undermine the possibility of achieving equitable outcomes.
Public opinion would otherwise suggest strong opposition to the plan; over 3,000 parents and community members signed a petition on change.org demanding an equity assessment and a delay of the CDD.
An ongoing shelter-in-place order instituted by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in March has prevented adequate public input into the CDD, with feedback limited to phone calls and emails. 84% of recent public calls and written comments to the Board were against the CDD, and a recent poll from television news station KARE11 showed 87% of respondents opposed the CDD.
In choosing to move forward with this concerning plan, the MPS Board has made it clear that the voices of parents and community members do not matter in this process. As a result of their decision, MPS stands to potentially lose thousands of students to surrounding school districts, private and charter schools in the near future.
The CDD will cause significant disruption within MPS, with no real indication that what it set out to achieve in closing academic gaps along racial and socio-economic lines is attainable.