Unity starts with education

Adriana Cerrillo being sworn in as a Director of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education


From the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to the barbed wire lining the streets of downtown Minneapolis, 2021
has been a grim reminder of the divisions in our communities. Unless we make a strong effort to bridge our differences, there will be more unrest for years to come. A path forward is in the education of our children.
Ethnic studies, a range of courses offered in Minneapolis public high schools for the last six years, is an example of one such effort—for which we have Kim Ellison, chair of the Board of Education, to thank. It is part of an initiative called for by voters to update the curriculum and give students the opportunity to learn about the contributions of the many peoples within the United States. Students right now are studying the history of racism along with the richness of Black, Latino, First Nations, Somali, Vietnamese and Hmong cultures that are present here in Minnesota.
But it is not enough. I ran for the School Board because this city has become an increasingly diverse place, and schools need help in adjusting. As a mother, activist, and now a public servant, my priority is always the children.
Broadly speaking, I want to do for District Four what I did for the Parent Teacher Association at Emerson School in Loring Park—include families of color in the education of their children.
Language and cultural barriers between schools and families must be overcome if we are ever to close the achievement gap between white and brown students. We have many talented, hard-working teachers in this city—but even in the best of times they only see students for less than seven hours a day. Parents are the best resource a child has, and I will work to make sure schools are doing everything they can to support us.
Any teacher will tell you that, in order to learn a language, one-on-one instruction is critical. However, in Minneapolis Public Schools, this type of instruction for students who speak English as their second language is almost non-existent. The reason is, of course, a lack of funding. By its own estimate, our school district and children are not receiving a necessary $17 million to address the inequities with English Language Learners.
A child struggling to learn English needs extra support. Teachers have a much harder time with classes where one or more students do not understand the language, let alone, the lesson. That language barrier, in turn, creates divisions between the students who speak fluently and those who do not.
We must call upon our state legislature leaders to increase funding above what the governor recommends.
Every day that English Language Learners do not receive adequate instruction is another day they fall behind. We must act now and do what is just and fair! Funding ELL education is ensuring success for all students.

Editor’s Note:
Readers who are concerned about fairness and equity in opportunities for all our children should contact their state representative and ask them to increase funding for English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.
But the School Board should also look in its own backyard.
The General Fund Budget for 2019-20 was $632,192,699. At one point they say administration costs were only $15,596,646. But, in a different place they say, “District and School Administration includes all costs for general, instructional, and school site administration for the district: BOE, Superintendent, instructional department directors, and principals’ salaries.” And Instructional Support is $43,713,285 and Pupil Support is $66,554,156. That’s a total of $125,864,087, or 19.9% of the total budget. And that number probably doesn’t include legal services, outside consultants, accounting services, etc. There is no line-item budget that fully defines each position and how much it costs in order to evaluate where there is bureaucratic waste. Generally, 15% is all that is allowed for administrative costs in federal budgets. Given just the facts we have, we should be demanding MPS cut administrative staff by 4.9% and turn that money over to direct instruction for our kids.
And the MPS should provide a line-item budget to show the public where their tax dollars are being spent.

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