Our friends at Better Ed came up with this interesting chart:
In short, the St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS, District 625) perform a bit better than the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS, District 1) for a lot less money. The usual excuses about demographics if anything make the MPS look even worse, but call them about even for what follows. What is inexcusable is the human tragedy playing out in Minneapolis, arguably the worst public school district in Minnesota. Results are appalling in St. Paul, but they are less appalling, enough of a difference to demand bold action.
The best action would be to give the parents, say, $ 13,000 a year per student, the state average and shut down the MPS. That's not likely anytime soon in a state flooded with Low Information Voters, the kind who think U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are doing a great job. Indeed, that's the problem; those in charge are invested in keeping their voters uninformed. So maybe we take a page from President Obama's playbook and try a more thuggish approach. Call it the St. Paul way.
Whatever the SPPS are doing could be done in Minneapolis. Let's start with Edison High School that serves northeast Minneapolis, including its ancillary elementary and middle schools. Fire everyone. Every teacher, principal, cook, bus driver, janitor, librarian, and any MPS administrators who spend significant time there. Change the district boundaries, transferring this territory from MPS to SPPS.
Now, bring in new principals drawn from the SPPS ranks. Let them hire fresh troops, who likely and should include the best and most promising from MPS. And make them follow the SPPS rules, saving the taxpayers many millions of dollars and giving the students a better shot at life. Add another high school each succeeding year. Any MPS staff going on strike during the transition gets fired immediately and never hired by the expanded SPPS.
I'm engaging in a bit of fantasy here of course. But it's not unthinkable that northeast Minneapolis parents could demand new boundaries, joining either St. Paul or Columbia Heights to the north. Or maybe Minneapolis Roosevelt area residents will compare notes with their Highland neighbors across the river. Washburn and Richfield? We've already seen unhappy Edina parents trying to improve their situation by switching districts. We've seen many cases of unpopular internal district realignments that never would have passed a referendum vote if required, their board members safely re-elected by the teachers unions. The victories are few, like the recent ouster of the Eden Prairie Superintendent, but enough to hope for more.
So let me engage in a little more fantasy, that the Republicans take total control in 2014. And they pass a law expanding the Open Enrollment concept to include an Initiative and Referendum style mechanism where dissatisfied "stakeholders" can petition for a change of boundaries, possibly outright secession into a new district, or possibly require total organizational replacement in the same boundary. I would prefer and expect actual school choice be passed, but judging by the 2011-2012 GOP Legislature, that's too much fantasy, even for me.