February 12, 2004

A Penny Saved, A Spin Earned

So let's talk about the school closings in Minneapolis.

Enrollment is dropping in Minneapolis - dropping drastically. The
Pioneer Press notes that:

"Saying that another round of budget reductions this spring simply wouldn't get to the core of the district's problems, Interim Superintendent David Jennings released the plan that aims to respond to a steep enrollment decline and financial pressures. The district is currently set up to handle 50,000 students, Jennings said. But with a projected 3,000-student drop next year, the district will be down to 38,000 students in the fall."
The PiPress story also notes that:
mark the largest set of school closings in Minneapolis since the early 1980s when the district shuttered 18 schools at once as baby boomers left the system. This time, the district is seeing more Minneapolis families choose to enroll their children outside the district or send them to charter schools.
Of course, if the baby boomers were leaving the system 20 years ago, it makes sense that their children would be beginning to leave now, right?

But that would be a lost opportunity for spin. More on that in a bit.

Check out the list of schools to be closed or merged. Notice the number of schools whose leases are up, and the number of small schools being merged into other schools.

Also notice the number of closing or merged schools in areas where real estate values are booming - downtown, around Northeast, along the Hiawatha Corridor, in the gentrifying parts of the North Side. This is prime real estate that's earning the city, and the school district, nothing right now.

So here's what you have:

  1. Minneapolis has 12,000 seats more than it needs. It has to consolidate.
  2. All of that prime underutilized real estate is a potential cash cow for the district.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, publicising the pain of the school closings as a response to state budget cuts is a great way for the DFL-controlled Minneapolis school board to shift the blame to the Republican-dominated legislature (with the full connivance of professional guilt-mongers like Nick Coleman),even as the closings perfectly fit their need to consolidate.
  4. It's a political attack on both the charter school systems - which are becoming vastly more popular as the MPS's academic record atrophies - and "white flight". Don't underestimate the connection the DFL will make using these two issues during the upcoming legislative session.
As Drudge says, "developing".

Posted by Mitch at February 12, 2004 07:58 AM