Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pioneer Press: Parents footing bill for teachers

Tight budgets force fundraising for salaries
By Mila Koumpilova, Pioneer Press

David Evenocheck reads "Franklin and Harriet" by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark to his first grade class Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at Shannon Park Elementary School in Rosemount. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)
A larger-than-expected crop of third-graders showed up at Rosemount's Shannon Park Elementary last school year — and with it, the specter of 32-student classes.
So, Principal Michael Guthrie appealed to his school's site council, a parent group that raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for classroom technology and more. With $50,000 in site council money, he covered the salary and benefits of an extra third-grade teacher "in the 11th hour," bringing class sizes down to 25 students. 

"10 Things Charter Schools Won't Tell You" from Wall Street Journal's Smart Money

Sara Morgan
Dec 6, 2010

1. We're no better than public schools.

For all the hype about a few standout schools, charter schools in general aren’t producing better results than traditional public schools. A national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford found that while 17% of charter schools produced better results than neighborhood public schools, 37% were significantly worse, and the rest were no different. (Not that public schools are perfect, as many parents know. See our earlier story, “10 Things Your School District Won’t Tell You,” for more.)

A host of other studies on charter school outcomes have come up with sometimes contradictory results. As with traditional public schools, there are great charters – and some that aren’t so great. “There’s a lot of variation within charter schools,” points out Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University who studies issues related to school governance. “In fairness to organizations that are running high-performing schools, many of them are very frustrated with the range of quality, because they feel that it taints charter schools as a whole,” Bulkley says.

2. Our teachers aren’t certified.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, charter-school teachers are, on average, younger and less likely to hold state certification than teachers in traditional public schools. In a 2000 survey, 92% of public school teachers held state certification, compared to 79% of charter school teachers. A 2008 survey found that 32% of charter school teachers were under 30, compared to 17% of traditional public school teachers. Charter schools often recruit from organizations like Teach for America that provide non-traditional paths into the profession, and more-experienced teachers who already have jobs in traditional public schools may have little incentive to give up the protection of tenure.
Relying on relatively untrained, inexperienced staff may have a real impact in the classroom. “A lot of them don’t have classroom management skills,” says May Taliaferrow, a charter-school parent.

Learning from Finland by Pasi Sahlberg

Boston Globe, Dec. 27, 2010

IF AMERICANS harbored any doubts about their eroded global edge, the recent release of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s fourth international comparison of educational performance should rattle the nation from its “We’re No. 1’’ complacency. The latest Program for International Student Assessment study revealed that, although the United States made some modest gains, it is lagging behind many other developed nations in the ability of its 15-year-olds. The country isn’t flunking: like France, England, and Sweden, learning here has stagnated at below-average levels. That “gentleman’s C’’ should be a call to change course.

Take heart. Finland, one of the world’s top educational performers according to the last PISA study and a recent McKinsey report, was once in a similar slump and can offer lessons for the United States and others seeking a cure for poor public schools.
As recently as 25 years ago, Finnish students were below the international average in mathematics and science. There also were large learning differences between schools, with urban or affluent students typically outperforming their rural or low-income peers. Today, as the most recent PISA study proves, Finland is one of the few nations that have accomplished both a high quality of learning and equity in learning at the same time. The best school systems are the most equitable — students do well regardless of their socio-economic background. Finally, Finland should interest US educators because Finns have employed very distinct ideas and policies in reforming education, many the exact opposite of what’s being tried in the United States.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rob Panning-Miller: An Open Letter to the School Board - KEEP CITYVIEW OPEN!

I am writing because I know we are all working for students and trying to provide them with the best education we can.  I also think we share a passion for social justice and desire an equitable education for all of our students.  Our differences are with respect to the strategies that are needed to create the most socially just and equitable educational experience for all of our students.

Specifically, I’m writing to argue against the proposed closing of Cityview.  It seems very strange that I have heard so many on this Board and in this District’s administration rail against No Child Left Behind, and yet the proposal to close Cityview is driven by the same ideology of NCLB.

I’ve heard Director Williams, and others, speak to the centrality of relationships in the educational experience.  On this point, I could not agree more.  However, NCLB, and now Race to the Top, have created a slash and burn approach to education that work in direct opposition to the efforts of teachers and school staff to build the needed positive relationships with students.  The continued restructuring, forced relocation of students, and the closing of their schools don’t make students feel cared for, but rather neglected.  The most painful part is that it is the students who most need stability in their lives that experience the pain brought about by this Race to the Bottom.

Cityview students and parents are being told that their school is a “failure.”  This label is the result of standardized test scores, with no regard for other measures that demonstrate higher than expected student growth, such as the MAP, and there is absolutely no accounting for the qualitative results of the staff at Cityview that cannot be measured with a standardized test. 

This label also comes despite the fact that 4 out of 5 students at Cityview have been there less than two years.  Families in North Minneapolis have experienced more foreclosures than any other part of the city, and as a result many are highly mobile.  Study after study has demonstrated that the more a student changes schools, the less likely it is they will ever graduate from high school.  What then is the real effect of closing Cityview and sending the students to yet another school?

And where does the Superintendent propose these displaced students go?  Mainly to a charter school.  It’s easy enough to find examples of charter schools with impressive data supposedly demonstrating great successes.  Such examples require closer scrutiny.  Ultimately, comparing charters to true public schools is comparing apple to oranges, and the apparent successes come at a high price for other students.

The “successful” charter schools filter their students.  At South High, where I teach, we could also have “100%” graduation rates as some charter high schools claim to have.  We would simply need to implement their strategies that weed out students who are not on track to graduate.  The charter school strategies would not even involve changing our collective bargaining agreement (meaning we can do it with union teachers).  What we would sacrifice, however, is our commitment as public school teachers to educate ALL children regardless of who they are or the different needs they may have.  Charter schools are not held to this standard.

Identifying these “successful” charters as examples of “schools that work,” also neglects the fact that many more public schools “work.”  Studies demonstrate that only 17% of all charter schools do better than the average true public school.  This means there is an 83% chance that if Cityview is closed and replaced with a charter that the students will be no better off and quite possibly worse.  Certainly we can find better odds.

While I think these are all good reasons to reject the superintendent’s proposal to close Cityview, I need to end with what is actually most important. – the students, and their relationships with adults that will help them grow and get the best education possible.

Standardized test scores are a game for those working to dismantle public schools.  If the advocates of educational “reform” really cared for the well-being of all students, they would make real sacrifices themselves, rather than trying to sacrifice the very adults who are in the schools everyday doing what they can to help their students.

Closing Cityview is not a move that came at the request of the students, parents, or staff at the school.  This proposal comes from a detached perspective, following a failed ideology.  Two weeks ago, the School Board stood ready to hold a legally required public meeting and then immediately vote to close Cityview.  The Board was wise to delay the vote, when this abuse of the process was made publicly and abundantly clear.  However, sitting for two weeks only to return to the same conclusion will not absolve the District or this Board for committing the same injustice.

Please, vote to reject the Superintendent’s proposal and leave Cityview open.  Go to the school.  Talk to the students, parents, and staff, and ask what can be done to help them.  Then we can all work together to undo the damage of No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, and create a socially just, equitable, and democratic public school system that serves all children.

Robert Panning-Miller
Co-founder of Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Star Tribune article positively highlights role of PEJAM in campaign to defend North High and Cityview

A battle of beliefs in the schools

Things can get murky in the fight for public education when some very different groups share similar goals.
By Corey Mitchell, Star Tribune
December 1, 2010 

Amidst all the talk about public and charter schools in the education documentary "Waiting for Superman," ex-Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee made a statement that rings true for superintendents across the country."If you want to quickly become the most unpopular person in a city, tell them you want to close down a school," Rhee said.

Just a few months into her new job, Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson probably knows what Rhee meant. None of Johnson's decisions has drawn as much scrutiny as her recommendations to shut down two north Minneapolis schools.

Closing North High, a school that has existed in some form for more than a century, and Cityview, a building the district spent $19 million to open in 1999, is a surefire way to upset teachers, alumni and residents. But her plan to replace both with charter schools brought out an entirely different crowd as well.

In a struggle that has paired strange bedfellows, a former teacher's union president and a band of self-described socialists teamed with north Minneapolis residents to pull North High back from the brink after Johnson's recommendation to close it.

Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota -- PEJAM for short -- played a role in the school board's decision to keep the current North High open while residents and alumni attempt to recruit students for a new 500-student specialty school that could replace it.

PEJAM's vocal leaders, South High School teacher Robert Panning-Miller and community organizers Ty Moore and Teddy Shibabaw, made fiery speeches and hosted rallies in the ramp-up to the North decision. Some, including school board member Chris Stewart, questioned their motives: Moore and Shibabaw are organizers with the Minneapolis branch of Socialist Alternative.

"Public education is socialism by my definition," Panning-Miller said. The socialist ties are "not something that we're hiding from, but it's not something that we latch onto, either," he added.

Building a base

PEJAM's leaders hope to assume a similar role in Minneapolis as groups such as the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) in New York and the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) in Chicago.
The local leaders see themselves and their professed mission -- uniting educators, students and residents, and protecting teachers and schools in the process -- as more practical than radical. They oppose both closing schools and establishing charter schools.

Though charter schools are, by law, public schools funded by public dollars, PEJAM backers use the phrase "privatization of public education" to describe the expansion of charter schools. The Minneapolis School District "should fix public education instead of handing the responsibility to some other group," Shibabaw said.
"Public education is essential to a democratic society," Panning-Miller said.

Superintendent Johnson and Minneapolis school board members agree with that sentiment, but there's disagreement over tactics. Unlike PEJAM, Johnson wants to close schools where students struggle on state tests year after year. As part of the Minneapolis schools' five-year strategic plan, sponsoring charter schools is a tool at the district's disposal to boost achievement. That doesn't sit well with PEJAM and other supporters of traditional public schools.

PEJAM organizers say their involvement isn't much different than that of the frustrated parent who runs for school board. The North High campaign allowed PEJAM to capitalize on such frustration. Now its leaders have no plans to disappear. Organizers showed up last week, arguing against the closing of Cityview. Board members have postponed their decision on the school, located at 3350 N. Fourth St.

While PEJAM's effort has roots in north Minneapolis, it likely will spread. With the district's declining population, board members have said that Minneapolis may need only four or five traditional high schools; it now has seven.

Any move to shut another school will provide PEJAM with a chance to dust off its bullhorns and begin protests and e-mail blasts anew. The group also plans to address state-level issues with the Legislature. "We look forward to becoming a growing voice in the education debate," Moore said. "We don't see the decline of public education as inevitable."

Neither does Johnson. But now she has yet another factor, besides enrollment and academics, to consider when she recommends closing a school.

Friday, November 26, 2010

School Board delays vote to close Cityview: TIME TO MOBILIZE FOR OCT 7th BOARD MEETING

Last week, the fate of Cityview K-8 school was all doom and gloom. The Minneapolis Board of Education was supposed to vote Tuesday night on a recommendation to shutdown the school and turn it over to a privately managed charter operator. Instead they voted five to two to delay the vote till their December 7th meeting. This was clearly a temporary concession to the pressure felt by the Board from the throngs of Cityview staff, students, parents and community members who came to demand that the District keep the school open. It is now essential to use the days before December 7th to organize a massive community protest at that Board Meeting. We can see from the effort to save North High that the District only responds to mass protest and pressure.

check back here at for updates, more information and upcoming events.

Friday, November 19, 2010

URGENT ACTION: Another North Side School Closing!!! Rally to Save Cityview K-8 at the School Board Meeting Where the Vote is Scheduled!!!

URGENT ACTION: Another North Side School Closing?!?!
Rally to Save Cityview K-8
At the School Board Meeting Where the Vote is Scheduled!!!

Tuesday, Nov. 23
4:45pm – 6:00pm

Invite your Facebook Friends

The Minneapolis School District is set to vote on closing Cityview K-8, one of the last remaining North Minneapolis public schools, and plans to replace it with a privately managed charter school. But teachers, parents, students, and the community are fighting back! On Thursday Cityview teachers voted 46-1 to call this rally. They are mobilizing parents and the community to stand up against the continued privatization and dismantling of our public education system. 

Text from teacher’s leaflet

Closing Cityview and changing it into a charter school is not the answer our community needs to help all children be successful in school and in life!

Teachers, students, and families want a chance to be a part of solving the issues surrounding Cityview. They want to share its successes as well! Many believe a wrap around community school would be a great solution for Cityview. The School Board has not asked the families or teachers about solutions. We want a voice in the decision-making!

Join other families, community members and teachers on November 23rd at a rally to let the MPS School Board know their current plans to close Cityview are not acceptable.

The closing of schools on the North Side has to end! Our community needs strong public schools that are fully supported by our MPS administration – not schools that have been handed over to others.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

THIS SATURDAY: Save North High Coalition Community Organizing Meeting

Community Meeting to Discuss Our Next Steps

Saturday, November 20
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Zion Baptist Church

Last Tuesday the community campaign to stop the closure of North High School won a partial victory when the Minneapolis Board of Education voted 4 to 3 to keep North High open another year if the community could recruit 125 9th graders to the school by March. While this is a tall hurdle for our community campaign to overcome, the Board's decision provides a new window of opportunity to continue to organize to save our school! This victory shows that when we organize, we have real power.
This Saturday lets come together as parents, students, teachers, alumni, and concerned community members from across the Twin Cities to map out our next steps to keep this school open and revitalize public education on the North Side and beyond. We need all hands on deck and all voices at the table this Saturday to collectively create a student recruitment plan, a political strategy, and to take the lead in creating a community-led vision for revitalizing North High School.

Subscribe to listserv for announcements:
Committee for North High |
North High Alumni Association  |  612.715.2527
Friends of North Foundation  |
Public Education Justice Alliance of MN  |  952.465.5307
Updates @

Paul Thomas: The Corporate Takeover of American Schools

The Corporate Takeover of American Schools

The trend for appointing CEOs to the top jobs is symptomatic of a declining commitment to public education and social justice

by Paul Thomas

The top positions in state education across the US – for example, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, recent chancellors Joel Klein (New York) and Michelle Rhee (Washington, DC), and incoming Chancellor Cathleen P Black (New York) – reflect a trust in CEO-style leadership for education management and reform. Along with these new leaders in education, billionaire entrepreneurs have also assumed roles as education saviours: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Geoffrey Canada.

Gates, Canada, Duncan, Klein and Rhee have capitalised on their positions in education to rise to the status of celebrities, as well – praised in the misleading documentary feature Waiting for Superman, on Oprah, and even on Bill Maher's Real Time.

What do all these professional managers and entrepreneurs have in common?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

URGENT: Solidarity to Save North High - phone/email blast to Board of Ed and Superintendent TOMORROW & TUESDAY

URGENT SOLIDARITY - please copy, paste and forward below solidarity appeal far and wide

Please e-mail the members of the Minneapolis School Board and call the Superintendent this Monday and Tuesday (November 8 and 9), and demand they keep North High School open.

The Minneapolis School Board is voting this Tuesday, November 9th, on a proposal from the Superintendent to close North High School. This follows years of school board decisions that weakened North High, including closing local feeder schools and eliminating a “home zone” of students assigned to North. The Superintendent is proposing a plan that would prevent 9th graders from coming to North next fall, and promoting a privately-managed charter high school instead.

The north Minneapolis community and other supporters have come together to form the Save North High Coalition to demand that the Superintendents proposal be rejected and that North High stay open. Below is the resolution that the Coalition has created for the School Board to vote for instead of the Superintendent’s, and below that is the contact information for the School Board members and the Superintendent!

Whereas MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson has recommended that her administration work in partnership with school and community stakeholders to create a new North High School Program that would launch in the fall of 2012, and

Whereas the community has made clear its commitment to work with the District to rebuild and reinvest in North High School, and

Whereas changes in the Choice is Yours program will result in a renewed pool of potential 9th graders in Minneapolis in the Fall of 2011, and

Whereas, students, parents, teachers, and the community are central to building not just a program, but a culture of learning.

Therefore be it resolved, Minneapolis Public Schools will keep North High open and commit to rebuilding and reinvesting in the school and community, and

Be it further resolved, The MPS District will actively recruit and enroll 9th graders and other high school students for the fall of 2011 and beyond; create elementary and middle school pathways to North High; re-establish a North High home zone, and

Be it further resolved, the MPS District will work with students, parents, teachers, and the community to develop an aggressive, fully-funded plan to boost academic excellence and enrollment at North High School.

School Board members – e-mails:
T. Williams -
Tom Madden -
Chris Stewart -
Carla Bates -
Jill Davis -
Lydia Lee -
Peggy Flanagan -

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson
Phone: 612-668-0200

Please send them a message respectfully calling on them to support the resolution from the community and keep North High open! If you want to add more, here are some talking points.

Talking Points:
- We appreciate Superintendent Johnson’s commitment to working with the students, parents, teachers, and community to build a new program at North, but community and District efforts will only succeed if there is a new 9th grade class next fall.
- Rebuilding North High school with a student body in place has a great chance to succeed; preventing new students from coming to North for a year will effectively close the school.
- With changes in the Choice is Yours program coming this year, fall of 2011 will be a vital time to recruit new 9th graders. Otherwise, we will lose students to charter schools.
- 9th grade is when students connect to their school, the vast majority of students won’t want to switch to a new high school (no matter how great) if they have developed friends and connections in their ninth-grade school.
- Preventing 9th graders from enrolling at North will send a message to current students that their school is closed and they will transfer. Who wants to be the last kid in a school that seems to have been abandoned?

In Solidarity

TUESDAY: Rally to keep North High open at the School Board Meeting! Fight for a quality public education for ALL children!

Rally to Save North High
@ Board of Education Meeting
Tuesday, Nov. 9th
4:30pm: Rally Outside School District HQ
5:30pm: March into the Board Meeting
807 Broadway Ave NE, Mpls
Superintendent Johnson made an announcement Thursday that promised to put together a new program at North. However, no details were provided and no new 9th graders would be allowed to go to North in 2011.  There was nothing in the statement that would lead us to have any faith that things have changed. It's an attempt to confuse and disorient supporters of North High, hoping we would go away instead of continuing the fight.

Let us not be fooled!
The School Board will vote this Tuesday November 9th on the proposal to close North High. It's more important than ever to step up the mass community protest to demand:

·         Withdraw the proposal to close North High and commit to re-investment in the school. 
·        Allow 9th graders in 2011-2012, reestablish a home zone and build pathways (elementary and middle schools) to North High.
·         In partnership with parents, teachers, and students, develop an aggressive, fully-funded plan to boost academic excellence and enrollment at North High.
Subscribe to listserv for announcements:
Committee for North High |
North High Alumni Association  |  612.715.2527
Friends of North Foundation  |
Public Education Justice Alliance of MN  |  952.465.5307
Updates @

Thursday, November 4, 2010

MEL REEVES: Stand with North High students to save their school

An open letter to the community

As most folks know by now, there has been a recommendation to close Minneapolis North High School. However, 265 young people have taken a stand and have committed to fight to keep their school open, and a few hundred community folks and teachers have stood with them and, in some cases, stood in for them.

If these children have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for themselves, then who are the rest of us not to stand with them?

What’s important for the community to know is that North High has not closed, and despite rumors about what “they” are talking about doing, there has only been a recommendation. So, many of your fellow community members have rolled up their sleeves and begun to organize protests and other tactics and strategies to ensure the school stays open.

Some say we ought to just give up, and that the closing of North is a bygone fact. Pessimism and fatalism are perfectly understandable, considering the David and Goliath relationship we have with the “system,” with the community usually playing the role of David. We have a history of bad and sometimes racist policies shoved down our throats.

So it makes sense that some folks are apathetic. But Biblical scholars would tell you that the Davids win every once in a while, and they don’t win by not fighting!

In fact, it appears that it was the protest by more than a few hundred parents, students and community members that caused the board to take a more conciliatory approach and agree in principle to work with the community on a proposal that would enable North to stay open. For the record, the protesters did so in a very dignified and disciplined manner.

What may pass for undignified and even disingenuous conduct are Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s claims about why she suggested that North be closed.

While the superintendent said that North’s enrollment was too low to sustain it, it was the Minneapolis School Board that turned North into a relatively small 500-student school.

It was the school board that failed to promote North while taking away its more attractive programs. And there are persistent rumors that some parents were in fact discouraged from sending their kids to North.

The superintendent also failed to inform folks that North High, unlike the other schools, did not have a “home zone.” That means that even kids living across the street from North were not required to go there, but were assigned to Henry instead.

It’s also important to note that nearly half of the students at North are in the high-achieving International Baccalaureate Program. Despite rumors to the contrary, the vast majority of the 265 are not failing; only five to 10 percent of the students are struggling academically.

And while there has been much fanfare about bringing in the Noble Charter Schools, they are not even close to the panacea they promise to be.

According to a national study — the CREDO study conducted by Stanford University — only 17 percent of all charter schools actually exceed the performance of the public schools they replaced, and 37 percent performed worse than the public schools they replaced. The other 46 percent remained at the same level as the public schools.

Sports teams that find themselves behind late in the game spend little to no time looking back. Instead they focus on the task at hand — winning the game — which in our case is reaching the goal of keeping North High open. In the same sense, pointing fingers at parents, the community and the students at this point does no one any good. Either help us win or stay on the bench (preferably quietly).

Historically, finger-pointing and naysaying only encourages our enemies, as
evidenced by the Star Tribune’s article entitled “Loving North from afar.”

The story, written with the help of Strib hatchet man Steve Brandt, is a prevarication and a not-so-subtle slap in the face that somehow blames the Northside community for the failure of the Minneapolis School Board.

And make no mistake, it has always been protest in some form or other that has helped win struggles in the past. Those who are criticizing the protests only prove that they are poor students of history.

History indicates that all of the progress that has been made by Black folks in this country, as well as others, have indeed come ultimately through some form of protest. I am reminded of the words of Frederick Douglass, who said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

They have closed Lincoln, Willard, and too many other schools. Shouldn’t we say, “No more”? Join the young people who have said they want to be educated in this city, by this school board, at this high school. History should record that the Northside community stood with them.

Mel Reeves is a longtime political and community activist who lives in Minneapolis. He welcomes reader responses to

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reformers Win Round One in D.C. Teachers Election

By Howard Ryan, Labor Notes

Monday, November 1, 2010

NOV. 9TH @ 4:30PM Tell the Board of Ed: Don't Close Our Schools! Fix them! No to Privatization!

Rally to Save North High
@ Board of Education Meeting
Tuesday, Nov. 9th
4:30pm: Rally Outside School District HQ
5:30pm: March into the Board Meeting
807 Broadway Ave NE, Mpls
Despite widespread community protests, the School Board will vote November 9th on the proposal to close North High. Now is the time to step up the community pressure to demand:

·         Withdraw the proposal to close North High and commit to re-investment in the school. 
·         Reverse the decision to open two “Minneapolis College Prep” charter high schools.
·         Re-establish a “home zone” for North High to boost enrollment. 
·         In partnership with parents, teachers, and students, develop an aggressive, fully-funded plan to boost enrollment at North High.
·         Support the efforts of North teachers, parents, and students to address academic and enrollment concerns by re-organizing North as a democratically managed community  school.
Subscribe to listserv for announcements:
Committee for North High |
North High Alumni Association  |  612.715.2527
Friends of North Foundation  |
Public Education Justice Alliance of MN  |  952.465.5307
Updates @

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Robert Panning-Miller: Rebuild (don't destroy) our public schools

Star Tribune, October 31, 2010

Recent actions of the North High community could be a model for the Minneapolis School District and school districts across this country. Instead of parents, teachers, students and community members pointing fingers at one another for what has happened, a coalition of stakeholders has recognized that only by working together can they save their school.

For years, Minneapolis School District leaders have succeeded in pushing their agenda, an agenda that has put north Minneapolis on the verge of being a community without a system of true public schools. The district's success has not come by bringing people together, but rather the opposite. Following the philosophy of the "No Child Left Behind" and the "Race to the Top" corporate leadership, the Minneapolis School District has driven wedges between various groups in the city's educational community.

The school "reform" movement that has gained strength in the past decade -- and is epitomized in the movie "Waiting for 'Superman'" -- is really about the privatization of public schools. The push for charter schools is not designed to reform public schools but to replace them. Parents are encouraged to "shop around" for the best school for their children rather than to work to make their public school a place that would best serve students and the community as a whole.

The ideology behind this "Race to the Top" movement holds that competition will improve public education. But competition always produces winners and losers. The results in north Minneapolis and in urban centers around the country make clear that the losers are the very-low-income and minority students that reformers claim to be concerned about.

Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson has said that the Minneapolis public schools cannot provide an equitable education to the students of north Minneapolis, and implied that they would be better served by the district-sponsored, privately managed Noble Charter schools out of Chicago.

Providing an equitable education to all students is the responsibility of public education. Charter schools have never been shown to achieve this. To pass off responsibility is not a bold, creative step but a concession to those who want to privatize our system of public schools.

The Save North High Coalition has argued that "the district still has the responsibility to taxpayers and to Minneapolis to educate resident children. If the District can once again abandon children living in [zip code] 55411 to charters, suburban schools, and other non-neighborhood schools, then public education is for some and not others. It will be separate and unequal."

The Save North High Coalition will not accept a separate and unequal system of public education and has presented to the Minneapolis school board not only a demand to keep North High open but a commitment to work with the district to rebuild North. The hope for public education will never be found in its dismantling, but in a grass-roots effort to reinvest and rebuild it.

Public schools need to be fully funded, socially just, equitable and democratic. If North is closed and this current path continues, what school will be next? Edison? Roosevelt? Washburn?

The Minneapolis school board has said that mistakes were made. I have worked with teachers, parents, students and community members of north Minneapolis who have simply said to the board, "Let us help you." Rather than perpetuating divisions and abandoning an entire community, the Minneapolis school board must keep North High open and work to rebuild it. The community stands ready to help.

Robert Panning-Miller is a South High teacher, a member of the Save North High Coalition and an executive board member of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Local 59.