For over a decade, school boards across the country have been closing public schools and replacing them with privately managed charter schools. Minneapolis has closed 20 public schools between 2005 and 2011, and the district now sponsors four charter schools (each with private, unaccountable boards), There is also a plan to sponsor at least 4 more charters.
North High School in Minneapolis was to be closed in 2010 and replaced with a new District sponsored charter school. While parents, teachers, and the community were able to stop the closure of North High, the District still sponsored the charter high school that opened in 2012 less than a mile from North High.
Another Minneapolis school, Cityview Elementary, was closed by the board just months after their failed attempt to close North High. Cityview was replaced with another District sponsored charter school called the Minnesota School of Science. This is the same charter school that told the district this past summer it would not help to mainstream special education students, because it would lower their test scores.
After losing students for a decade, Minneapolis started to experience an increase in school age children in the fall of 2011. Even before this, the District's efforts to "right size" its schools had led to overcrowding and increased class sizes. Normally, this would be good news for a school district and all efforts would be made to accommodate the growing student population. Although two school buildings have reopened, the Minneapolis School Board sees this as an opportunity to open even more charter schools.
During the last Minneapolis School Board meeting on March 12th, the board voted to sell a school building to a to the Charter Schools Development Corporation on behalf of the Hiawatha Leadership Academy charter schools. So rather than re-opening the building to address overcrowding and create space for new students, the board has abandoned its responsibilities to Minneapolis students.
By sponsoring more charter schools, the school district seems to think they will not have to go through the ugly process of telling parents and students they are closing their schools. They will just allow charter schools to absorb the growing student population. They are all but telling students, especially minority and low income students, to try their luck with a charter school.
This is part of a Minneapolis District - Charter Collaborative Compact signed in 2010. It also follows the plan set forth in 2008 by National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to replace urban school districts with a collection of charter schools as they are doing in New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, and other cities.
The District - Charter Compacts being promoted by the Gates Foundation are sold as a win-win-win for charter schools, public schools, and students. In fact only charter school operators are winning. The drive to privatize is destroying public schools, and our students are paying the price.