Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Charter School Rejects Special Ed. Students

PEJAM was part of the effort in Minneapolis to save North High, but we were also part of the unsuccessful effort to save Cityview Elementary from being closed and turned into a charter.  Cityview did not have the same deep roots as North High and the parents, students, and teachers who did step forward were easily ignored.  Now look at what has happened to some of our most vulnerable students.

The online paper, Twin Cities Daily Planet, reports the charter school, Minnesota School of Science (MSS), that took over the Cityview site and was authorized by the Minneapolis School Board has now said it will not serve children with disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and autism.  The intense needs of special education students contributed to the “poor performance” of Cityview, which enable the Minneapolis School Board to justify its closing of this school. 

Now the unelected board of the MSS Charter School has voted to walk away from some of our neediest students because they get in the way of the charter school's goals on standardized tests.

Minneapolis School Board member, Carla Bates, acknowledges mistakes, but falls short of admitting that her, and the Board's, support of charter schools is part of the problem.  If it is simply a failure of the MSS charter school, the Minneapolis School Board can talk to Eric Mahmoud of Harvest Prep Academy (another charter).  The school district recently authorized him to open a District sponsored charter school next year and possibly five more, in total.  Rather than scattering the Special Education students across north and northeast Minneapolis, lets put them in Harvest Prep Academy, and have them participate in mainstream classes there.  Our School Board seems to believe that if anyone can succeed with our neediest students it is Mr. Mahmoud and his Harvest Prep Academy.

Of course, in reality, the Minneapolis School Board should immediately cancel its lease with the MSS Charter School and its authorization.  

This is just the latest evidence that charter schools do not serve all students.  We need to have true public schools that meet the needs of ALL of our students, and our elected school board members need to accept that responsibility.  Charter schools are not part of a universal, democratic, and socially just system of public education.

Rob Panning-Miller