vendredi, septembre 29, 2006

Please Support the 2006 Referendum for Continued Excellence in Schools; a Request in Three Chapters

Chapter One In Which our Heroes Outline Strategies around Pedagogy

This year, we devoted a lot of time and energy to shopping for schools.

We narrowed our list down to three public schools and two private schools.

We visited them all and kept separate mental lists of their strengths and weaknesses.

Mrs. Duf’s first choice was a public magnet school. We did not get in.

Her second choice (my first choice) is the public school that TinyE attends now.

My second choice was a private school – we didn’t even apply.

We chose the school we did, in part, because it offered many of the things we want in a school:

Music, incl. Band and Orchestra
Compuer lab
Physical Education
Field Trips
Resident Artist Program
Foreign Language

Chapter Two Some Frightening Realities become Apparent

The school year begins, and Mrs. Duf and I attend our first PTA meeting.

At the meeting we learn a few things.

First, the school has a library but no librarian.
Second, men don’t attend PTA meetings.
Third, a lot of the offerings that supported our decision to send TinyE to that school were funded by private dollars.
Fourth, band and orchestra cost money.

I felt sick*.

Here’s why. At the time we were making decisions about the school our daughter would attend, resting behind our decision was not the shrewd use of dollars uniformly given to every school by municipal governments. It was the same class-based stuff that is behind everything.

Her school happens to be in a progressive middle to upper-middle class neighborhood in St. Paul. The music program, the librarian (that we’ll no doubt hire), the foreign language, the Resident Artist program – it’s all funded by a combination of fundraisers and donations – emphasis on the donations.

Which means, to me, that a lot of schools that struggle do so because they don’t have the parental support that our school does. And our school has the parental suppor that it does because of where it is located. Schools in less fortunate neighborhoods can't count on the same level of support. And I kind of feel like we could/should be parents supporting one of those struggling schools. Choosing the school we did is, in effect, exactly the same as choosing a private school.

Chapter Three Denouement

In November, there is a ballot measure to increase property tax revenue generated for the Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS). ILIM learned recently that St. Paul desperately needs this referendum.

Some statistics:

SPPS ranks 27th among metro area schools districts in per pupil dollars generated by referendum.

SPPS is the second largest public school district in the state.

SPPS current receives $331 per pupil per year for education.

Kindergarteners count ½; so for each Kindergartener, rounding up, the school receives $166.

No, I’m not kidding.

Here’s how SPPS compares to the eight largest Twin Cities metro school districts:

Anoka Hennepin - $696
Minneapolis - $504
North St. Paul/Maplewood - $833
Osseo - $842
Robbinsdale - $848
Rosemount/Apple Valley - $1,042
SPPS - $331
South Washington County - $929

If the referendum passes, SPPS will receive $593 per pupil per year.

If it doesn’t pass, private dollars will find a way. And schools without access to those dollars, well…


I support the referendum. If I have any concerns about it at all, it that it asks for too little. $331 per pupil per year is a joke. It's a joke on its face, and comparatively it's hysterical. But $593 is subsistence. It is not excellence.

How much are we spending on the Iraq war again? What was that no child left behind deal again?

I hope everyone on St. Paul will vote for the referendum.

*And I have the whole middle-class guilt and educated African-American guilt thing working on me overtime. I’m impressed by friends and colleagues who don't mix politics and philosophy with education decisions. For me, where I live and what it means to be a part of a community is a component of how and whether I embrace the services offered by my community. I simultaneously admire and disagree with those who make education decisions divorced from obligations to place – be they real or imagined.