Knowing how urgent it is to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color in Minneapolis Public Schools, I was very pleased last week when teachers, in collaboration with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers union and Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, voted overwhelmingly to accept $9.2 million in State aid. This much-needed aid will create more opportunities for teachers to collaborate with each other in order to come up with creative, data-driven solutions for ending the achievement gap. It was a great step forward for our children.
All of us — parents, teachers, community members, the School Board, Superintendent Johnson and I —agree that we must improve our public schools and make sure that every child succeeds in Minneapolis. But with as polarized as the national debate on this topic can be, it can be hard to tune it out and focus on Minneapolis solutions to the problems that Minneapolis children face. So I congratulate Minneapolis teachers for doing just that with their constructive, collaborative vote last week.
That great step forward was why I was all the more disheartened to learn that the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has asked the State of Minnesota to shut out the public from the current contract negotiations between the school district and the union. I agree with Superintendent Johnson that this request comes far too soon, before discussion of the most critical issues — putting the best teachers in front of the children who need them most, making sure our children spend more time in school, rewarding great teaching and diversifying the teacher corps, among others — has even begun.
None of us can do well when so many of our children are not succeeding in school, and especially children of color. To end the achievement gap and make sure that all of them — and all of us — do well, we need the best, most creative minds and every innovative solution at the table. But we can’t have that if parents, community members and rank-and-file teachers are shut out of negotiations.
Every one of us has a critical stake in improving Minneapolis Public Schools: the future of our city, our economy and our entire region depends on it. We need more transparency and collaboration, not less.