Home » Front » State’s integration programs face uncertain future

 

 

Task force reports to legislature Feb. 15

 

By Alleen Brown

Contributing Writer

 

In a few short weeks, the Integration Revenue Task Force will submit recommendations to the Minnesota State Legislature on how the state should redistribute $110 million of integration revenue. As the recommendation deadline nears, a broad range of programs face uncertain futures.

The programs that could see funding cuts include magnet school transportation, college preparatory programs, teacher cultural competence trainings, a network for teachers of color, curriculum development, all-day kindergarten and multi-district collaborations. Many of the stakeholders have testified before the task force.

“We have to plan for a worst-case scenario. How can many of those things be sustained without integration dollars?” said North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district educational equity coordinator Tom Howley.

Very little is certain. According to task force co-chair Scott Thomas, proposals for the funding have ranged from literacy-specific programs to reward systems for school achievement growth. Some ideas would have districts move away from magnet programs, while others would keep many of the current programs in place.

The funding narrowly missed being chopped during last summer’s budget negotiations. Instead, the task force will submit a report to legislators on February 15, recommending how the funding should be reallocated.

Legislators are not required to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Since 1997, state statute has required that integration revenue be used for programs that increased students’ interracial contacts. The funding helps districts comply with a state rule that requires racially isolated districts with a proportion of non-White students 20 percent greater than neighboring districts to develop an integration plan.

Critics say that segregation has increased since the funding started. In 2005, an audit found that the goal of integration was being pursued in strange ways — one district was found to be using the funding to buy U.S. history books.

The audit said the funding formula actually discourages desegregation by taking away funding as schools become more integrated, and more money is often allocated to districts with less need. The audit recommended that the state clarify the purpose of the funding and provide greater oversight.

This summer’s legislation leaves out integration altogether. It says revenues must be evaluated and repurposed to pursue specific achievement goals aimed at closing the achievement gap.

“There are people on the task force who believe that integration is important and adds value,” Thomas said, including himself. There are also people who don’t see the value, like conservative columnist and task force member Katherine Kersten.

“Personally,” said Thomas, who is also educational equity coordinator for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, “I believe that as we repurpose the revenue, it may be inclusive of integration efforts such as magnet schools, family liaisons and a whole host of things districts are doing that we know work.”

Many different programs currently depend on integration funding. A few examples are magnet schools, all-day kindergarten, multi-district collaborations, the “absent narratives” curriculum, AVID and Young Scholars, Check and Connect, and support for teachers of color.

 

Magnet schools 

Magnet schools use programming based around themes like science and technology, performing arts, or environmental science to attract students from different parts of a district or outside a district. Part of their impetus is to create a racially or economically integrated learning environment.

Some districts use integration revenue for magnet school busing. St. Paul, for example, allocated more than $12 million of its $19 million for in-district transportation this year, though the district will likely use the funding differently as it moves towards more neighborhood schools.

Minneapolis also uses the majority of its funding for magnet school transportation. Multi-district magnet schools, such as the FAIR schools, Crossroads and Harambee, have access to a separate pool of transportation funding and typically do not rely on integration revenue for busing.

Some districts also use integration revenue for magnet school programming. For example, in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, integration funding is used to pay for Mandarin and Spanish teachers at the district’s international magnet school. Thomas said the specialists contribute to integration by attracting a diverse group of students.

 

All-day kindergarten

In Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, the funding pays for scholarships for low-income students to attend all-day kindergarten, which is currently a tuition-based program. St. Paul, Minneapolis, and other districts also use the funding for all-day kindergarten.

 

Multi-district collaborations

If a district is identified as “racially isolated” that district and adjacent districts use funding for inter-district collaboration. Each collaboration works differently.

The East Metro Integration and West Metro Integration Districts each operate magnet schools and provide programs and training to their 10- and 11-member districts, respectively. The Northwest Suburban Integration District does not operate a school but coordinates magnet school busing and other inter-district programs among eight member districts.

Mahtomedi and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale districts have a smaller partnership. Together, they run professional development and inter-district after-school programs that bring North St. Paul’s students of color together with Mahtomedi’s whiter student population.

 

Absent narratives

The Northwest Suburban Integration District partnered with the Minnesota Humanities Center to develop a curriculum resource for teachers interested in including perspectives from African American, Somali, Hmong, Dakota, and other traditionally left-out communities in history and social studies lessons.

 

AVID and Young Scholars 

A number of districts host these programs. Advancement Via Individual Determination pushes middle-achieving “B” or “C” students from diverse backgrounds towards college readiness. Young Scholars encourages low-income and minority students to participate in advanced placement and gifted and talented programs.

Check and Connect

In Minneapolis, students at risk of dropping out are paired with a mentor who gets to know the families, checks on students’ academic progress regularly, and follows mentees as they transfer schools.

 

Support for teachers of color

The East Metro Integration District funds a support network meant to combat the isolation that can come with being one of few teachers of color in a school. North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale recently used integration funding to hire a human resources employee who will help recruit teachers of color.

Most districts also use some funding for cultural competence training for teachers and outreach to parents.

Minneapolis Equity and Diversity Director James Burroughs said his office has attended all the task force meetings, and although he’s heard lots of testimony from districts and program directors, he hasn’t heard much from community members.

 

Citizens can submit written testimony to the task force by email: in [email protected] The sooner testimony is submitted, the more seriously it will be considered. District officials also recommended contacting legislators as well as school district equity staff with input about what kinds of programs are important to you.

Thanks to Alleen Brown and the TC Daily Planet for sharing this story with us.

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