Don’t back pat. Listen.

The letter to the editor titled “Nice white parents” published on page A9 of the Sept. 3 issue is problematic for a number of reasons. First, the number of white people in a school isn’t really the best metric for determining what should happen with a school. Why do I say that? Because as a nice white parent actually listening to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in this city, I know this is what many say. More than having white families in their schools, they want relevant curriculum, more magnet/immersion programs in their neighborhoods and more social workers and counselors (we have far too few social-emotional support staff, and this is directly linked to graduation rates and college admission). If you want to learn more, attend listening sessions in North Minneapolis organized by Board of Education Director KerryJo Felder. Instead of deeply listening, one set of nice white parents has assumed they know best and want to pat themselves on the back for supporting the district’s Comprehensive District Design plan (CDD), which has the purported goal of integration but actually makes many schools much whiter, makes few actual integration gains and puts most of the burden to move on BIPOC students.

The CDD was pushed forward by nice white people (not even all of them Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) parents, some just well-intentioned white people with money), some who spent three years working behind the scenes to influence a plan that did not sufficiently incorporate input from classroom educators, the social-emotional staff or any significant number of the BIPOC families that will primarily affect their children. The irony is that in the name of disrupting institutional racism, MPS has adopted a plan that will severely destabilize many BIPOC families. A large number of children who will be displaced from their current schools are BIPOC students in North and South-Central Minneapolis, the areas of our city under most economic and social distress. Dual-immersion seats — the best chance Latinx students have of doing well in the school system and making it to graduation — are reduced by 400 seats in South Minneapolis and some students will be bused farther away to Northeast to continue their studies. There is talk of implementing ethnic studies but no plan to do so until 2025. The massive reconstruction efforts required to move thousands of kids and retrofit schools that will need to be ready in less than a year have not begun, and the funding numbers continue to fluctuate wildly.

Finally, the school board passed the CDD while families sheltered in place. Most impacted families did not even have the bandwidth to know about the proposed school boundary changes, much less the opportunity to respond to them or digest them. Moreover, the school board did this in knowing violation of district policy that requires an equity audit on all significant changes that impact BIPOC kids.

Minneapolis voters, you are being sold a plan that will move kids from South and North Minneapolis to Northeast schools, so schools there won’t have to close despite the fact that 60% of the parents in mostly white Northeast do not send their kids to public schools and also so that MPS can say it’s done something bold.

If you’re a nice white parent, please support Dr. Michael Dueñes, who is not a nice white parent at all but rather a third-generation Chicano scholar and an actual expert in racial disparities. Voting for him is one important way you can hold MPS and School Board President Kim Ellison responsible for their continued refusal to create the schools our BIPOC communities want for their kids.

Alicia Gibson

Lowry Hill East