Why Voting Yes on the Minneapolis Referendum Is an Equity Issue

On Wednesday October 26th, NOC, ISAIAH, and Minneapolis Rising hosted a citywide candidate forum for Minneapolis Public Schools board. From the moment we came together as community organizations, we prioritized issues of racial justice in our schools as the main focus of the forum. Candidates’ responses to the questions differed, but they all agreed we need to vote yes on the Minneapolis Public Schools referendum on this year’s ballot.

With all the negative rhetoric being spewed in this country during this election season, it is even more urgent to bring more people into the conversation about how we have been failing students of color and Indigenous students not just in Minneapolis, but across the country. We need more people radically imagining solutions.

I must admit--I am worried.

If there is anything I have learned as an organizer, it is that we must put our money where our mouth is if we want to see public education turn around. We must invest in our schools and communities. We must become stronger advocates for our students and families. We must continue to elevate their needs both inside and outside the classroom.

That is why it is so important for every Minneapolis voter to vote YES to the Minneapolis Public Schools referendum renewal.

Pastor Paul T. Slack of New Creation Church & President of ISAIAH address candidates & attendees about voting Yes to the referendum [October 26, 2016]

We live in an age where increasingly more public schools, especially in communities that are suffering from poverty, are scraping for more resources. Resources don’t just mean newer edition textbooks or the latest version of iPads; resources mean ensuring there are enough qualified, passionate staff members that can serve our students effectively.

This referendum currently funds 13% of the district’s budget, which amounts to $74 million just this year. That’s $74 million worth of classroom teachers (591), academic and behavioral specialists (82), and English language learners staff (81).

With a renewal, we are essentially asking voters to maintain the budget and positions we currently possess. If we vote “No,” hundreds of positions may be subject to termination. Considering the fact that most of the district’s “younger” staff (by number of years working in the district) work in some of the same schools scraping for resources, this will only exacerbate the issue, and ultimately students lose.

I have heard many opinions on the referendum, especially that there needs to be better ways to fund significant portions of our district budget than through referendum. I completely understand this, and I am fully open to that conversation. But not at the expense of students & their success.

Between now and November 8th, we need to talk to our families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to make sure they do not skip the ballot question, and that they vote YES to the referendum. Let’s do our part to ensure Minneapolis students can continue to thrive.

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