Alternatives to traditional public schools — namely open enrollment and charter programs — have taken hold in Minnesota in a big way. They’re so popular that nearly 1 in 6 of the state’s 850,000-plus school-age children opt out of their neighborhood schools.
According to a recent Star Tribune series and data analysis called “Students in Flight,” 132,000 Minnesota kids left their home school or district last year to attend either a charter or a different school program. The exodus occurred, for the most part, because parents and students were not getting what they wanted from their attendance-area public schools, and charters and open enrollment gave them the opportunity to go elsewhere.
Those choices also create challenges for the schools and districts left behind.
State education funding follows individual students, so there are financial winners and losers. Districts such as St. Paul and Minneapolis that have lost thousands of kids to charters, for example, are both dealing with multimillion-dollar deficits, in part due to declining enrollment. As the Star Tribune analysis shows, open enrollment and charters have proved especially popular with students of color. While white students represent 60 percent of all students who use open enrollment, a higher share of nonwhite students make the choice to leave.
Locally, Madison continues its none diverse K-12 world.
We have long spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. Yet, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.