NAACP tells parents to abandon Minneapolis schools

Angry over district a plan to close North High School, Minneapolis NAACP president Booker Hodges has called on city parents to abandon their public school system.

But in North Minneapolis, the kids have already left: North has been targeted for closure in part because there aren't enough students to warrant keeping it open.

And the iirony is that, without realizing it, the NAACP likely played a role in bringing about the drop in numbers in the first place. It sued the state a decade so that Minneapolis parents could send their kids to neighboring districts.

That's what has happened. North Side kids leave every day for suburban and charter schools. Elementary and middle schools have closed, and the trend has now trickled up to North High School, where the total enrollment has dropped to just over 260 students. (More on that here.)

In the statement he issued yesterday, Hodges acknowledged the predicament, but said kids fleeing schools are the fault of the district. Parents, he said, should "seriously consider other options for educating their children."

"When the Minneapolis Branch of NAACP won the Choice is Yours lawsuit, the hope was the Minneapolis School Board would do everything in their power to win back the trust of Minneapolis parents. Unfortunately that has not been the case. Over the past several years, the decrease in enrollment, the continued low test scores and the numerous school closings are another indication of a failing educational system in Minneapolis."

The school board knew the move to close North would set off a firestorm. Its members are already familiar with packed auditoriums of angry parents since pushing through a city-wide reorganization plan last year that closed some schools and reorganized others.

And it's not as if the entire school system is a failure. Washburn High School's enrollment has climbed steadily the past few years as the school has turned itself around. And Southwest High School was named the best in Minnesota by Newsweek in June.

And Johnson, who grew up in segregated Alabama, told the Star Tribune she doesn't appreciate being slagged for not caring about the education of the north side's mostly black youth.

"We have the responsibility of providing a high quality education to our students regardless of where they live. ... All of our students deserve educational opportunities that will prepare them to be global citizens. I am committed to providing them with those opportunities."

Johnson and the school board expect to get another earful from North Side residents in a public meeting about the closure Monday night at the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach Center on Plymouth Avenue.

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