Stop the Minnsanity!

The next stop on TFA’s “listening tour” should be CEO Matt Kramer’s hometown: Minneapolis

Minnsanity combines cronyism and contempt for democracy served up with a cherry of condescension.

If there is a single city in the US that perfectly exemplifies the insanity of the corporate education “reform” movement it has to be Minneapolis. The particular brand of reform here—let’s call it Minnsanity— combines cronyism and contempt for democracy in a neat, corporate-funded package topped with a cherry of condescension. But why take my word for it (or the word of the Minneapolis parents and teachers who seem to contact me daily asking what the @#$% is going on in their city)? Let’s climb aboard the education rephorm express and head to Minneapolis, whose name I have just learned was coined by the city’s first schoolteacher, who combined mni, a Dakota Sioux word for water, and polis, the Greek word for city.

The first stop on today’s Minnsanity tour is the Minneapolis board of education, a topic of near EduShyster obsession due to the recent purchase of a school board seat by Teach for America, whose co-CEO happens to reside in the city. So what do board meetings look like when everyone agrees that the achievement gap is the civil right$ issue of our time? At one recent meeting:

  • Eli Kramer (brother of TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer) urged the board to sell a shuttered public school to Hiawatha Academy, the outstanding and innovative charter that he runs.
  • Hiawatha Academy’s expansion is backed by Charter School Partners, which employs TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s wife.
  • The TFA-backed school board member who moved to Minneapolis to run for office had to recuse himself from the vote because his girlfriend will be the principal of the new Hiawatha facility.
  • A second board member also recused himself from the vote because he formerly chaired the board of Hiawatha Academy.
  • The board voted to sell the shuttered public school to Hiawatha Academy. According to the MinnPost, the newspaper owned by TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s father, the sale heralds a new era of collaboration. I’ll say.

Now playing at a theater near you: the achievement gap
If you’re still craving more excellence, we can stop by a local movie theater where trailers about, what else?, the achievement gap and “proven strategies” to close it are now airing thanks to the generous support of the Minneapolis Foundation and a dozen community “partners” incuding TFA.  According to the newspaper owned by TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s father, the RESET campaign, which will include broadcast and print ads, is excellent:

The idea is to sound an alarm about the size of the problem and then to give parents, taxpayers and others enough information about things that work to allow them to evaluate the policy debate for themselves.

The campaign materials are filled with reform-related facts, like the fact that teacher expectations account for 42% of the difference in achievement between white and African-American students. TFA-alum and blogger Gary Rubinstein takes a look at these and other “facts” here, concluding that the entire RESET project is reformy propaganda.

The definition of Minnsanity
At the heart of Minnsanity is the true fact that charter schools are excellent and that their expansion is urgently necessary in order to close the achievement gap and instill low-income minority kids with the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century workplace. Except that there is an inconvenient actual fact that you will never hear a Minneapolis reformer mention. Minneapolis is already home to 40 charter schools. They perform worse than the public schools and are highly segregated by race and income. That is why Charter School Partners, the organization that employs TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s wife, has launched an ambitious plan to open 20 new charter schools in Minneapolis.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Implementing the same corporate reform strategies over and over but expecting different outcomes deserves its own name: Minnsanity.

Note: teachers and parents in Minneapolis have set up a new Minsannity website to document what is happening to their public schools. Please visit and show your support. They need it.

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16 Comments

  1. I think I may be able to one up you:
    From a Bradenton.com piece by Kathleen McGrory:

    A growing number of lawmakers have personal ties to charter schools. Sen. John Legg, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, is co-founder and business administrator of Dayspring Academy in Port Richey. Anne Corcoran, wife of future House Speaker Richard Corcoran, plans to open a classics-themed charter school in Pasco County. House Budget Chairman Seth McKeel is on the board of the McKeel Academy Schools in Polk County. In addition, the brother-in-law of House Education Appropriations Chairman Erik Fresen runs the state’s largest charter management firm, Academica Corp. and Sen. Anitere Flores, also of Miami, is the president of an Academica-managed charter college in Doral.

    W,wh, wha, what?!? How are these people who would obviously benefit financially from charter school legislation allowed to participate in charter school legislation? These people aren’t just supporters of charter schools; these are people (or family members) who stand to make a lot of money off charter schools.

    Friends you have to ask yourself, especially with all the charter school scandals and closures what is the real reason we have had a proliferation of charter schools. The answer is easy, follow the money.

    Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/03/18/4441277/advocates-for-floridas-charter.html#storylink=cpy

  2. Sick and twisted, these people are. Buying up public services and taking advantage of uninformed people. Subterfuge.

  3. Mpls Foundation behind RESET campaign. CEO of foundation sits on the board of MinnCAN. What a coincidence.

    1. If I’m not mistaken, reforming the Minneapolis schools has replaced ice fishing as the local past-time! Btw: of all of the corporate-funded reform groups the CANs are among the most ridiculous. I think the great Bruce Baker, Rutgers professor and author of the School Finance 101 blog, put it best: ‘where’ there’s a reformy con, there’s a CAN’

  4. Even if your stock in trade in opinions, it helps to get your facts straight. There is no Minneapolis school board member who sits on the Hiawatha charter board. One recused himself because he formerly did, serving first as chair of that board and later as the current Minneapolis board. Readers of Startribune.com are familiar with the board’s recusals on this issue:
    http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/190022681.html
    http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/192040531.html

    Meanwhile, Mary Jane is half right in her surmising on the Kramer residencies. Matt Kramer lives a block outside of Minneapolis. Eli Kramer lives in Minneapolis.

    Steve Brandt/Star Tribune

    1. Thanks for clarifying. I find the web of interrelations in Minneapolis edu-politics so cartoonishly complex that I appear to have missed that key detail about board Chair Alberto Monserrate’s having been the FORMER chair of the board of Hiawatha Leadership Academies. I will insert that clarification post hast. btw: I often link to Star Tribune stories and blogs just so that readers who are not in Minneapolis can see that I am not making this stuff up. I couldn’t – it’s too ridiculous!

    2. Monserrate’s information is here: http://www.albertomonserrate.org/. His media connections seem similar to that of the Kramers, “As the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the Latino Communications Network (LCN) since 2000, Monserrate is recognized as the leading authority on Latino media in Minnesota. Alberto is recognized locally as an authority on marketing to the Latino community, and he is frequently quoted in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio and Minnesota Business publications. LCN is the parent company of the weekly Spanish newspaper La Prensa de Minnesota, the Spanish alternative weekly Vida y Sabor, 24-hour Spanish radio stations 1400 and 1470 AM La Invasora and an events group division. ” source: http://www.albertomonserrate.org/meet_alberto.html

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