Readers Write: Minneapolis schools, Montessori schools, lunch shaming, boarding schools, light rail

[Star Tribune] Readers Write: Minneapolis schools, Montessori schools, lunch shaming, boarding schools, light rail

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Minneapolis Public Schools has an annual budget of $960 million and 28,000 students. This works out to $34,285 per student. The district, however, claims that total expenditures per student are $17,876. According to my math, this means $500 million is being spent directly on students. Before officials claim there's a "'Fiscal cliff' looming for MPS" (Dec. 1), perhaps they can first explain how and where the other $460 million of taxpayer money is being spent.

Jack Uldrich, Minneapolis

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I almost started laughing after reading Mitchell Trockman's thoughts on declining enrollment in MPS ("Where is the local support?" Readers Write, Nov. 29).

He is a retired associate superintendent and interim superintendent, so his guidance should be compared to an employee review.

Congratulations, enrollment has dropped almost 40% from 2002 (46,000) to 2022 (28,000). Make no bones about it, Minneapolis schools are big business and now Trockman thinks corporations should lend a hand. What are they supposed to do, bring life jackets?

It's simple, those students and parents are leaving Minneapolis schools because of the product they are delivering and finding a better option in the neighboring suburban schools. Parents will always seek a better alternative for their children.

Of course, why would you want to do an in-depth survey on those parents and students who chose other schools? You might find out the reasons and have a chance to act on them.

But that's not politically correct, so they will continue to reinforce the definition of insanity, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

If they want corporations' help, have them come in, do a customer analysis and facilities study with their own teams. I can see the results now and the howling from the media and current constituency.

The leadership and school board don't have the guts to do what's necessary, to truly serve their customers and employees.

P.S. Same thoughts for St. Paul schools system.

Kelly Michel, St. Paul

MONTESSORI SCHOOLSEarly childhood needs more support

Thank you for the article on Wildflower Montessori schools in Minnesota ("Making Montessori a choice for more kids," Nov. 27). My school, Sweet Pea Montessori, was the first Wildflower school to open in Minnesota. I partnered with two other Montessori guides to start Sweet Pea Montessori, a small school for infants and toddlers in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood.

Like other Wildflower schools, we also find it difficult to attract and retain staff. While we are pleased that over half of our staff are native Spanish speakers, we still struggle to be fully staffed and to have birth-to-age-3 Montessori-trained staff. While our children are thriving, it can be difficult to pay staff an equitable wage and to give families enough scholarships and assistance to pay for the costs of our program. So, at times our school struggles.

While birth to age 3 is the time of the greatest brain growth and a time when children are most impressionable, there is little support for these young children and parents. There are Minnesota scholarships and a variety of assistance for children 3 to 5 years old, but there is little state or local financial assistance for children from birth to age 3. Families all over the state struggle to afford child care and to support their children with options. As an advocate for quality early childhood for children prenatal to age 3, I will again be calling my state representatives to support the proposed policies of the Minnesota Prenatal to Three Coalition.

I invite you to join this important mission. These babies and toddlers hold all the possibilities for our future. Funding early childhood is how we make our state great.

Ann Luce, Minneapolis

LUNCH SHAMINGBetter than a ban: Free lunch for all

I wholeheartedly agree with the Star Tribune Editorial Board's call to end the stigmatizing, humiliating practice of lunch shaming for students experiencing meal debt, which followed Attorney General Keith Ellison's action clarifying prohibitions on "alternative" meals for students in debt, like a cold cheese sandwich ("End shaming over school lunches," editorial, Nov. 25). It's time for Minnesota to go further, however, by eliminating consideration of a student's ability to pay entirely by offering universal free meals at school.

As 1 in 6 Minnesota children experience food insecurity, the benefits of universal free meals are crystal clear. When students focus on when they might eat next rather than schoolwork, their classroom performance suffers. If they're food-insecure at home, it's safe to assume they have other stressors on their mind, and tend to have worse attendance. While free and reduced lunch programs already exist, many families don't qualify, leaving 1 in 4 food-insecure students behind.

Last session, I was chief author of the Hunger Free Schools Act, expanding free breakfast and lunch to all students, an effort I plan to renew in 2023. The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of business, nonprofit and community partners, all of whom recognize the value of ensuring children have access to nutritious food during the school day for their academic performance, health and well-being. Boosting education opportunities will be a priority at the Capitol in January, and by reaching students in the cafeteria with healthy meals, we can help them reach their potential in the classroom.

Sydney Jordan, Minneapolis

The writer is a DFL state representative from District 60A.

INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLSTruth and healing needed

Earlier this month, I voted for the first time. Something that mattered to me when voting was H.R. 5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.

The Twin Cities is the hub of one of the country's largest Native populations, and as residents we have an obligation to support their community. I'm excited that U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum has been doing her part through advocacy on the House Natural Resources Committee.

However, as the legislative year winds down, we need the support of communities and their representatives outside of our district. As a Macalester College student, I am acutely aware that the institution I call my home owns a large amount of Dakota land. I also belong to the Quaker community, which had operated their own boarding schools where Indigenous children were taken away from their homes and culture. These are just the identities that I hold: Every settler has their own relationalities in which they are related to Indigenous genocide.

That is why it is important to pass bill H.R. 5444 to create a commission in Congress dedicated to exploring and recommending solutions to reconcile our nation's shameful creation of Native boarding schools.

Meril Mousoom, St. Paul

MET COUNCILElected members would be no better

Would an elected Metropolitan Council avoid cost overruns on transit projects like the Southwest light-rail line? ("Met Council adopts transit policy," Dec. 1.) I'm skeptical.

A major cause of this project's delays and extra costs was squabbling between residents of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park over where to put a pre-existing freight rail line. Trying to resolve this led to the decision to put a tunnel in a tight space with a high water table, an expensive compromise.

Most people don't want a new transit project in their backyards. What we need is a better planning process rather than another opportunity for local politicians to play to a small slice of their constituents. That's a recipe for getting nothing done.

Richard Adair, Minneapolis

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In "Met Council adopts transit policy," we are told the Met Council continues to search for more than $500 million to finish the Southwest light-rail line. It's apparently unclear, according to the article, where the additional money will come from.

Wouldn't you think the money will come from the same place all the money has come from? That is local, county, state and federal government, and they all get their money from the same place: the taxpayer's pocket.

Earl Faulkner Sr., Edina

Source: Star Tribune