Mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges has released her plan of attack to tackle the achievement gap in Minneapolis schools — an issue that has dominated debates and discussions on the campaign trail this year.
Hodges' plan, "Ready, Willing and Able: Putting Children Front and Center in Education," highlights several startling statistics: barely half of Minneapolis students graduate in four years; black and Hispanic students graduate at a rate of 36.8 percent; American Indian students have a 25 percent high school graduation rate; and 69.8 percent of white students are graduating, compared to the state average of 89.3 percent.
"For years, well-intentioned people have talked about our gaps in achievement and opportunity, education and jobs, without much progress. It is clear that the educational system in Minneapolis is stuck and we need a new path forward," Hodges said in a statement. "I am not beholden to special interest or others who have worked to maintain the status quo. I am not willing to allow polarized, adult-centered debates to distract us from focusing on children."
In her plan, she said the city's future "depends on the urgency with which we approach our education crisis today." She said community leaders need to be open to new and different ideas to improve the quality of education for Minneapolis students.
Her platform calls for more diversity in the teaching ranks, noting that 17 percent of Minneapolis Public Schools teachers are people of color, while 65 percent of the city's students are non-white. It also recommends students spend more time in the classroom and advocates for more school innovation and flexible education standards. She notes that a 26.1 percent decrease in state funding over the past decade has been particularly hard on Minneapolis schools.
In mid-August, Hodges unveiled her Cradle-To-K plan — an early education plan that proposes an expansion of the Healthy Start program for low-income families, stable housing for all the city's young children, an expansion of childcare options and a Mayor's Cabinet on Cradle-To-K.
Mayoral candidate Don Samuels also released a detailed education policy proposal in mid-August that points to case studies in Newark, Los Angeles and Denver — cities where mayors don't have formal control over the schools but are getting involved to improve outcomes for students.
Samuels said he would create a Trust for Innovation in Minneapolis Education (TIME) Fund if elected mayor — a fund that would award grants and loans to organizations and schools that find creative solutions to tackle the achievement gap. He also applauds the work being done at Harvest Prep Academy and Hiawatha Academy, two schools in Minneapolis that have 99 percent students of color and 95 percent of students on free and reduced lunch that have been showing strong outcomes for students.