Home > Uncategorized > Something Positive Resulted from Minneapolis’ Failed School Reform: A Similar Police Reform Was Stopped Before it Started

Something Positive Resulted from Minneapolis’ Failed School Reform: A Similar Police Reform Was Stopped Before it Started

August 12, 2020

Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism webpage offers articles that are critical of the privatization movement that seems to capture imagination of both the GOP and the neoliberal DNC wing of the Democrats. Earlier this month she shared an article by Sarah Lahm, a Minneapolis-based writer and researcher, which explained how the pro-privatization forces have expropriated the “Police Reform” movement in the same fashion as they expropriated “school reform”.

Using the public sentiment that there are “failing police departments” in urban areas like Minneapolis, that city is turning to the use of “…”real time data” to overhaul its operations.” According to mayor Jaco Frey, this impersonal data collection would help the police department “weed… bad apples out” by predicting “which officers are more likely to have some sort of critical incident in the future.”

This process reminded Ms. Lahm of the one used by the city a few years earlier to take over public schools, one that has done nothing to improve schools but done a lot for the plutocrats who operate data collection enterprises and the private groups that operate former public entities. She writes:

For evidence of how this approach can fail the public, look no further than the Minneapolis Public Schools, where a similar cast of characters and strategies have already been used to shake up the district’s schools. These “reform” efforts took Minneapolis schools down a failed path, and they stand as a warning sign of how attempts to rehabilitate police forces, in Minneapolis and elsewhere, can be subject to the same sort of misguided thinking and exploitation by opportunists…

These local reform efforts are part of a national and ongoing trend, with representatives from both major political parties pursuing austerity and accountability reforms for public schools with the help of billionaire philanthropic outfits such as the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The focus of these efforts usually involves using data (primarily from high-stakes standardized tests) to push a crisis narrative around public education.

The crisis justifies the takeover of public entities, often for the exclusive benefit of plutocrats. Recent examples of this include New Orleans and Puerto Rico, where the disasters wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Maria, respectively, helped pave the way for privatization within the multibillion-dollar K-12 education market.

In Minneapolis data wasn’t needed “to push a crisis narrative”, the killing of George Floyd and previous killings and instances of police brutality created a crisis. The “collection of real-time data” is likely to reinforce that crisis and thus open the door to replacing the existing police force with a fully privatized one. But will a private police force be an improvement? If the experience of the replacement of public schools with privatized charters is any indication we know the answer. And a group of community activists pushed back at the notion of the “solution” of hiring a private data collection firm overseen by the former mayor of the city who promoted privatization for schools… and… “for now, it looks like police reform efforts in Minneapolis will stay out of the hands of such opportunists, thanks to pressure from local activists and their supporters.”   

Ms. Lahm concludes her article by flagging an opportunity that exists to restore the control of public schools to the communities:

Still, the legacy of supporting neoliberal education reform and privatization for the city’s public school system remains intact. In the coming months, the Minneapolis Public Schools district is set to embark on an ambitious overhaul designed to “right-size” the district in the face of steep budget and enrollment shortages.

But these drops in funding and public school enrollment numbers in Minneapolis were catalyzed by the funding and support for school choice and data-driven accountability schemes at the expense of the city’s public school system.The kind of grassroots activism seen in Minneapolis in the fight against a misguided police reform program is a useful model and could help end these efforts to undermine and privatize public schools.

MAYBE the failed efforts to privatize public schools will stem the tide of privatization in other sectors of the public sphere and POSSIBLY lead to a reversal of direction. If so, it will be healthy for democracy and the well-being of our communities.

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