Better Ed — a 501(c)(3) education reform group in Minnesota — has put up another billboard message across from the Minneapolis Public Schools district headquarters. The message draws attention to the district’s high per-pupil spending and low graduation rate. It reads: “MINNEAPOLIS SPENDS $21,000 PER STUDENT. BARELY HALF GRADUATE. NOT COOL.”
Better Ed’s previous billboard message (which had been up since December 2013) also highlighted the district’s poor graduation rate, which was 54% for 2013. Indeed, Minneapolis Public Schools has one of the lowest graduation rates among all urban school districts in the country—a fact pointed out by Better Ed as part of its postcard campaign last year, and also recently mentioned in an April 28 Politico story entitled “High School Graduation Rate Could Hit 90 Percent.”
Minneapolis’ poor graduation rate stands in stark contrast to neighboring St. Paul’s 73% rate, the state of Minnesota’s 80% rate, and the nation’s 80% rate. Though a 54% graduation rate represents an improvement for Minneapolis, many local news outlets have pointed out that the improvement may very well be due to the lowering of graduation standards that took place in last year’s legislative session.
Minneapolis has a distressingly low graduation rate in spite of the fact that it spent $21,000 per student last year. (Better Ed arrives at this per-pupil spending number by dividing the district’s total expenditures for FY 2013 by its enrollment.)
Devin Foley, the president of Better Ed, described the purpose of the billboard as follows: “The public is largely in the dark about the high spending and poor performance of their local schools. With this billboard, we hope to create more public awareness about these numbers, and hopefully, generate a groundswell for real solutions to the educational problems afflicting Minneapolis.”
Daniel Lattier, Better Ed’s Director of Academics, also pointed out: “The billboard is not meant to shame the district administrators. But it is meant as a very real reminder that too many Minneapolis students did not don a cap and gown last month, and that action needs to be taken.”
Better Ed’s new billboard is especially timely given the recent, well-publicized ruling in Vergara v. California. In this case, nine students successfully petitioned the state to strike down laws that protected the jobs of chronically ineffective teachers at the expense of students. As Better Ed’s billboard shows, Minneapolis students are also not being well served in one of the state’s largest districts. Some of these students may very well be the plaintiffs in a similar case that soon comes to Minnesota.