MN Court Allows Leftwing Monied Interests To Take Aim At High Performing Charter Schools

“The court’s decision not to dismiss charter schools from the suit will be a disaster for minority students—and for parents’ ability to choose a school that best serves their children’s needs—if the plaintiffs are successful.”

Daniel Shulman

Minnesota’s teacher’s union is a dominant force in Minnesota politics, relative to other states. Education Minnesota, the state’s most powerful teachers union, collects about $30 million each year from teachers and spends millions of dollars on DFL candidates each election cycle. The state DFL Party alone—which is separate from state DFL campaigns and the national party—received 10 percent of its $15.5 million haul from Education Minnesota.

It just so happens that teachers union power in Minnesota exists alongside a stunning record of bad outcomes for poor black students in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Minnesota already ranks among the bottom tier of the 50 states (most are northern former or current Democrat strongholds) for racial inequality, generally. But Minnesota’s outcomes for black students versus white students, though improving slightly, are the worst in the nation.

And much of the thanks for that tiny improvement belongs to charter schools. Charter schools, though government funded, operate outside of the normal public school system. They have an ability to experiment that public schools don’t, and if they don’t do a good job they are much easier to close than are public schools.

Not all charter schools do a good job, but many do. And most importantly, charters create competition. That forces both the charter school, and the public school, to do a better job.

The kicker is that charter schools’ teachers are often not unionized—unions like Education Minnesota hate them for this, and for the competition they create.

Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota

It is within this backdrop that the Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota case comes in. A high-powered Harvard and Yale educated lawyer, Daniel Shulman, backed by all kinds of leftwing money including Education Minnesota and the ACLU, is now suing to desegregate Minnesota’s schools, citing the aforementioned underperformance of poor black students in Twin Cities’ public schools.

But Shulman has also named charter schools in his lawsuit. These charters schools are indeed “segregated,” in the sense that they mostly serve black students, but the charters outperform comparable public schools, and the charter schools’ students outperform many of the state’s white students. One such school, for example—St. Paul’s Higher Ground Academy—has tremendously outperformed public schools with similar demographics on a consistent basis in math and reading.

There was a question about whether Shulman could even bring his case, but last year the Minnesota Supreme Court voted 4-2 to allow the lawsuit to go forward. By the same theory, a lawsuit that would allow the firing of veteran teachers could also go forward, but Education Minnesota and the ACLU are not pushing for this, quite obviously.

In other words, it’s all about the money, and maintaining the public school monopoly that hurts poor black American kids.

Now, though the charters tried to resist inclusion in the suit, the Hennepin County District Court, where the case now resides, declined to exempt these charter schools from the lawsuit.

“The impact is that the charter schools don’t get a free pass here,” said Harvard-Yale rich-white-liberal Shulman. “They’ve asked the judge basically to say that they can’t be held accountable for the contribution they’ve made to segregation. And the judge wouldn’t do that, as I think was correct.”

Nekima Levy-Armstrong represents the charters involved in the case. “Our clients have done an incredible job providing culturally affirming environments for students and also outstanding educational opportunities,” she responded. “And we want to ensure that … the choices of parents—particularly parents of color—will also be protected.”

Classic leftism at work, and poor kids will suffer

Cruz-Guzman is, in fact, classic leftism. Its end result will hurt the students it says it wants to help.

Because these charters educate black students, and successfully educate these students outside of the public school system, the forces pushing Cruz-Guzman are labeling them as targets. The lawsuit says it aims to address the Minnesota racial achievement gap, but it is driven by the same forces that (along with family breakdown) contributed to the minority student achievement gap in the first place.

In the words of Katherine Kersten, Senior Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment, “The court’s decision not to dismiss charter schools from the suit will be a disaster for minority students—and for parents’ ability to choose a school that best serves their children’s needs—if the plaintiffs are successful.”


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Willis Krumholz
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Willis L. Krumholz is a fellow at Defense Priorities. He holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas, and works in the financial services industry. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.