Dear MPS Board,
CC: Superintendent Graff and Cabinet
We are writing to express our frustration with the Board of Education’s vote against the resolution to add the LETRS bill to the MPS Legislative Agenda. We are frequent Board observers and have watched and waited for actions to address the literacy crisis facing MPS; to date the BOE has only inaction to show for its tenure.
Many of you have served on the BOE for multiple years – multiple years in which no action has been taken to address the literacy crisis facing MPS – multiple meetings in which literacy has been described as a passion and priority by Directors with no action to show for it and no plan to better support MPS students, families and educators impacted by the literacy crisis in the district you oversee.
We have made many attempts to engage with Directors around literacy and to highlight the inequities perpetuated by a system that incentivizes parents with privilege to seek private remedies for their children, while leaving most students and families to fend for themselves.
We submitted around twenty testimonials from MPS families with struggling readers that went unanswered from our Board. We have asked hard questions that have been ignored; we have made simple requests that have been denied.
Before the Board was a resolution to add to our legislative agenda a support for teacher grants for evidence-based training for our teachers on how children learn to read. A consistent message we are hearing from teachers and advocates is that our schools of education are not preparing teachers with the foundational skills they need to teach reading.
The grant money for this literacy training bill is being championed by the Minnesota Department of Education and Decoding Dyslexia.
Every year MPS District and Board share with the community significant special ed and ELL cross-subsidy costs that MPS pays that are not reimbursed by the state. And every year they come back mostly empty handed as they fail to secure any sort of relief.
While we are not politicians we question the wisdom in telling the Republican lead Senate that you are not interested in supporting a small bill they are passionate about to improve literacy, and then sending your lobbyist back in hopes of securing tens of millions of dollars, with no academic plan as to how you would use those dollars to improve student outcomes.
Our requests to have a conversation about this bill with our Board members have been largely ignored.
The common theme from the twenty testimonials from parents of struggling readers was they found the solution to addressing their children’s problems by withdrawing their children from MPS into a private school or hiring private tutors. We referred to this as the “privatization of literacy”.
When we see a MPS Board member offering referrals to evidence based, structured literacy private tutors to a family in SW Mpls on social media, while using their power as a Board member to deny those same opportunities for families with less means in our district, we are extremely disappointed in the Board.
If the answer from our District continues to be “wait” for families without resources and “hire a private tutor” for families with resources, does equity in advocacy call for asking our legislature to provide dollars direct to parents so they can hire the same private tutor’s families of means are being directed by MPS Board members to?
Our advocacy has called this out and asked the MPS leadership to examine our practices and bring evidence-based curriculum and instruction into our children’s classrooms.
We have only one question left: what actions are the BOE willing to take to address the literacy crisis plaguing MPS?
We will continue watching and waiting and pushing for better. Last night was a perfect demonstration of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. We hope you will commit yourselves more fully to good action instead of perfect passions.
Sara Spafford Freeman David Weingartner