Election 2020: School Board District 4 (General Election)

The two people on the ballot:

Christa Mims (DFL-endorsed)
Adriana Cerillo

So FYI, in addition to their websites you can find a League of Women Voters forum that was held for all the Minneapolis school board candidates here. (In addition to Christa Mims and Adriana Cerillo, the forum includes Kerryjo Felder and Sharon El-Amin from District 2 as well as Kim Ellison and Michael Dueñes for at-large.)

There’s an article here about this race from Southwest Journal.

Christa Mims is a social worker, which is cool, and she’s queer, which is cool. What I’ve been overall unimpressed by his her strong preference for not taking a particularly meaningful stance regarding the CDD (comprehensive district design). She’s endorsed by the DFL and by a bunch of area labor unions; I couldn’t find any indication that she was endorsed by area politicians I like. She feels really establishment to me, which is a funny thing to say about a newcomer, but her campaigning seems like it’s focused on playing it safe vs. offering much in the way of content.

Adriana Cerillo — so, I like the fact that she organized to get interpreters during the discussions about the CDD (talk about things that should have been a given). My specific concerns about her: her website talks a lot about funding disparities but in sort of a weirdly misleading way. For example, from her platform page:

Schools serving majority poor non-White children in this state receive $509 less per student than those serving majority poor White children, according to a 2019 study conducted by EdBuild.

It’s easy to misread this as a disparity that exists within Minneapolis. It is not. You can find the study here. According to that study, Minnesota is one of 14 states in which nonwhite districts receive more than majority-white districts; it is then listed as having a $509 disparity between “poor nonwhite districts” and “poor white districts.” This is a state-funding issue, not a Minneapolis-specific issue, although the main thing I really want to know is how they are defining “poor white” and “poor nonwhite” districts because one thing that could be creating this disparity is that every charter school is technically a “district” and charter schools do not qualify for the money raised from property tax levies. So if the “poor white districts” are rural farm towns and “poor nonwhite districts” are predominantly-Black charter schools, that would certainly do a lot to explain the disparity.

There’s also stuff like the district that has to run a bus the entire length of the Gunflint Trail, and the “districts” that are specialty programs for students who need drug treatment or whatever.

But this definitely does not mean that there is a $509-per-student disparity between schools within Minneapolis. I dug through the data during primary season and the largest disparity I found was $37.

(OK, digging through the EdBuild study a bit more, they’re defining a “nonwhite” district as one with 75% or more nonwhite students, while a “white” district is one with 75% or more of white students. Minneapolis Public Schools is 35% white, making it neither a “white” nor a “nonwhite” district. Also, I’m pretty sure they did in fact use the data set where every individual charter school is its own district. A school is “high poverty” if 20% of the students there are in poverty; they don’t say how they define poverty, but I think it must be “from a family living below the poverty line” and not “eligible for free/reduced lunch,” which makes this a much more complicated bit of data to dig for. If it were 20% free/reduced lunch or more, that is actually most of the state.)

If you’re looking through the links on her page to the ProPublica study and are trying to figure out what sort of school “Stadium View” even is — it’s the high school within the juvenile detention facility.

So — okay. In addition to the funding stuff that’s her main focus, she talks about funding social workers/school psychologist, making sure anything that comes from the school is translated into the languages parents speak, and diversifying the curriculum. She also has a paragraph about charter schools:

Charter schools have filled an important role in making education more culturally accessible to families of color—people who, historically, have been shut out of the Minneapolis public school system. And for that, I am grateful that charter schools exist. But they must be held accountable for their practices. It is not sustainable for charter schools to rely on funding from sources like Bill Gates or the Walton Family. They cannot be allowed to suspend and expel students in the numbers that they currently do. They need to pay their teachers more. And they need oversight from the school board because right now there is effectively none.

She worked for a nonprofit that steered parents toward charter schools (I wrote about this in the primary) so I find it kind of startling that she thinks the oversight of charters from the school board in their area is “effectively none” as opposed to “none, by design.” The whole premise of charters was that parents and teachers could put together a school that was not overseen by the school district (unless they used a school district as their authorizer). Charters have their own boards. You can read the state laws on charter schools here.

Adriana Cerillo’s web page doesn’t list any endorsements, but I did find one worthwhile one on her Facebook page, from Patricia Torres-Rey.

Both of them say they are very committed to fighting inequality. Both are women of color. Adriana is an immigrant who is raising her nephew; Christa is a lesbian social worker. They both seem like good and sincerely committed people.

I would probably vote for Christa if I lived in this district, because while I really value data-driven decision making, it’s really critical to use relevant data, presented clearly.

If you’ve read all the way to the bottom: I took the time to look over on Donors Choose for some Minneapolis public school teachers who could use some financial help during These Difficult Times and in particularly with distance learning. Ms. Aram is a teacher at North High. She is trying to raise funds for a system to allow her students to return books (contact-free) during the pandemic — so that the books can circulate during distance learning. She’s currently about 2/5ths of the way there.

(I don’t have a patreon or a ko-fi but I take a lot of satisfaction from seeing projects fund after I point people at them. Please donate!)


3 thoughts on “Election 2020: School Board District 4 (General Election)

  1. I live in this area of MPLS and ended up voting for Adriana. I thought both were pretty lousy candidates, and agree with you on Cristina not addressing the CDD plan. I’m sad Bob Walser decided to not run again, he at least brought some common sense to the school board. I think that next election, we’ll have some better candidates running for this seat, at least I hope we will.

    • Bob is/was an embarrassment to the district and that is a VERY high bar in MPS. Either Christa or Adriana will be an improvement over a guy who repeatedly shamed Black staff members in public while being caught over and over not having done his own work.

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