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The Topline: Minnesota’s most segregated school districts


The Topline: Minnesota’s most segregated school districts

Mar 18, 2024 | 7:00 am ET
By Christopher Ingraham
The Topline: Minnesota’s most segregated school districts
Parents and buses line up to pick up students at Lakeview Elementary School in Robbinsdale in October 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Welcome to The Topline, a weekly roundup of the big numbers driving the Minnesota news cycle, as well as the smaller ones that you might have missed. This week: segregated schools; teacher pay; more Census findings; and how climate change is scrambling the start of spring.

Some of America’s most segregated school districts are in Minnesota

Late last month the New America Foundation released a fascinating analysis of segregation among school districts. They focused on the borders between school districts: the lines that so often end up separating the haves from the have-nots.

Disparities between school districts “are not happenstance,” the report authors write. “They are often the result of housing policies that were explicitly intended to segregate neighborhoods by race and economic class. The school district lines drawn atop this divided landscape then replicate segregation and inequity in schools.”

Longtime Reformer readers will know that it’s a major problem in Minnesota, which has some of the nation’s most unequal schools. The report finds that three of the nation’s 100 starkest racial dividing lines, in terms of school district borders, are in Minnesota. Two are between the majority-Indigenous Mahnomen Public School District and its much whiter neighbors, and the third is between the Cass Lake and Grand Rapids school districts.

Cass Lake, you may recall, is one of the handful of districts in the state where entire classrooms full of kids are failing to meet state proficiency standards. It’s a vivid illustration of segregation’s devastating effects on the people living under it.

Minnesota teacher pay is 18th in the nation

Elsewhere on the education beat, the Star Tribune offers up a deep dive on teacher pay in Minnesota. Wage issues have been a major factor in contract negotiations between unions and school districts. Currently the average Minneapolis teacher salary is about $76,000 while the typical St. Paul teacher makes $87,000.

But it’s a different picture statewide, where the average educator pulls in about $62,400, according to a recent National Education Association report. That’s $2,500 less than the national average and puts Minnesota at 18th in the nation. A separate report by the Economic Policy Institute finds that Minnesota teachers make almost 30% less than comparably educated workers in other fields, a figure that’s slightly higher than the national average.

More on the latest Census data

Last week we covered the big Census data release, focusing on the trends since the dawn of the pandemic in 2020. MPR News covered it too, with an eye toward just the year-over-year change between 2022 and 2023.

The overall picture is similar, although a couple nuances stand out. Hennepin County actually added to its population modestly in 2023, the first time that’s happened since 2020 (although not enough to reverse the cumulative effect of several prior years’ declines).

As of 2023 about 22% of the state population resided in Hennepin County, more than the state’s smallest 66 counties combined.

Northern plains an exception to national trend of earlier spring

The Washington Post ran a fun visual analysis of leaf-out dates — the annual appearance of the spring season’s first leaves. In most of the country leaves are coming out a lot earlier than they used to, a full month earlier in some parts of the country than just 40 years ago.

The northern plains, including nearly all of North Dakota and much of northern Minnesota, are proving an exception to the trend. Leaf-outs here are happening around a week or so later than in previous decades.

All bets are off this year, however, what with the winter-that-wasn’t

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