Nya LonyNya Lony is a senior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, a member of Students for Education Reform, and a SFER Action Network organizing fellow in Minneapolis. Tweet this article
SFER AN endorses Samuels and Altamirano in MPS school board election
By: Nya Lony
MinnPost recently highlighted the growing interest in the local Minneapolis school board race. And rightfully so—the stakes are high. With one of the worst racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps in the nation and recent MCA test scores evidencing little to no improvement among students of color in the district, it’s time to give education the attention it deserves.
Like many, I hadn’t always paid close attention to education issues. Before college, I was unfamiliar with terms like the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the “achievement gap,” but I understood the very real impact these factors had on students and families. After joining Students for Education Reform (SFER) on campus, I became increasingly aware that abysmal graduation rates and poor test scores were concentrated in underperforming schools, that students zoned to those schools would have to overcome significant obstacles to achieve success.
In MPS, just over one-third of Black and Latino students graduate, compared with 70% of their white counterparts. Black students constitute the largest single demographic in MPS and are among the worst performers academically, but only 2% of the budget was allocated to the Office of Black Male Achievement. Confronted with these unjust realities, I decided to join other SFER Action Network fellows to promote the school board race in the upcoming elections. Our group decided to endorse Don Samuels in the primary race after deliberating and evaluating candidate answers to questionnaires. His commitment to Minneapolis children, as a community leader and co-founder of the Hope Collective, drove our decision.
We are investing our time and energy in the race, understanding its importance in shaping outcomes for 34,400 students. We are phone banking and canvassing the entire city of Minneapolis, connecting with voters and hearing their stories. All across the city, from Southwest to the Northside, one thing we can all agree on was this: something has to change in MPS.
After the primary, we extended our support to Iris Altamirano, who like many of us, grew up as a low-income student and was one of the first students of color in her district to go to a top college. Like Samuels, she has a firm commitment to community empowerment—which she demonstrated through her labor organizing work. As fighters with a commitment to effecting change, I know Altamirano and Samuels are the two best candidates to usher in change to MPS and fight for quality schools, accountability, and great teachers and leaders.
As elections approach, we will be working with the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund to ensure that all students have the opportunity to attend quality schools and pursue their dreams, and that the best candidates are elected. MPEF is a nonprofit organization made of diverse Minneapolis parents, MPS teachers, students, and graduates, and advocates for the school district—all who support progressive candidates who believe all students should have the opportunity to succeed.
Low-performing schools have failed their students for too long, but on November 4th, we don’t have to go down the same path. This year there is the opportunity to change the failing approach in MPS. So spread the word. Join our effort in calling and knocking on the doors of our neighbors. But most importantly, vote. Few students in MPS can cast a ballot this November for themselves, so as voters, we must vote to give them a different future than the statistics predict.