Dan Larson, May 29, 2013

Testimony by Dan Larson, Teacher, at the May 29 EMID Board Meeting

As you probably know, members of the EMID community were very active at the state legislature this past session. Our goal was, as it has always been, to keep our schools open while maintaining the current successful programming at both Harambee and Crosswinds. The end result of the session was a devastating for all of us. None of us thought the session would end leaving us with two buildings that may potentially sit empty next school year.

However, the groundswell of community support was both surprising and remarkable. While we are very proud of our efforts, we were saddened that on the final days of session, the Senate could not avoid the consequences of the behind-the-scene tactics of a few senators. Since the end of the session, parents and students came together to debrief the session and talk about what we learned. I want to share this information with the board.

  1. The school buildings were bonded for the purpose of providing a facility to host an integrated learning environment. That purpose remains and neither the Crosswinds nor Harambee building can be used for any purpose other than an east metro area integration magnet program.
  2. Conveyance of the buildings to another entity requires legislative approval. Because it is under state bonding this must be approved by a vote of 60% of the legislature as with all bonding legislation.
  3. The State of Minnesota supports integration. The achievement and integration plan was included in the education omnibus bill and ensures that our state will continue its commitment to this important mission.
  4. The need for transparency was critical and was not met by the Senate. While both the legislation to convey Crosswinds to Perpich and Harambee to Roseville had successful hearings in the House, neither received a floor vote and neither was passed. This can only happen because there were many negotiations behind closed doors.
  5. We do have access to our elected officials. Throughout the process parents and students met with their legislators and other Senators and Representatives involved. All of us finish the session with a greater sense of the power of our voices at the Capitol.
  6. Janet Mohr was always available to talk to legislators and wrote an important letter in the last week of session. George Hoeppner wrote a memo to legislators explaining the board decision. Unfortunately, outside of these two actions there was no designated advocate for EMID or the families at the Capitol. There was a void here that families filled the best way we could. Filling that void requires constant diligence and physical presence at the capital.
  7. Finally, we are not going away. Even though families and teachers are disbursing to other schools, we remain united in our goal that integrated learning environments are critical for our students and communities. These two schools are a model for the entire state of Minnesota. And while they may seem lost as of today, we make this public declaration: we will continue our work to preserve them. We will work tirelessly to rebuild this programming and even expand these schools of choice integration.  Because this isn’t just about two schools among many. This is about equity and justice for all students of not only today but also the generations of Minnesotans yet to come. Thank you.