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NO CHILD'S BEHIND LEFT   |   K-12 Education in Minneapolis: A Matter of Class   |   Bush's Education Agenda   |   Bill Green (and DM) on the NAACP lawsuit

Bill Green (and DM) on the NAACP lawsuit
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
Another Option for Minneapolis School Board Voters (2004 General Election)
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004

Subj:      [Mpls] Bill Green (and DM) on the NAACP lawsuit
Date:     1/8/2002 6:48:23 PM Central Standard Time

Q & A from the City Pages exit interview with Bill Green:

"CP: As part of the state's settlement with the NAACP, $5 million was to be
earmarked by the legislature for metro desegregation. But lawmakers pulled
that money from the budget during the 2001 session. What has been the NAACP's

"Green: They said nothing. That's another part of the tragedy of that whole
experience; they never followed up on the money. But the data we looked at
last Tuesday showed that African-American kids, in particular at certain
elementary grade levels, are not improving. The mood in St. Paul is to
tighten the budget for school districts. There is an assault on public
education, and in the midst of all this, I haven't heard the NAACP say a damn

Bill Green raised a very good point here. As part of the settlement, the
NAACP lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that the NAACP may not
sue any of the parties to the settlement in a state court -- ever -- unless
the state and / or school districts violate the agreement.  As long as the
state and other parties to the settlement comply with the terms of the
agreement, they have nothing to fear from the NAACP.    

However, if the state agreed to earmark $5 million for metro desegregation,
but pulled that money from the budget during the 2001 legislative session,
then the NAACP could petition the court to have the 'dismissal with
prejudice' converted to a 'dismissal without prejudice,' which would allow
the NAACP to re-file the lawsuit against the state or file a new lawsuit on
the grounds that the state violated the agreement. That (the threat of a lawsuit)
is also the only means by which the NAACP can enforce the agreement.

The NAACP lawsuit was filed in September 1995, a few months after the
Minneapolis Board of Education passed a resolution entitled "Closing the gap:
ensuring that all children can learn," also known as the community school
plan.  I believe that the lawsuit was filed as a means of applying pressure
on the Minneapolis School Board to draw attendance boundaries for the
community schools in such a way as to minimize the segregative effect of the
plan, and to address issues like the high concentration of inexperienced
teachers at predominantly black schools on the North side.  The way that the
attendance boundaries were drawn resulted in the over-enrollment of
predominantly black schools, which was anticipated by the district at that
time.  The district has not allowed students from overcrowded black schools
to enroll in undercrowded white schools in SW Minneapolis, despite the
state's open enrollment law.   

The NAACP challenged the implementation of the community school plan through
administrative channels in 1995-1996.  The state board of education approved
the community school plan early in 1996, largely on the strength of the
School Board's claim that the community school plan was designed to "close the
academic achievement gap" between white and black students, and on the pledge
of Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton to desegregate the schools by desegregating the
neighborhoods in Minneapolis.  

It was the hope of the NAACP leadership at the time that the district would
support the lawsuit, which is why the NAACP didn't sue the district.  For the
same reason, the NAACP lawyers sought an inter-district remedy, preferably a
"choice" plan that would give black children in the inner cities a chance to
be integrated into predominantly white schools in the suburbs.

The NAACP's lawsuit was also funded, in part, through an account set up with
the Minneapolis Foundation, and a rich white liberal, Vance Oppermann.  The
NAACP was under pressure from these "supporters," as well as its corporate
sponsors and the Democratic Party, to settle the lawsuit.

The election of Leola Seals as president of the Minneapolis NAACP branch in
1996 posed a serious problem for the Minneapolis school board and DFL
establishment. Seals and her supporters included many DFLer's, but they
clashed with the DFL on a number of issues, including the community school
plan, the implementation of the Hollman settlement (to which the NAACP was a
party), CODEFOR ('quality of life' policing) and enforcement of civil rights
laws.  The anti-Seals faction within the branch eventually settled on Ricky
Campbell as their candidate for branch president in the faction fight of
1998-1999.  Campbell had the support of the Democratic Party establishment
and "The Links," a social club for rich and 'upper middle class' blacks.  

In 1999, before Campbell and his faction took over, a majority of the active
membership of the Minneapolis NAACP branch and its executive committee
opposed the first settlement offer authorized by Ricky Campbell,
president-elect of the Minneapolis NAACP branch.  Evelyn Eubanks and I were
the first to publicly criticize the settlement offer.  I circulated a written
critique of the offer in February 1999.  The branch's legal counsel, the
Shulman law firm, which was working for Campbell, fell out of favor with a
majority of the active branch membership at that point. In retaliation, the
Shulman's dropped me as a client in the NAACP / Xiong suit. I acted as my own
legal counsel in the case for several months, then withdrew from the lawsuit
by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice, which the state
agreed to.    

After Ricky Campell was installed as branch president in June 1999, Seals
supporters were excluded from the branch K-12 education committee, and Ricky
Campbell engaged in negotiations with the state that were kept a secret from
rank-and-file members.  Campbell was assisted by persons who had been
suspended from membership in the NAACP, and whose memberships were not
reinstated before the deal was announced.

Most of the NAACP members who voted for the agreement in June 2000 did not
regularly attend branch meetings.  Most of Leola Seal's supporters had quit
or let their NAACP memberships lapse before the settlement agreement was
announced, and were generally unwilling to renew.  Several active branch
members walked out of the special membership meeting where the settlement was
endorsed before the vote was taken. Only the Education Committee chair who
was remove by the Campbell faction, Catherine Williams and I voted against
the settlement.

The settlement of the NAACP lawsuit was a setback in the fight to make a
quality public education available to all.  However, the settlement is a
mistake that could be corrected by the NAACP leadership.  The obstacle is a
strategy of reliance on capitalists and capitalist politicians.  The
alternative is a strategy of uniting workers of all 'races' on the basis of
their class interests, which are served by making a quality, public education
available to all.  Education is a right, not a privilege!

-Doug Mann

Doug Mann for School Board
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