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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
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 thing."

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
Minneapolis Issues Forum - A Civil City Civic Discussion - Mn E-Democracy
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