Believe it or not, Republican State Senator Dan Hall's most stinging criticism of Minnesota public education in the video above is not when he claims
“I watched Minneapolis get destroyed, so I not only didn’t want my kids in the school system. I took them out of Minneapolis because they ruined our neighborhoods with integration and [de]segregation.”
Mr. Hall made his argument for segregation last Thursday (and right in time for April 4!) in support of H.F. No. 934, also known as the K-12 omnibus bill. Later that day, it passed in a party-line vote in the Minnesota State Senate. As reported by the Minnesota Independent, that bill "would take funding from integration and desegregation programs in the Twin Cities and Duluth and shift them to statewide programs for literacy. [It] also repeals the unfunded portions of Minnesota law dealing with desegregation." In short, it aims to address the racial achievement gap in the state's schools by rewarding schools for improving literacy and taking away money for desegregation.
Perhaps Mr. Hall's personal experience led him to believe that literacy is more urgent than desegregation -- that the two are somehow in competition. Perhaps his constituents are asking him to vote this way. However, that's not the argument he makes, nor the people whose support he cites. He cites his "best friends," who Mr. Hall claims are "minority."
“They think integration is foolish. It’s a ploy, it’s to get more money....It’s disrespectful to tell my friends, my minority friends, they can’t make it without extra special help.”
These "minority" best friends are merely the fulcrum of Mr. Hall’s rhetorical argument, one that uses the vocabulary of opposing affirmative action to oppose integration. What's next? Lunch counters? Water fountains?
Still, even that wasn't the strongest shot taken by Mr. Hall at public education in Minnesota. That comes right at the beginning:
“I am a product of the Minneapolis school system, completely, all of my years, many of the different schools. I graduated with a sixth-grade reading ability. I struggled my whole life.”
Even if there are problems with reading levels in Minnesota's public schools stretching back to Mr. Hall's era, even if the funds for the Republican initiative must be taken from integration programs (and they don't have to be), was it necessary to scapegoat integration in this way? Must one be the antagonist of the other?
When this bill reaches Governor Mark Dayton's desk, it will curious to see if he signs it into law, or asks for a new bill that truly strengthens public education without doing so at the expense of racial progress.