Vote Yes for Minneapolis Children

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There are two ways to vote for Minneapolis kids tomorrow, and I’m asking you to consider both. One choice for kids is to vote “Yes” to renewing the expiring referendum that funds our public schools. The second has to do with making a choice that allows all of our children to be…well, children. Happy. Free of fear. Welcome.

The Star Tribune ran an editorial a few weeks back in which the writer argued that since the Minneapolis public schools haven’t met all their goals, voters should give them a “wake-up call” by rejecting the proposed tax levy. There have been many rebuttals, of course, and the Star Tribune itself endorses a Yes vote. I would just like to add that, from my perspective as a school volunteer, you could hardly do something worse for kids than vote against this referendum.

Sure, we’re all disappointed–ashamed, really–that the achievement gap remains, that too many kids aren’t demonstrating grade-level competency in reading and math. Yes and yes, a hundred times over. What I don’t understand is how pulling the rug out from under five-year-olds by drastically chopping school funds is supposed to help. I volunteer in a classroom of maybe 15-20 kindergarteners, and the teacher has no aide. She says volunteers assist in her classroom every day. This is what I do: zip coats; clean off water-painted tables; take a kid to the nurse’s office; help another child write numbers. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing to have community members help in these ways. But if the number of kids in that classroom were increased by as few as two or three, it would make a big difference to the quality of what their very, very excellent teacher could provide to everyone, particularly on a day a volunteer were sick, for example, or away dealing with their own family. You might think small classrooms aren’t essential. I respectfully–and with present-day experience–disagree.

The second way I’d ask you to consider voting for kids calls for a longer story. Today, at the table where I sat to help several rotations of children master a game in which they counted and identified shapes, a little boy asked me if it was true that “Trump was going to bomb the world.” I don’t know where he heard this, but he must have asked me five times in our 10-minute session together, and came back to it again and again over the course of my two-plus hours at school. Before he asked the question (I don’t know what made it come into his head; we weren’t talking about the election or anyone in it) he was his typically happy-go-lucky self. But once this question settled into his brain, his whole affect changed: his body slumped, his face became clouded. He just looked afraid, like if Mr. Trump were elected, the first thing that would happen is that the world would blow up.

Is it important to mention the boy is a child of color? Possibly from a new-American family? You know what? It sure is. And I know I didn’t mention that when this boy complained of a stomach-ache, and I asked his teacher if I should bring him to the nurse’s office, she said he’s been plagued with aches and pains for the last several weeks. So no, I shouldn’t take him away from the classroom where he is safe and could learn what he needs to learn, if only he weren’t so full of fear.

When things people say scare children, we need to pay attention.

When you vote on Tuesday, do what you can to lift the burden of fear from this child’s shoulders. If you saw it today like I did, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t think twice about voting for anyone who could engender it.

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