By Ben Velderman
MINNEAPOLIS – It took a couple of days of recounting, but Teach For America alum Josh Reimnitz has officially been elected to the Minneapolis school board.
That’s a big victory for education reformers in a district that’s been dominated for too long by union puppets.
Reimnitz edged out teacher union favorite Patty Wycoff, 51 to 48 percent.
The school board race was the most expensive one in the district’s history – by a lot, according to StarTribune.com. Reimnitz raised more than $37,000, with some of the money coming from out-of-state connections he made during his days as a Teach For America instructor.
Wycoff, on the other hand, raised only $5,000. But her dollar disadvantage was offset by the teacher union’s “get-out-the-vote” machine, which kicked into high gear on Wycoff’s behalf.
Reimnitz will be joined on the board by Tracine Asberry, who also appears to favor modest education reforms. Their election “means four members of the nine-member board are willing to buck the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers on contract issues,” StarTribune.com reports.
That’s a marked change from just two years ago, when four newly elected (but not yet seated) school board members sent letters to sitting school board members on union letterhead.
That mini-controversy troubled a number of parents and taxpayers who were disgusted to see incoming board members collaborate so openly and boldly with the local teachers union. The incident may have swayed enough voters into supporting Reimnitz this time around.
It needs to be noted that Reimnitz is not a wild-eyed education reformer, so nobody should expect (or fear) that he is going to turn the Minneapolis school district upside down. Rather, he’s a left-of-center guy who supports charter schools and using student learning as a criterion for evaluating teachers. Only among the most rabid leftists are those considered radical ideas.
Still, reformers should be encouraged that even voters in a politically “blue” city such as Minneapolis are open to common sense education reforms. Considering some of the setbacks K-12 reformers suffered during last week’s election, Reimnitz’s win is a welcome ray of sunshine.