Column: Unite Edina detachment proposal hints of ‘ulterior motive’

BY Matthew McNeil – Guest Columnist

I found Matthew Hankey’s Oct. 31 article about Unite Edina 273 very interesting, especially what Unite Edina is pushing. By allowing parts of the city of Edina to move into the Edina School District, Hopkins School District would be better off. It’s time to cut through the sales pitch and look at the facts.

First off, what’s so wrong with Hopkins’ schools? Since both Hopkins and Edina rank in the top 15 out of 704 public high schools in the state, the education difference between the two districts is mainly perceived. Both schools offer a wide range of educational options geared towards making our kids’ futures better.

Everyone who moves into Edina is supposed to be made aware of what school district he or she lives in. Homeowners choose their school district, period.

Parts of Edina have been part of Hopkins schools since the 1800s, so it’s not as if this were a recent change. The current Edina-Hopkins School District residents knew their school district prior to signing purchase agreements on their homes.

The representatives of Unite Edina 273 insist Hopkins School District is going to be just fine without these parts of Edina, and they point to current development within the school district as proof. The new business and residential developments in the Hopkins School District are happening regardless of what Unite Edina promises, making Unite Edina’s argument irrelevant. I don’t know of any school district that could easily weather the removal of $350-$400 million in district property valuation.

If it isn’t quality of school or trying to right some recent injustice, what is the real motivation for Unite Edina 273? One very telling sign comes from the map released talking about the parts of Edina they want to unite.

One would think that “uniting” Edina would be making the Edina School District match up to the city limits, but that’s not the case. Lower income areas off of Hwy. 169 at Bren-Londonderry and Lincoln Drive, and the working class neighborhoods north of Interlachen have been omitted from Unite Edina’s plan.

It seems as if Unite Edina 273 is saying Edina’s lower income neighborhoods can stay with Hopkins schools, but the wealthier areas need the perceived pedigree of Edina schools.

If that’s the case, how much of this movement is being fueled by the hope property values in these “united” areas would go up? What else would be the motivation for making a map purposely excluding Edina’s poorer neighborhoods from being “united?”

This also sets a bad precedent. Allowing one part of a school district to peel off and join a different district could lead to a free for all, with certain neighborhoods being bused to a district 15 miles away. Also, you could create massive low-income school districts as wealthier communities force low-income neighborhoods into other districts. The ensuing property tax fiasco would be a logistical nightmare.

The people of Edina residing in the Hopkins School District have options. They can move to a different district, open enroll in another school or go get a great education in the Hopkins schools they are entitled to. Because they can’t go back to the 1800s and change history, these choices seem like their best options that don’t imply an ulterior motive.

McNeil is former co-president of the Gatewood Elementary PTO, which is part of the Hopkins School District. He is also an Edina High School graduate.