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Inequality You Can Feel, at the Booster Banquets and on the Scoreboard

Date Published: 05/29/2013

Author: Dane Smith

The charts and graphs that we policy wonks issue regularly provide a clear picture of growing economic inequality in Minnesota and United States over the last 30 years. But vivid human stories – with intimate detail about what it's like on either side of the divide between the high-riders and the stagnating middle and low-income families – are worth a hundred bar graphs and pie charts. An outstanding example of the latter is Mike Kaszuba's Sunday Star Tribune piece about the growing gap between the most affluent school districts and everybody else,  told through the lens of high-school sports teams and the resources available to them.

The article doesn't preach about what to do and it doesn't provide a lot of economic and demographic detail about how wages and benefits have declined on average for hourly workers, while compensation has soared for owners and managers in the private-sector and for highly educated professionals.
The article doesn't show how economic and racial inequality has intensified geographically in the Twin Cities, with communities such as Wayzata and Minnetonka leaving communities like Coon Rapids and St. Paul’s East Side far behind. That story actually has been told and is available from a variety of public policy sources, including this wildly popular video, based on authoritative data and research.  But the Star Tribune provides equivalent public service with an intelligent and perceptive collection of stories that describe the difference between the posh fundraisers and fancy scoreboards in wealthy suburbs and the shabby spaghetti dinners and meager budgets in the northern suburbs and inner cities. And lo and behold, the wealthier districts are increasingly dominating the competition in win-loss records and championships. This story should inform the debate about whether our state government is doing too much to equalize and compensate for poverty and racial minority concentrations between school districts, and whether we are really providing equal opportunity.

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