New legislation puts Perpich Center in jeopardy

A bill circulating the Minnesota state Legislature is threatening to shut down the Perpich Center for Arts Education, a fine arts high school currently serving 159 students.

A legislative audit in January revealed flaws in the financial management of Crosswinds Arts and Science under the purview of Perpich. Despite the Perpich board jettisoning the middle school, Republican legislators are still trying to scrap both schools and reduce the board's power in the Minnesota Department of Education. 

Both schools have been dealing with low enrollment and test scores in recent years, but advocates and some legislators are hoping to give Perpich a second chance.

"Give us one more year and see what Perpich can do," state Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said. "I got a feeling that next year we'll be back applauding what the institution has accomplished."  

The two versions of the bill have significant differences--namely that the House education bill abolishes the Center entirely, both Crosswinds and Perpich, while the Senate version keeps funding the Perpich Center only. 

Former students, teachers and advocates gathered Tuesday to ask lawmakers to visit the school and think consider their vote carefully. 

"Look at this through a different lens," Perpich graduate Cynthia Rowe said. "Go to the Perpich Center, go to a performance, go to a gallery opening and open house, anything. Get a piece of that experience so that you better understand what it is that you are potentially looking at shutting down."