April 6, 2016 — A group of foundations and business leaders will spend $2.7 million on initiatives aimed at education achievement gaps in Minneapolis.
The group, called Minnesota Comeback, will fund a teacher residency program in Minneapolis Public Schools to develop more minority teachers, further fund two high-performing charter schools and lobby for more state support for nonconventional teacher preparation programs, among other initiatives.
Minnesota Comeback was formed nearly three years ago through the Minneapolis Foundation, and the grants mark the organization’s first major donation.
“We envision a day when every child in Minneapolis regardless of their race, income or ZIP code has access to world-class schools,” said Al Fan, Minnesota Comeback’s executive director, in a statement.
Major donors to the organization include the Piper Family Fund, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, Cargill Foundation, Carlson Family Foundation and the Minneapolis Foundation. The organization’s board chairs are Tad Piper, the former CEO president of Piper Jaffray, and Chris Smith, of Kipsu, a tech start-up based in Minneapolis.
The organization said it interviewed 150 education and philanthropy leaders, teachers, students, parents and community members to come up with initiatives to increase the number of “high-performing” schools in the city.
The organization then selected five focus areas: schools, talent pipeline, community engagement, policy and facilities.
Minnesota Comeback will give the Minneapolis school district more than more than $500,000 to continue to fund a teacher residency program. The initiative is aimed at helping current Minneapolis staff such as education assistants become licensed teachers.
Many of the district’s support staff are people of color, according to Maggie Sullivan, the district’s director of Human Resources.
“These are people that want to work with our students,” Sullivan said. “Without this funding we would not be able to run the program next year.”
The district has already selected 25 residents for the program, which begins in June.
In addition, Minnesota Comeback will help two high-performing charter schools expand. Hiawatha Academies will receive $300,000 and Prodeo Academy will get $175,000.
Comeback is also paying for a real estate office that will assist charter school principals with finding buildings for their schools and negotiating leases.
“These initial grants to support education are a testament to the will and dedication of dozens of community partners to collectively recommend strategies that we hope will dramatically improve outcomes for Minneapolis students,” said Piper, the organization’s co-chair.