Education: A lesson in perseverance

Sandra L. Vargas

Sandra L. Vargas, President and CEO, The Minneapolis Foundation

Thank you to everyone who attended or watched the special Minnesota Meeting on education reform held on June 10th, which The Minneapolis Foundation co-sponsored with RKMC Foundation for Children, and the Itasca Project. Special thanks to our guest speaker, Alex Johnston, as well as our panelists and the audience, whose insights, experiences and questions provoked a stimulating discussion about what we need to do to succeed in transforming Minnesota’s education system to ensure that our state remain a prosperous and vital region for all of our citizens.

By now, both the challenges facing Minnesota and some of the proposed solutions are well known. But as Nancy Hylden noted in an earlier post, progress has often been frustratingly slow.

So, what happens next? We do not walk away, dejected. We must continue to do the very hard work of helping everyone understand what’s at stake, and mobilizing the forces necessary to bring reform to Minnesota. As Alex Johnston noted at the event, ConnCAN’s success helping shepherd through meaningful education reform measures in Connecticut was five years in the making. “Being right just isn’t enough,” Alex said.  “The status quo is too powerful. What you need is the political will to enact the right policies.”

We at the Foundation continue to work with nonprofit, public, philanthropic, and corporate allies through grant making and collaborative efforts to help make the transformation of our education system possible. We also seek to raise awareness of the facts, spotlight effective reform efforts, and build public will for change.

This is an election year in Minnesota. In addition to the gubernatorial race, Minnesotans will vote on every legislative seat and statewide office.  Ask your candidates to explain how they will ensure that Minnesota’s public education system is more flexible, innovative and accountable, how they will contribute to closing the achievement gap, and what they will do to ensure that we’re making appropriate investments in the lives of all our children and the future of our state.

I was thinking about the incredible return on those investments as The Minneapolis Foundation celebrates the conclusion of Destination 2010, a pioneering initiative we established 10 years ago to support a group of St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools students from third grade through high school graduation in the year 2010. Over the past several weeks we’ve had the joy of watching 114 of them collect their high school diplomas and prepare for college.

This remarkable accomplishment that would not have been possible without the contributions of our community and school partners, support from the students’ families, and the hard work of the students themselves. We, as a state, are richer for their perseverance and success.

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