Guest Blog by Jeff Edmondson
According to the most recent U.S. Census, each year United States taxpayers spend $591 billion on elementary and secondary education. Of those funds, 91 percent comes from local and state sources. This makes up the vast majority of all resources spent on educational improvement, followed by private philanthropy contributing about $5 billion annually.
This leads us to a very clear and undeniable conclusion: To change how we educate children at scale, we must change how funds flow from local and state sources.
The state of Minnesota just took a big step in this direction, providing a great example of how communities across the country can shift funding. As part of the new state K-12 education finance package, $5.8 million has been appropriated to support cradle to career partnerships across the state, in both rural and urban communities. The law provides $1 million over two years to be shared equally by three partnerships in “Greater Minnesota”–Red Wing, Northfield and St. Cloud—all members of the Strive Together Cradle to Career Network. Minnesota’s two urban Promise Neighborhood initiatives, the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis and the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, each will receive $1.2 million each year in annual operating grants.
This is the first time a state has invested heavily in the support of the backbone infrastructure that is such a critical component of collective impact. This means that legislators saw that investing a small amount of funds in the human capital and data management capacity needed to understand what education improvement initiatives work is critical to ensure a measurable return on investment.
Let’s be clear: This investment by the state of Minnesota is unprecedented. Rather than simply investing in programs, the state will invest in ways to understand what programs can provide the best ongoing results. Over time, we will be able to answer the following question on an ongoing basis rather than just at the end of a long-term evaluation: What is working for kids and how can we build on it? The power of this to make sure the state gets the best possible return on investment is simply undeniable.
Here are a few insights that other communities can learn from to drive similar policy change:
We will draw more lessons from this outstanding example in the months to come. But for now, all the partners engaged in working with the legislature to get this win for the State of Minnesota should be celebrated across the Cradle to Career Network and the collective impact field at large. This legislation serves as a model to the nation for how public funding can be influenced to support the success of children.
*Growth & Justice is a research and advocacy organization based in St. Paul. They participate in Strive Together as members of the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success, based in the north-central part of the state and are in the third year of a project called the “Minnesota Statewide Student Success Movement,” supported by the Blandin Foundation. Growth & Justice has participated actively in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network on topics of rural partnerships and racial equity and have been a constant champion for the work of quality collective impact across the state.
About Jeff Edmondson
Jeff Edmondson is the Managing Director of StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. StriveTogether is a national cradle-to-career initiative that brings together leaders in Pre-K-12 schools, higher education, business and industry, community organizations, government leaders, parents and other stakeholders who are committed to helping children succeed from birth through careers.