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Friday, March 31, 2023

East Metro School Districts Vote to Shut Down Equity Alliance

Equity Alliance, a group of east metro school districts dedicated to racial integration and equity, has ran out of funds and will cease activities.

The organization was previously known as the East Metro Integration District, a special school district established in the late 1990s with the primary purpose of operating magnet schools in Maplewood and Woodbury that blended white suburban children with students of color from St. Paul.

EMID’s goal altered a decade ago, and it relinquished management of two schools: Harambee Elementary, which is now part of Roseville Area Schools, and Crosswinds, which closed and is now home to St. Paul Public Schools’ E-STEM Middle.

Since then, it has operated student leadership programs and offered services such as equity audits and teacher training for both its member districts and non-member districts who contract for services.

Giving up the two schools lost the group a constant supply of state integration funds, and dues and service contracts haven’t been enough to pay its expenses.

Mike Boguszewski, a Roseville school board member who leads the Equity Alliance joint powers board, stated, “There was some minor achievement over the years but never really enough to counteract that diminishing of financial balance.”

According to him, EMID had about $750,000 in the bank when it became Equity Alliance. The money is projected to run out next school year, therefore the partnership’s five remaining member districts — White Bear Lake, Roseville, Forest Lake, South St. Paul, and Inver Grove Heights — all decided recently to disband it in summer 2023.

Equity Alliance, based in Woodbury, still has a few clients but will likely close down in the autumn, according to Boguszewski.

Before folding in 2018, the West Metro Education Program went through a similar shift from managing integrated schools in the Minneapolis suburbs to offering equity services.

The dissolution of the Justice Alliance does not imply that its member districts are no longer concerned about racial equity, according to board members and district officials.

Rather, the districts now believe that their own workers can accomplish the job better and more efficiently.

“This is in no way a reflection of equality work not being a priority in the district,” said John Raasch, a member of the South St. Paul school board.

In March, a month before deciding to leave the Equality Alliance, the White Bear Lake school board issued a resolution “affirming commitment to equity and inclusiveness.”
Since the establishment of EMID, suburban school districts in the Twin Cities have become significantly more ethnically diverse, necessitating the addition of staff to serve those pupils.

“This advice does not imply that we have arrived or that our equitable work in our schools is complete.” At a meeting in April, Roseville Superintendent Jenny Loeck stated, “We think our resources are best deployed internally at this time.”

Nonetheless, Boguszewski stated that Equity Alliance was a valuable resource for districts that were not members.

“If there’s anything that’s emotionally challenging about it… it’s that the need for equity work, to be self-reflective about equality and how you’re doing, is still there, particularly throughout the state of Minnesota, we believe,” he added.

Some districts, he added, lack the community support to participate in such work, particularly in the last year or two, as political conservatives have opposed initiatives to enhance learning circumstances for kids of color.

“Things have grown quite heated in some of these regions of Minnesota,” he continued, “where equity is… conflated with critical race theory or other things that are going on.” “Equity simply means ensuring that each child, regardless of their origin, ethnicity, or color, has access to an environment that permits them to achieve.”

After a large number of individuals turned up to a meeting to express their concerns, the Centerville school system opted not to continue its connection with Equity Alliance in May 2021.

Three months later, the Sartell-St. Stephen school board voted unanimously to terminate the organization’s contract, with one board member claiming they had been “scammed.” That came after a family from Sartell went on Fox News to express their dissatisfaction with the way an equity poll was conducted.

Carlos Mariani, a former DFL state lawmaker from St. Paul and executive director of the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, a competitor of the Equity Alliance, has warned school district administrators for years to expect opposition as they plunge further into equity work.

He tells administrators, “That’s going to rub people the wrong way.” “They’re going to get together and come after you.”

Mariani claims that the current conservative hysteria has lost his firm clients.

“Districts that had been having preliminary discussions with us would then circle back and say, ‘You know, give us a little more time, we’re not quite ready yet.'” “Let’s take a break and let things settle off,” he remarked.

Equity Alliance accomplished outstanding job, according to Mariani, and the state should have modified its financial mechanisms to assist them once they moved from a school district to a service provider.

“I can tell you as a lawmaker that we have not kept up with that thought,” he added. “In retrospect, the state should have responded, ‘That’s incredibly essential,’ and let’s invest in it as well.'”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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