In April of 2002, parents from 20 Minnesota school districts gathered to determine interest in forming a statewide parent advocacy group for public education. The impetus for holding this organizational meeting was the result of the parents’ involvement in contentious public education finance issues during the 2001 Minnesota legislative session. In the spring of that session, parents had observed that different types of school districts—rural, urban and suburban—were in essence being pitted against each other to vie for insufficient resources. These individuals also observed how valuable parents’ input was at the legislature, where a climate of distrust toward public school administrators and professional educators was evident.
It became clear from these experiences that a strong statewide “voice” was needed for parents who wanted to advocate for high quality and well-funded public education. Parents agreed to unite, to become well-informed and to become effective advocates for all public schools statewide.
Following that first meeting, many more exploratory meetings were held over the next several months. Then, in August 2002, the organization was formally established and the name “Parents United for Public Schools” was selected. The first statewide parent meeting was held in October 2002. In April 2003, Parents United for Public Schools was formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.
In late fall of 2002, another group of parents met in Minneapolis with the intent of mounting a campaign, focused on the 2003 legislative session, for increased funding for public schools. Fearful of losing the high quality schools they’d come to expect, this group of parents aptly named their campaign, Save our Schools. They incorporated as an advocacy organization, a 501(c)(4), to actively lobby for their schools. During the 2003 legislative session they began to build a strong and powerful coalition of parents from across the state who would speak out for their schools. By 2004, it became apparent that this campaign was going to be long fought and their relationship with Parents United for Public Schools grew stronger. They then changed their name to Parents United Network to solidify this relationship, while continuing to be outspoken advocates for public schools.
In order to strengthen the parent voice for education in Minnesota, Parents United Network came under the umbrella of Parents United for Public Schools in 2005. Parents United has become a vital, well-known and well-respected organization throughout the state of Minnesota. Marcia Avner, Public Policy Director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, summarized the organization’s growth by stating that Parents United’s “ability to engage parents and respond to their priorities is unprecedented in recent history.” She went on to say that materials prepared by Parents United are “well-defined, clearly articulated, and go to the heart of the key choices facing Minnesotans.”
Finally, Ms. Avner said, “Best of all, [Parents United] has been wonderful for all nonprofits to work with, because they have addressed the overall issue of the need for expanded resources and have worked across issue areas—not pitting education against other key issues, but helping to unify our shared efforts to invest in strategic priorities for the whole state.”