Minnesota’s integration program supported by religious leaders

/ 28 February 2012 / jennifer

Megan Boldt, Pioneer Press, February 28, 2012 –

A group of religious leaders and activists are urging state lawmakers to revamp Minnesota’s $108 million integration program for schools.

ISAIAH, a coalition of 90 congregations that work on racial and economic justice issues, said Tuesday that it wants the Legislature to act on recommendations passed this month by a task force to overhaul the program.

“All our kids deserve a great education. All our communities deserve the opportunity to thrive. And integration helps us to affirm and value each other,” said the Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church in Minneapolis.

The state’s integration program has been criticized for years for its lack of defined goals and oversight. Last session, lawmakers passed legislation that would phase out integration funding in its current form in 2013 and created a task force to find ways to redirect the money.

That task force recommends still having racial and economic integration as a priority but also requiring schools to show student achievement gains for the money they receive.

The group also specified appropriate uses for the funding, such as full-day kindergarten for low-income families and college preparation programs for traditionally underrepresented students.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, said last week that he expects the state Education Department to flesh out a proposal legislators can act on this session.

But the department says the ball is in the Legislature’s court. Spokeswoman Charlene Briner said the department fulfilled its statutory obligations, which included naming six members to the task force, convening the first meeting, offering support to the task force and delivering the report to the Legislature.

“I’m not certain exactly what Rep. Garofalo is referring to when he says he’s waiting for more details from the department,” Briner said.

Megan Boldt can be reached at 651-228-5495.