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Foundation launches achievement gap ad push

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Politics and government Updated: April 5, 2012 - 10:06 AM
A local foundation is asking Minnesotans to get more involved in addressing the achievement gap.
The Twin Cities-focused ad push is advocating for more seat time in class for students, stronger teaching and better monitoring of student progress. It’s coming via newspaper, radio and web ads and skyway banners.
The Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi Foundation for Children is financing the $75,000 month-long campaign. It asks Minnesotans to support the legislative schools agenda of MinnCAN, a business and foundation-led group, even as legislative leaders are considering adjournment..
Among the points made is that investment in early education pays dividends, and that Japanese students spend about 70 more days in school than Minnesota requires. MinnCAN’s agenda also supports more controversial proposals such as modifying teacher seniority in layoff decisions that have been hotly disputed by teacher unions, as well as those where unions and reformers agree.
Some of what the ads advocate would require substantial state investment at a time when districts are still waiting to collect some state aid. One example is bringing Minnesota’s required 172 number of days in class up to Japan’s 243 days. A rough estimate is that the bill for extra teacher salaries would easily top $600 million at current salary averages, without adding other specialists and non-teaching workers who staff schools. Minneapolis alone is planning to spend about $9 million more next year to have teachers in school just 15 extra minutes per day and four days per year. The campaign does not suggest how the state should finance longer school years.
In support of more school time, the ads cite two Minneapolis charter schools, Hiawatha Leadership Academy and Harvest Prep , that have achieved higher proficiency rates for students of color.
The foundation's funding for the campaign comes largely from fees it earned from the 1998 tobacco case settlement.
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