Surprise corporate gift for Minneapolis schools

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2011 - 10:50 PM

Cargill, General Mills, Medtronic and Target plan a multimillion investment in Minneapolis public schools.

Four flagship Twin Cities corporations are pledging a multimillion dollar investment in the Minneapolis school district, a system facing the potential of losing $27 million because of proposed state budget cuts.

Foundations from Cargill, General Mills, Medtronic and Target will donate a total amount in the "single-digit millions," district spokesperson Stan Alleyne said Thursday.

The district said in a statement that corporations' "significant financial and resource investments" will address the district's strategic plan, which could include Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson's focus on early childhood literacy.

Alleyne said school district officials and the corporations would release more details at a news conference Monday. He said one of the corporations was still finalizing details of its planned donation as of Thursday afternoon. "These companies have been committed to public education, in particular the Minneapolis public schools, for a number of years," Alleyne said.

Pam Costain, president and CEO of AchieveMPLS, an educational foundation that supports the district's work, helped orchestrate the seven-figure donation but refused to discuss the contributions until Monday at the request of the corporations. Mayor R.T. Rybak is expected to join in the announcement at the Anne Sullivan Communications Center.

"This is part of our commitment to education," Target spokesman Eric Hausman said. "Minneapolis schools are something we've supported for years, and we're looking forward to expanding that relationship."

Officials from each corporation said they would withhold details of their involvement until Monday.

Though significant, the multimillion-dollar contributions would amount to less than 2 percent of the district's annual $650 million budget.

But any significant sum would be welcomed by a district under fire at the State Capitol. Superintendent Johnson forecasts losing roughly $27 million in funding over the next two years under proposed legislation that would cut integration and compensatory education funding.

"Cuts of this magnitude fly in the face of our efforts on behalf of our students, families and Minneapolis residents," Johnson wrote in a letter to families this month.

The reduction would force the district to eliminate school choice and all-day kindergarten, increase class sizes and stagger school start times due to the possible need for a tiered bus route system. Programs for English language learners could also end up on the chopping block.

The donations and pledges of public support are a welcome reprieve in what has been a rough month, Alleyne said.

"We have a history of having strong community support from people who support public education," he said. "People want to see us succeed. They will do their part to contribute to that."

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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