San Antonio mayor puts spotlight on education

  • Article by: DENISE JOHNSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2013 - 8:12 PM

Julian Castro recognizes how much cities can gain by closing achievement gaps.

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Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, Texas.

Photo: Harry E. Walker • MCT,

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INVESTING IN BRAINPOWER

A welcome message from Texas

 

The young, dynamic mayor of San Antonio came to town last week with a message that should resonate with Twin Citians. Mayor Julian Castro believes that education is the centerpiece of city building and has embarked upon an ambitious effort to make San Antonio a “brainpower city ’’ by 2020.

He shares that smart vision with the current and future mayors of the Twin Cities — as well as local voters who made education a priority during the recent Minneapolis mayoral campaign. For cities to thrive and prosper, their government leaders must help rally communities to help close learning disparities and educate more students.

Castro was invited to Minneapolis as the keynote speaker for AchieveMpls, the independent nonprofit partner of the Minneapolis School District. The organization raises funds to support the district’s work by sponsoring career and college centers and programs like the Step-Up summer jobs program.

Now 39 and in his third term, Castro is the youngest mayor of a major American city. He and his twin brother Joaquin, a Texas congressman, are the grandsons of a single mom who immigrated from Mexico. In 2012, Julian Castro was the first Latino to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

During an interview, he said he helped bring together thousands of San Antonians to get them talking about what they wanted their city to be. In those conversations, improving education emerged as a top theme. That led to the creation of SA2020, a community vision with the goal of creating a brainpower city. With the mayor’s leadership and support from business and community leaders, the city established Café College, a one-stop center for guidance on college admissions, financial aid and test preparation.

To support another element of the vision, last year Castro persuaded city voters to approve a eighth-cent increase in sales tax to fund high-quality preschool for 22,000 4-year-olds over the next eight years. That’s no small accomplishment in a state that spends much less than the national average on education.

Castro wants to increase achievement at every grade level, with at least 50 percent of the city’s adults attaining a two- or four-year degree by 2020. And he wants to see other cities come along, too.

“Cities like San Antonio and Minneapolis are where things are happening — where we’re getting things done. … They’re young, diverse, and they reflect what all of America will look like. We’re not waiting for the state or for the federal government to do this for us. … Brainpower is the currency of success.’’

 

Denise Johnson is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

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