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Philanthropy beat: Skyway campaign focuses on learning

  • Article by: Jean Hopfensperger
  • Star Tribune
  • April 16, 2012 - 5:37 PM

Shoppers in the Minneapolis skyways typically see advertisements for fashion and perfumes. But this month, they'll run into eye-catching ads spotlighting something quite different -- Minnesota's student achievement gap.

It's part of a public service campaign launched by the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children. It's the type of advocacy work increasingly being supported by philanthropies, which are expanding their reach beyond programs and into public policy.

The goal of the ads, which also are appearing in major Twin Cities publications, is to provoke action on a gap that has been documented for years.

"We've chewed this to death: Now we need to get moving on it,'' said Mike Ciresi, president of the foundation board of directors. "We haven't had a sense of urgency to get things done.''

The ads can be surprising. One shows a scoreboard for a football game. On the right is Minnesota, with 172. On the left is Japan, with 243. The headline: "The number of days Minnesota students spend in the classroom doesn't make the cut.''

Another scoreboard spotlights Minnesota's problem. On the left is "White Students'' with a score of 88. On the right are "Black Students'' with 38. They refer to the "% of third-graders proficient in reading.''

The scoreboard theme, one of several, may not be surprising because the campaign aims to particularly influence business leaders and policymakers, foundation representatives say. The print ads, for example, will appear in the Star Tribune's business section, Twin Cities Business, online news sites and more.

The campaign is part of the roughly $12 million spent on children's issues by the foundation since it was created in 1998 following the law firm's successful lawsuit on behalf of the state of Minnesota against the U.S. tobacco industry.

Closing the achievement gap is a top priority because it is shaping generations of Minnesota children, said Ciresi, adding: "It's imperative for Minnesota's economic future.''

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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