Follow the Money
What is the Equity Alliance MN?
According to its website, the Alliance for Educational Equity is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization (EIN 82-3568400) “provides a continuing, innovative source of funding to support the programs, services and work of Equity Alliance MN by soliciting, managing, and distributing funds.”
The East Metro Integration District, based in Woodbury, Minnesota, was established in 1995 and today does business as Equity Alliance MN, according to the Pioneer Press.
The organization made national news in August 2021 when a survey at Sartell-St. Stephen school district in Minnesota drew fire because students were advised to hide an equity survey from their parents.
On its website, the organization says it has been providing “Culturally Relevant” since its founding through “professional learning and student programs” in member district schools. In 1995, the Tri-District created the Harambee Elementary School. In 2001, the East Metro Integration District formed the Crossroads Middle School. In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature “conveyed Harambee to Roseville Area Schools and Crosswinds to Perpich Center for the Arts.”
East Metro Integration District has had registered lobbyists with the state of Minnesota, according to records of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
What services does Equity Alliance MN offer?
Equity Alliance MN offers “customized consulting.”
Its services include:
- “Consultation” to school districts, schools and organizations as an “equity resource,” “based on unique needs,”
- “Facilitation” of “internal and external conversations” within an organization or community-wide
- “Executive coaching” to leaders on “equity support and development” and “equity-centered practices”
- “Implementation” of “equity-focused work” and “equity-centered practices” in a school, school district or organization
In Equity Alliance MN’s April 2021 minutes, an official provided an update on the organization’s programs and services. “We are in the process of creating promotional videos for the organization,” the minutes said. Earlier in the year, the group had selected Uzoma Obasi from The Creative Group LLC. “We do have competitors in this work, so we need to market our organization and the work we do. We will do a series of five videos; an overview of the organization, equity audits, equity action plans, student programming, and professional development.
The organization said it was doing five equity audits, “with more inquiries coming in regularly.” They had “conducted focus groups” in Centennial Public Schools, “facilitated some professional learning” at Northfield Public Schools, “working on an Equity Action Plan process” with White Bear Lake, and “working on securing contracts with several other districts and organizations.” They noted, “We are busy, our name is getting out there and we are growing day by day.”
What K-12 work has Equity Alliance MN done?
On its website, Equity Alliance MN identifies five school districts as its “members.” They are: Forest Lake Area Schools, Inver Grove Heights Community Schools, Roseville Area Schools, South St. Paul Schools and White Bear Lake Area Schools.
Centennial Public Schools
On May 5, 2021, Centennial School District signed a contract with Equity Alliance for $125,000 for the first year of an “Equity Audit.”
One media report wrote: “The Centennial School Board was in the process of approving a contract with Equity Alliance Minnesota earlier this summer but paused the discussions amid community backlash. According to one report, residents were primarily concerned by the board’s plan to join Equity Alliance as a full-time member. The annual membership cost is $32,500, according to a copy of the proposed two-year contract obtained by Alpha News.”
Northfield Public Schools
On Feb. 17, 2021, Equity Alliance MN officials participated in a board meeting, reporting their progress in the school district, according to a copy of minutes from the meeting.
Another set of minutes on April 21, 2021, also documented the organization’s work in the district.
Sartell-St. Stephen School District
On Oct. 14, 2020, Sartell-St. Stephen School District signed a contract to pay Equity Alliance MN $54,243.75 for an “Equity Audit,” “Equity Action Plan Development” and “Professional Development Activities.”
The next year, in early August 2021, the Sartell-St. Stephen School District decided to cancel its contract with Equity Alliance MN. According to an article in the local paper, school board member Amanda Byrd said during the meeting, “We got scammed by an organization that failed to do their work properly, legally, and ethically and made promises that they didn’t keep.”
A local article chronicled the school district’s issues with the contract, noting: “A Facebook group, Concerned Parents and Community of ISD 748, now has more than 1,000 members. A new website dedicated to putting students over politics is also active.”