4 Cos. Pledge $13M Investment in Mpls. Schools

Target, Cargill, General Mills, and Medtronic will collectively provide $13 million to Minneapolis Public Schools over the next three years-money that will help the district cope with an expected state funding shortage of up to $27 million.

At a time when Minneapolis Public Schools are facing massive state budget cuts, four major local companies have made a multimillion-dollar investment in Minnesota's largest school district.

Target Corporation, Cargill, Inc., General Mills, Inc., and Medtronic, Inc., will collectively contribute more than $13 million to help further priorities outlined in the school district's strategic plan, they said Monday.

The funding will be distributed in a variety of areas over a three-year period-and it will help the district cope with a possible $27 million state funding shortfall.

Minneapolis-based Target is making the largest contribution-$6 million to fund reading initiatives. The money will go toward school library makeovers and the expansion of a statewide initiative that aims to help ensure that all kids can read by the end of third grade. Target also will convene a group of experts to pilot a literacy intervention program at various school sites.

Wayzata-based Cargill, meanwhile, will provide Minneapolis Public Schools with grants totaling nearly $5 million. Funding will go toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; enhancing college preparedness; and helping the school system to recruit, develop, and retain “top talent” to staff and administer schools.

“At Cargill, we believe that the issues facing our educational system are too large and complex for any single entity to solve alone,” Mark Murphy, executive director of the Cargill Foundation and assistant vice president of Cargill corporate affairs, said in a statement. “Today, we are delighted to come together with other leading Minnesota-based companies to focus on how to help increase the number of Minneapolis students who graduate and go on to succeed in work and life.”

In addition to Cargill's solo contribution, it, Golden Valley-based General Mills, and Fridley-based Medtronic are also giving money together through a joint entity they created-the Collaborative for Education Excellence. Together, they'll give $2.8 million, which will be used to design a new process for recruiting, training, and supporting “high-performing” principals and leaders for the school district.

“These corporate citizens are providing a strong national model of how schools and the business community can collaborate to transform public education and provide our students with cutting-edge opportunities and learning tools,” Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said in a statement. “Together, there is no limit to what we can achieve for our students.”

The school district's budget for the current fiscal year totals $684.2 million. A bill currently under consideration in the Minnesota Legislature calls for $27 million in cuts over the next two years.

Minnesota Business Partnership Executive Director Charlie Weaver told Twin Cities Business last month that education is a key issue on the minds of the state's business leaders. But he and other local business association leaders believe that major changes to the state's education system are needed in order to preserve Minnesota's competitive work force.