A key aspect of NAZ’s work and a focus of our current strategic business plan is to expand our influence by actively working to bring about systems and policy change. Our road map to transformation is outlined in our 2023 policy agenda, which prioritizes issues of importance and impact to Northside families, scholars, and our partners. One thing NAZ has learned over years of doing comprehensive work at the community level is that although we are achieving results in key areas, we will never eradicate the achievement gap, end multi-generational poverty, accelerate outcomes, and/or secure sustainable resources without addressing the systems that hold inequities in place. We can do great work on the ground, but if systems don’t change, sustainable outcomes aren’t possible and racial inequity will persist.
This year there exists in Minnesota a unique opportunity with a state budget surplus of $17.6B, of that $12B in one-time expenditures and a Democratic trifecta. The Democratic Party controls the office of the governor and both chambers of the state legislature – the Senate and the House of Representatives– which means a greater potential for achieving consensus and getting bills passed. The legislative session kicked off on January 3rd, and there has already been quite a bit of activity.
NAZ is leading and/or supporting a number of bills and strategies currently moving through the legislature:
- Sustain and expand the “womb to work” supports for more Northside families and children by increasing funding for the Education Partnership Coalition (EPC). With seven other birth-to-career organizations from across the state, NAZ is leading on a bill to increase its state funding, along with that of the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, by $1M per biennium and make funding for the other six Greater Minnesota partner organizations permanent, base funding in the MN Department of Education (MDE) budget
- Accelerate proficiency in literacy for North Minneapolis children and all children across the state by encouraging Minnesota school districts to adopt curriculum and teacher training based on the science of reading through support of the READAct [HF 629 / HF 741], which appropriates $100M to retrain teachers across Minnesota
- Ensure pathways for Teachers of Color and non-traditional remain open, especially in light of the severe shortage of teachers MN is experiencing. We will do this by defeating teacher licensure bills [HF 1224 / SF 147] that restrict pathways to becoming classroom teachers
- Increase housing stability for our most vulnerable families. NAZ is supporting bills related to housing stability which include increasing rental assistance for low-income families [HF 11 / SF 11]; providing down payment assistance for first-time home buyers [HF 12 / SF 22]; increasing housing supply and investment bonds [HF 302 / SF 1094]
- Support greater access to early childhood education for low-income families and stabilization of the childcare industry - increase early learning scholarship funding and provide childcare stabilization funding [HF 150 / SF 53]; increase the childcare assistance program rate to 75th percentile of the market [HF 13 / SF 14]; add funding for early childhood education support staff to Minnesota Department of Education [HF 862 / SF 1240]
- Support the mental health of young people - increase funding for school-linked mental health services [HF 564 / SF 578]
Over the years, NAZ has proven that parents in the neighborhood are the best advocates for change affecting their community. Cultivating parent and youth power and voice is the true engine of sustained transformation.