Follow the Money: Ethnic studies racket, part 2

In this second part of the series, we Follow the Money™ into the finances of another education-focused nonprofit.

In part 1, we followed the money behind a leading nonprofit in the K-12 ethnic studies space, Education for Liberation, Minnesota chapter.

In part 2, we follow the money backing the St. Paul-based Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP). The partnership was founded in 1991. In 2015, the group added the word “equity” to the name and dropped the word “minority.”

The current executive director of MnEEP is Carlos Mariani Rosa. As Rep. Mariani, he served in the Minnesota House for 32 years, first elected to represent St. Paul in 1990. He chose not to run for re-election in 2022.

Mariani, a Democrat (DFL), held the chairmanship of several different committees during those periods when his party held the House majority. Most recently, he chaired the House’s public safety committee.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mariani has served as MnEEP’s executive director since 1999. During that period, as a state representative, he served two stints as chair of the House K-12 education policy committee, a position that would appear to present an obvious conflict of interest. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the following in 2019,

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, serves as executive director of Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, a nonprofit advocacy organization that receives state funds. Earlier this year, he voted for a higher education spending bill that included a $90,000 appropriation to his organization.

Mariani said state funding for his employer predated his time with the organization. While the longtime legislator initially recused himself from such votes, he ultimately decided that abstaining over “one small provision” was “making it difficult to carry out my function as a people’s [representative] to shape postsecondary laws.” 

According to its most recent IRS Form 990 tax return, MnEEP enjoys annual revenue of more than $1.5 million. As executive director, Mariani earns a relatively modest $97,000 per year, but, until this year, he supplemented that amount with his legislator pay of $48,000/yr.

It’s not just your state tax dollars funding the work of MnEEP. Their list of donors includes some of the largest and most distinguished private foundations in the state. The Bush Foundation of St. Paul, for example, has donated almost $1.2 million to MnEEP over a recent five-year period.

In June 2023, MnEEP received grant of $8,600 from the Minneapolis Foundation, its most recent contribution. The previous year included a grant of $54,000 from the foundation.

Back in 2021, the Minneapolis Foundation gave MnEEP $40,000 as part of the foundation’s “racial and economic justice” program,

Since 2016, the foundation has been led by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. According to IRS filings, Rybak earns over $400,000 per year running the organization.

More recently, MnEEP received a $121,400 grant from the Lumina Foundation of Indianapolis. Lumina is a spin-off foundation of a former student-loan company.

An active Minneapolis-based student-loan company (ECMC) provided funding to MnEEP this year.

MnEEP’s donor list reads like an honor role of corporate Minnesota: 3M, Blandin, General Mills, Medtronic, Securian, and Travelers, to name a few.

What does MnEEP do with this cash? Among other activities, the group promotes anti-racism, critical race theory, and post-colonial theory. MnEEP seeks to address historical trauma, and to fight against implicit bias and structural racism by opposing white supremacy.

More specifically, MnEEP pursues five big bold goals. Goals 3 (more minority teachers), 4 (promoting bilingual education), and 5 (more minority college students) are easy enough to grasp. To promote goal 5, MnEEP operates an advisory council.

The other two goals are less clear.

Here’s the description of goal 1,

Minnesota education leaders and cultural communities create equitable education systems, structures and public narratives.

When leaders lead with an equity lens, schools are equity-centered and inclusive. Students can better understand themselves, their histories, and their identities and can begin to build their power to shape themselves and their world.

I have no idea what a “public narrative” is in this context. The equity lens is defined as,

Race equity lens is an essential tool for analyzing policies, power, relationships, outcomes, and solutions for building a race equity framework. It asks key questions centered on the realities and perspectives of those harmed by the current designs of our social systems and how those systems deliver services to them.

MnEEP refers the reader to its toolkit for further detail. MnEEP offers its seven-step process that would allow your school district to build a “race equity plan” as the organization did for Mankato and Worthington.

Goal 2 appears to push back on the concept of school discipline. See MnEEP’s 2018 report on the subject.

Just last week, MnEEP issued a call for “educational reparations.” What could go wrong?

In this series,

Part 1 looks at the nonprofit Education for Liberation Minnesota

Part 3 examines the work of Unidos/Navigate MN.

Part 4 turns to the nonprofit Education Evolving.