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ENEWS: Environmental Equity, Greenstep Cities, and the Graduation Gap

Date Published: 02/28/2018

Author: Dane Smith

Just Solar and a People’s Movement Assembly

Minnesota’s business owners are investing in renewable energy as never before, mainly because it’s more profitable than ever and it’s advantageous for our state’s economy relative to other states with fossil fuel industries.   But it’s imperative to keep in mind how social and racial justice must be more closely connected to a cleaner environment and climate change.   Yet another EPA study this week confirmed that black Americans suffer disproportionately from air pollution.   Growth & Justice is working closely with statewide groups trying to more fully integrate equity into our efforts to address climate change.    On one of many fronts, we are promoting a People’s Movement Assembly, organized by the Minnesota Just Solar Coalition and keynoted by Jacqui Peterson, national NAACP Environmental Justice Director.    The all-day gathering in St. Paul this weekend will focus on how “access, workforce development and public policy solutions will bring about authentic equity in the developing solar arena.’’

LaCrescent Joins Minnesota Green Step Cities

In every corner of the state, Greater Minnesota is making largely unsung progress on renewable energy conversion.   The town of LaCrescent in our scenic southeastern corner is  the latest community to be highlighted by the Clean Energy Resource Teams website for major strides in conservation and renewable energy, thus joining a list of more than 120 officially designated Minnesota Greenstep Cities.    Among conservation efforts and conversions to renewables, LaCrescent has added a 40KW solar array to the roof of its fire station and city officials installed lighting and humidity control changes at their ice arena that will pay for themselves in just three years.   More conversion is underway at city-owned buildings.

Grad Gap Narrowing, But Not Fast Enough

Headlines brought some encouraging news this week about overall statewide improvement in high school graduation rates and a narrowing of racial disparities since 2011.  Statistics from the Minnesota Department of Education show that the on-time graduation rate gap between white and non-white students has been cut from 27 percentage points to 19 percentage points.    Growth & Justice has worked persistently over the last decade to advance gap-narrowing public policy.   And we were pleased this week to officially join the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage at a large rally for African Heritage Day at the state capitol.    We applauded inspirational speakers at the event, notably St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, and an overwhelming consensus of civic and business leaders who say we must redouble our efforts to close the rest of the gap.    And we support key elements on the 2018 legislative agenda of the Council:   enactment of  the “Increasing Teachers of Color Act’’; more investment in early education and intervention for low-income families; and accelerated efforts to increase both the hiring of individuals of color and contracting with businesses owned by people of color. 


“We need to keep pressing the accelerator down to make sure every kid graduates on time and ready,” Minnesota Education Department Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, in Star Tribune article cited above.

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