Walz appoints Minnesota's first chief equity officer
Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Stephanie Burrage, a former educator and school district leader, will head a new Equity and Opportunity Office.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, March 29, announced the appointment of the state’s chief equity officer, who will lead a state office dedicated to helping shape policy to address racial inequality in the state.
Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Stephanie Burrage, a former educator and school district leader, will head a new Equity and Opportunity Office. Burrage worked over the past year with hundreds of Black community leaders to gather input that helped shape the state budget framework recently announced by Walz and fellow Democrats in the Legislature.
In what was called the “Mind, Body and Soul” initiative, Burrage met monthly with leaders across the state and heard concerns about issues like affordable housing, the education achievement gap and workforce development. Minnesota has some of the largest disparities between Black and white students.
Burrage said her work already started with the sessions and will continue when she assumes her new role.
“I will be listening. I want people to reach out to say if you need help,” she told reporters and others gathered at the governor’s reception room at the Capitol. “That is my job: to hear what your issues are and then help it sit in government so that we are in partnership together.”
Burrage said she hopes to bring all communities across the state to the table so their concerns can be heard when state leaders craft policy. Walz said he hopes an official dedicated to equity will result in better outcomes in health, education and housing for Minnesotans, regardless of traits like race, gender where they live.
How might the equity office's success be measured? The governor said in the next four years he hopes Minnesota will see changes like higher Black homeownership and standardized test scores. Minnesota has a high quality of life in many areas, but more needs to be done to ensure that quality is enjoyed by all, Walz said.
“We don't need a whole lot more data. We don't need a lot of meetings. We need a whole lot more results for folks,” he said. “Reducing childhood poverty, making sure families have what it takes for them to generate generational wealth. All of those things are going to be dependent on us.”
Before taking her role at the state education department, Burrage was interim superintendent and assistant superintendent of the Robbinsdale Area Schools. She had district leadership positions in Michigan and was a teacher and principal in Minneapolis public schools.
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