Students thrive thanks to the Edina Education Fund

Students thrive thanks to the Edina Education Fund

Due to widespread budget cuts, public schools throughout the country struggle with a lack of funding. Though well funded, Edina isn’t immune to this unfortunate national trend, but the Edina Education Fund is thankfully here to help. 

Founded in 1995, the Edina Education Fund—or “Ed Fund,” for short—is an independent nonprofit organization. Dedicated to maintaining the academic excellence of Edina Public Schools, the Ed Fund provides strategic funding to special projects that fall outside of schools’ annual budgets. Thanks to such support, the needs of all students in the Edina district—from kindergartners to graduating seniors—can be wholly met. 

The Ed Fund has simple but strong roots in the Edina community. It was the brainchild of several parents, who came together in the mid-1990s to ensure that all children in the Edina Public Schools system would receive a quality education. 

These founding parents, executive director Kathy Rendleman says, “were looking to bring more things into the schools that, quite frankly, the schools alone could not offer.” Thanks to their efforts, in the years since, Edina students have had access to myriad enriching educational opportunities—both in and outside of the classroom. 

Though the Ed Fund may be small in terms of staff, its impact on the students, educators and families who make up Edina Public Schools is anything but minuscule. Running a lean operation at just two part-time staff and a volunteer board, the organization gives $300,000 to $700,000 in grants each year to classrooms throughout the district. 

“We’re here to help close that gap in funding that every district has, to be quite frank. Whatever we can do to make that gap smaller, we can bring more to our students,” Rendleman says. 

The Ed Fund serves as a sponsor to sports teams, clubs and extracurricular groups and provides scholarships to support graduating seniors in their post-high school pursuits. But among its biggest—and, arguably, most impactful—forms of outreach are the grants and program funding that make possible a wide range of enriching educational experiences. 

“Any educator and anyone who works for Edina Public Schools can write in for a grant to the Edina Education Fund. They can ask for anything that they think is going to improve the learning of their students,” Rendleman says. 

Such money has been the source of things like writing centers, in-class artist residencies and STEM classes, as well as one-time purchases, such as a 3-D printer or the 360 camera the music department received last year. “Once we provide that equipment, the teacher can implement new, creative ways to teach because of it,” says Rendleman. 

Former board co-chair Kathyrn Kossel says the Ed Fund considers a range of factors when it comes to funding. “We look at how many students it will touch and whether or not it’s something that can be sustainable after we fund it. We want to make sure that we can touch not only as many students as possible but also as many schools and grades as possible.” 

From sponsorships by local businesses to grants from corporations and community groups, the Ed Fund receives funding from a wide variety of sources. Individuals wishing to contribute may do so on the organization’s website and rest easy knowing the money is going to a worthy cause. 

“As the Ed Fund continues to grow, all of that will go directly back to students in the district,” Kossel says. “The things we fund are really unique ideas, and there’s often no other way to get funding for them. They’re creative, and they really impact the children in a positive way.”