Parents, education advocates call for school choice in Minnesota: ‘education is in crisis’

Watch the press conference here.

ST. PAUL, MN –  A group of Minnesota parents and education advocates today held a press conference alongside several legislators to call for school choice in Minnesota. The parents, who came from a variety of backgrounds, emphasized that education is in crisis and drastic steps must be taken to close the state’s historic and persistent achievement gap. They pleaded for state leaders to empower parents and families with choice in the form of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), a proposal included in the Senate Republicans budget that is currently the subject of ongoing negotiations with the House and Gov. Walz. 

Rashad Turner, Executive Director of Minnesota Parent Union and founder of the Minneapolis chapter of Black Lives Matter: “If we are saying Black Lives Matter, if we are saying all are welcome here, that needs to start with a quality education. Our children’s future should not be political. Quality education should not be political. You are on the side of children, or you are on the side of the status quo. My ask is that you get on the side of children and families.”

Benito Matias, Principal of Ascension Catholic School in North Minneapolis: “This is not a zero-sum game. It’s not a game at all. This is not a situation where ‘we win and they lose or they win and we lose.’ This is about our most precious of resources: our children. There’s been a lot of talk lately about justice and equity. This is an opportunity to deliver some justice and some equity. We are asking politicians to listen to what families are saying, to what scholars are saying, and help us provide voice, choice, and agency for all families in Minnesota.”

Kofi Montzka, parent and member of the Exodus Movement and Take Charge: “I heard Gov. Walz recently discussing police reform and people of color. He said change must be a moral imperative. I hope Gov. Walz will consider this change a moral imperative that will also make a difference in the lives of people of color. I hope he will get out of his comfort zone and think about what will make a real difference. If you care about students of color, you can’t leave them in failing schools. Every kid, no matter their race or income, deserves the right to a great education.”

Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), Chair of the Senate Education Committee: “I am here to serve the families and students. I am not here to serve Education Minnesota, the Department of Education, or any other political professionals or lobbyists. Education is in crisis in this state. It’s time to change the status quo. We have great teachers and great schools, but we have to break the teacher’s union monopoly in order to break the crisis. All parents should have the same options regardless of their race, background, or income level. The only reason school choice will not be in the final budget agreement is if House Democrats and Gov. Walz block it. They will have to face the public, face parents, and tell them they don’t deserve equality.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake): “For far too long our education system has been stagnant and held hostage by special interest groups like Education Minnesota. In that span, we’ve made dismal improvements to our achievement gap leaving children behind in both math and reading. We can do better. We must change how we look at education and work to empower parents and increase choice so that all of Minnesota’s students have a chance.”

Education Savings Accounts, which will empower parents with more flexibility and control over their child’s education, are the marquee item in the Senate Republican Education budget. With ESAs, the state funds kids, not systems: If a parent chooses to withdraw their child from public school, the state would deposit that child’s share of state education assistance into a restricted, government-authorized savings account the parent could use for approved education-related expenses, including tuition and fees at a different school, online learning, instructional material, and more. ESAs empower parents and have vastly improved outcomes for kids.

A March 2021 poll conducted by Morning Consult found 69 percent of all Minnesotans and 75 percent of all parents nationwide support ESAs. According to a 2021 survey from Beck Research, 74% of African Americans, 71% of Latinos, and 65% of all voters back the concept of school choice.

Menu