Confidence in public schools plummets under Walz 

79% of Minnesotans think Gov. Tim Walz's school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on children.

Gov. Tim Walz speaks to the press on the first day of school in September 2021. (Office of Governor Tim Walz/Flickr)

Minnesotans are losing trust in the state’s public education system, according to the results of a poll released this week.

The poll, conducted by Meeting Street Insights on behalf of the Center of the American Experiment, found that a huge plurality of Minnesotans think “academic achievement” should be the top priority of school leaders.

Just 9% of Minnesotans think educators should prioritize “equity and inclusion.”

“Minnesotans desperately want our schools to focus on academic excellence, not chasing the latest fads like CRT or equity and inclusion,” said John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment. “School board members and superintendents need to listen more to the customers of public education: parents and taxpayers.”

The results support Hinderaker’s observations: 38% of Minnesotans oppose critical race theory, compared to the 28% who support it; 53% of respondents think parents should have a say in what’s taught in classrooms, compared to 44% who want parents to defer to teachers.

The percentage of Minnesotans who give the state’s public schools an “A” grade has dropped by 50% since March 2020. At that time, 59% of Minnesotans gave the public education system an “A” or “B” grade. That number now sits at 48%, a more than 10-point decrease.

The percentage of Minnesotans who think public schools deserve a “C,” “D” or “F” grade has grown by 13 points since March 2020.

Another 79% of Minnesotans think Gov. Tim Walz’s school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on children, including 68% of Democrats.

“It’s very telling that support for local schools dropped so dramatically in such a short time,” Hinderaker added. “There is no stronger indictment of shutdown policies than Minnesota parents losing faith in their local public schools.”

A recent MinnPost poll also found that 55% of voters disapprove of Gov. Walz’s performance on education.

Walz, a former teacher himself, vowed to make Minnesota the “education state” in his 2019 inaugural address.

“Foundational to our past, present, and future is the quality of our people, and that all begins with education,” he said. “Every student in Minnesota deserves the opportunity to learn at the best schools in the country with caring, qualified teachers.”

Hinderaker thinks the education issue could be bad news for Democrats in this fall’s midterms.

“The heart and soul of our education system is up for grabs in this fall’s election, from governor all the way down to school board,” said Hinderaker. “Minnesotans are telling us that candidates who listen and respond to parents will be rewarded in November.”

500 registered voters across Minnesota participated in the poll between May 10-12. The margin of error is +/-4.38 percent.