Republican Dr. Scott Jensen called for a “new attitude” toward education in Minnesota when releasing his “plan for educational excellence” at the State Fair Tuesday.
“When half our kids can’t read and do math at grade level, we have a problem,” said Matt Birk, Jensen’s running mate. “The public school system was never meant to be an end. It was meant to be a means to an end. We want to have an educated population.”
Test scores released last week show nearly half of Minnesota students cannot read at their grade level while only 44% of students are meeting proficiency standards in math.
“Even before the pandemic, proficiency in math and reading were going down as per-pupil spending went up,” Birk commented. “Like Scott said, I don’t know what ‘fully-funded’ education means, but hopefully we could all agree that any funding that does go towards education, that a majority of that money gets to the classroom for the students and the teachers so learning can take place and not be gobbled up by bureaucrats and administrators.”
Some of the major themes of their “10-point plan” focus on curriculum transparency, school choice, and keeping divisive concepts like critical race theory out of the classroom. For instance, the plan calls for a “parents bill of rights” that would provide parents with a “portal system” to “review curriculum, literature and books used in school districts and classrooms across Minnesota.”
Jensen and Birk support Education Savings Accounts — or school vouchers — for students to attend a school of their choice, which they believe would benefit minority and low-income students.
They also want to ban “critical race theory-based standards being proposed by the Walz administration.” According to Jensen, the decennial review of education standards used to require approval from the Legislature, but that changed in 2008.
“Parents, students, teachers, the public and elected officials must have authority of development and approval of this curriculum restored,” their plan says.
Jensen clarified on his website that his plan would reduce funding for “bureaucracy like the Department of Education, which educates no children.”
“There will be other reallocations to classroom instruction and it will be in the millions of dollars. We want to spend better and smarter,” he said.
Jensen said he is confused by his opponent, Gov. Tim Walz’s desire to “fully fund” public education.
“I don’t know what that means. We just gave one of the biggest chunks of money to K-12 in the history of Minnesota and evidently we’re not fully funded. What does that mean?” he said.
Other policies in Jensen’s plan seek to crack down on student truancy, improve school safety, protect homeschooling, teach practical skills in school, and more.
“I really would like to just push the politics aside. This isn’t about Democrat and Republican,” Jensen said. “We’re trying to elevate the conversation so it’s not just about politics.”