Senate Republicans and advocates of school choice held a rally Thursday outside Education Minnesota’s headquarters in St. Paul to call for school-choice policies in the state’s education budget.
Several parents, along with Senate Education Committee Chair Roger Chamberlain and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, spoke on the importance of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which would allow state money to follow children to private schools if their parents choose to pull them from public school.
Kofi Montzka — a parent and member of Take Charge Minnesota and the Exodus movement — said Minnesota has one of the largest achievement gaps between black students and white students, which is why so many people support the ability to choose the best school for their children.
Montzka shared a statistic showing that students who are black and go to public schools graduate at a rate of 60%, while black students who attend private schools graduate at a 99% rate.
A poll from Beck Research found that 65% of all voters and 74% of African-American voters support school choice.
Still, left-leaning politicians will not approve school-choice policies, and Education Minnesota continues to stand in the way.
“Democrats oppose school choice. They oppose giving families of color a chance to get out of these failing schools, even though they yell the most about how they care about black lives, equity, and disparity. They look at this disparity, and they do absolutely nothing,” Montzka said.
Kofi Montzka, member of Take Charge Minnesota and the Exodus movement, speaks at a rally for school choice Thursday. She says it is "absolute hypocrisy" to wave a "Black Lives Matter" sign and then vote "no" on school choice. pic.twitter.com/vZTmG9F7TN
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) June 3, 2021
Education Minnesota, the teachers union, has “held hostage” the education system for too long, Gazelka said in a press release. “Dismal improvements” to close the achievement gap have been made, he pointed out.
Children’s hopes and dreams are crushed by the teachers union, Minnesota Parent Union President Rashad Turner said.
“If you can’t read, there’s not much you can do,” he noted.
Turner is also the founder of the Black Lives Matter St. Paul chapter, but he left after discovering the organization’s failure to actually help black communities. At the school choice rally, Turner pointed out that saying “Black Lives Matter” needs to begin with giving black students a quality education.
“Quality education should not be political. You are on the side of children, or you are on the side of the status quo,” Turner said.
With ESAs, parents would be empowered to take control of their children’s education by having the ability to use a government-authorized savings account, if they choose, for private school, tutoring, or online school tuition for their children.
Benito Matias, principal of Ascension Catholic School in North Minneapolis, said that this bill presents an opportunity for justice to be served.
“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,” Matias said at the rally.
In a previous Alpha News interview, Liberty Classical Academy founder Rebekah Hagstrom declared that ESAs should be a “nonpartisan issue.”
She said that those who truly do care about racial justice will support this policy: “To force [children] to stay in public schools that are failing is the greatest injustice you could possibly imagine.”
At the Thursday rally, Montzka also pointed out Gov. Tim Walz’s recent press conference regarding police reform, during which he said that making change needs to 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,” Montzka said, referring to school choice and ESAs. “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.”
Chamberlain said negotiations on the education omnibus bill and state budget are ongoing, and an outcome will be reached “very soon.”
The only way school choice will not be in the final budget is if Walz and House Democrats block it, Chamberlain said. Lawmakers will return to St. Paul later this month to pass a final budget.