Nearly 2/3 of Minnesotans think K-12 education is on the wrong track

Only 35 percent of Minnesotans believe things in K-12 education are going in the right direction, according to a survey by Morning Consult that is updated monthly. Optimism about the direction of K-12 education within respondents’ local school district was a little higher at 37 percent. Confidence in the direction of K-12 education nationwide came in the lowest, at 22 percent.

Source: EdChoice, Morning Consult

Minnesota school parents were more split on the direction of K-12 education statewide, with 49 percent thinking it is headed in the right direction. Support for the direction of K-12 education within parents’ local school district was the highest, at 57 percent. Only 34 percent of school parents feel things in K-12 education nationwide are on track.

Reports have noted that parent satisfaction could be driven by how well they think their child is doing in school — almost nine in 10 parents believe their child is on grade level in reading and math — and would be shocked to learn otherwise. The majority of Minnesota students are not meeting grade-level standards in reading or math, as measured by the state’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, and academic achievement on national assessments shows Minnesota student performance the lowest it has been in 30 years.

The disconnect between the public’s souring on the direction of K-12 education and parents thinking their local school is on the right track is not new. Since 1999, a Gallup Poll that has tracked parent satisfaction with their child’s education compared with Americans’ views of U.S. education shows a consistent, significant gap.

Source: Gallup

For some, the parent satisfaction poll results may not match up, considering public school enrollment nationwide is down.

A new report by the Manhattan Institute calculated public school enrollment in the U.S. has decreased by 2 percent between 2013 and 2023. Demographic declines, families choosing nonpublic learning options, and those having fewer children than previous generations could all be contributing factors. “However, states, cities, and school districts have been slow to respond to the reality of empty desks,” write Daniel DiSalvo and Reade Ben in their report. “Instead, school spending has increased on a per-student basis in many districts.”

Minnesota public school enrollment has declined for the past four consecutive years. Nonpublic enrollment for the 2023-24 school year ticked up just under 1 percent compared to numbers from the 2022-23 school year; homeschool enrollment increased 10 percent. Spending on education continues to increase, with the Minnesota legislature passing “historic” new education funding and billions in new state aid during the 2023 legislative session that still isn’t enough.

Minnesota MCA Math/Reading Proficiency & Per Pupil Spending