Dismal test scores highlight need for education savings accounts in Minnesota


We all lost so much during the pandemic. We were forced to leave our jobs, schools and stay apart from each other. We lost memories and time with our families, our friends, and other moments in our lives that are so important.

But our children may have lost the most.  Schools were shutdown nationwide — at first, just for two weeks. That turned into remote learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, and for most of the 2020-21 year as well.

It is now clear that our kids have lost even more than simply time with their friends or classroom parties. Their learning and overall knowledge levels have been decimated due to the school shutdowns, and we need to start having frank conversations about the impact of the pandemic response on the social, psychological, and academic development of our children; a generation of students has fallen far behind, and it will have an impact on all of us.

One thing is evident, however: Students who were allowed to remain in the classroom, or return sooner, fared far better. Parents who were able to make sure their kids were in classrooms — not at home on the computer — knew it was the right thing to do.  New test scores not only show they were right, but also showed just how detrimental these decisions were to millions of kids across the country.

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Test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, show 4th and 8th graders saw the biggest declines in scores for math and reading.  In Minnesota, the decline was stunning.

Yet, results for students who were able to attend nonpublic schools tell a different story. Due to their dedication to their students, many of these schools rolled up their sleeves and found a way to safely stay open, and not surprisingly, their average test scores are much higher than their public-school peers. In fact, if Catholic schools were a state, they would rank as the top-performing state according to The Nation’s Report Card. The main driver of these results: Kids are in school.  Their needs were put first, where they need to be.

We have not come close to understanding the scale and scope of the educational losses our children have experienced. What we do understand is that empowering parents is an essential part of the solution.

As we discuss how best to help our kids improve their math and reading proficiency, limiting ourselves to the “old ideas” will, at best, return us to an old and unacceptable status quo. Simply pouring more money into the system will not help when it is the system itself that is the problem.

And so, we not only need to make sure parents are a part of the solution, but we also need to empower those parents. As many other states have done, we need to use education savings accounts to give parents the financial ability to make the educational choices that will best serve their kids.

As the dust settles around the 2022 election and the legislators prepare for the 2023 legislative session, we need to make education reform a top priority. These recent test scores should move us toward a renewed commitment to put the needs of our kids above everything else.

All legislators of all political parties should be able to agree that we are faced with a serious situation. Throwing more money at the problem will not solve it; instead, we need to empower parents to decide how that money is spent in a way that works for their family. It’s time to make education savings accounts a reality in Minnesota, so that all parents, of all background, and all income levels can choose the schools that will open a bright future for all our kids.

Want to learn more about education savings accounts? Go to

Rev. Fredric Hinz is public policy advocate with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Joshua “J.B.” Borenstein is executive director at the Torah Academy in St. Louis Park. Both serve on the board of Opportunity for All Kids (OAK). Their piece follows a recent MinnPost Community Voices piece that advocated for fully funding education.


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