Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Private school choice options

Published (3/2/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
Share on: 

Low-income students in poorly performing schools could have increased access to private school education.

HF273, sponsored by Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine), proposes that these students could leave failing public schools to attend more effective private schools, with the state picking up the bill. On Feb. 29, members of the House Education Finance Committee debated whether this strategy would really help Minnesota kids.

Private school choice programs offer struggling families options, said Patrick Wolf, professor at the University of Arkansas. He described a study he conducted that showed positive results from similar choice programs in Milwaukee. Wolf cited outcomes including higher graduation rates and academic growth.

“Parents love them. And they deliver education more efficiently and tend to enhance, not undermine, the public purposes of education,” Wolf said.

Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) disagreed. He referred to a 2005 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation that detailed poor management and even criminal activity in private schools that received state funding in Wisconsin. He worries similar malfeasance could occur with the aid of Minnesota public money. Davnie also questioned Wolf’s analysis of data, saying that the study results instead showed private schools in choice programs to be less effective than public schools.

Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield) also voiced concern about the bill, explaining that private school teachers in Minnesota do not need to have licenses to instruct students. She said extending public money to unlicensed teachers is counter to a number of recently enacted education bills, which emphasized teacher accountability and knowledge.

Rep. Branden Petersen (R-Andover) expressed frustration with members’ hesitancy to support the bill.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand exactly what the problem is with letting the least fortunate among us make decisions about their kids’ education. Maybe I’m too simple of a guy,” Petersen said.

The bill was laid over for more work. Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge) sponsors the companion, SF388, which awaits action in the Senate Education Committee.

Session Weekly More...

Session Weekly Home

Related Stories

Waiting for the governor’s final grade
Omnibus education bill nears finish line
(view full story) Published 4/27/2012

Last in, first out … out or in?
Conference committee weighs benefits of changing teacher layoff practices
(view full story) Published 3/30/2012

Education advocate is moving on
Rep. Mindy Greiling announces she won’t seek re-election
(view full story) Published 2/3/2012

Withholding state funds from schools
Education finance law keeps $780 million for other General Fund spending
(view full story) Published 8/11/2011

First try at K-12 finance bill fails
Dayton says special education cuts ‘would create significant funding gaps’
(view full story) Published 7/15/2011

‘Bold and beautiful’ or full of inequities?
Confusion exists whether K-12 bill increases or cuts funding
(view full story) Published 5/20/2011

Minnesota Index: Teaching and learning
Facts and statistics about education in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 5/20/2011

Lands set apart
Permanent School Fund management, income potential explored
(view full story) Published 5/13/2011

‘Social promotion’ to promote literacy
Third-graders could repeat if they can’t read
(view full story) Published 4/29/2011

Historic St. Paul walkout
Illegal action changed teacher bargaining; a new debate rises over right to strike
(view full story) Published 4/15/2011

Changes in education
House approves omnibus education finance bill
(view full story) Published 4/1/2011

Education finance bill offers bold reforms
Quantity not as key as quality, says DFL
(view full story) Published 3/25/2011

A voucher by any other name
Bill would create limited scholarships for low-income students
(view full story) Published 3/18/2011

Fewer days, longer hours
Some districts find four-day school week works as a budget fix
(view full story) Published 2/18/2011

First Reading: ‘Pitting the good against the good’
Proposed lift of safe schools mandate is a tough call
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

The goal: 25,000 new teachers
Bush Foundation commits big bucks to revamp teacher training
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

First Reading: Alternative teacher mindset
Tackling the achievement gap one classroom at a time
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011