Black Minnesotans were the least likely to say that black children have the same opportunities as their white peers. Only 15% of black Minnesotans, compared to 48% of white Minnesotans, believed that all children had the same opportunities, regardless of their racial and ethnic background.
“There is just a lack of universal service from people from communities of color at all levels. It’s historic across the country in terms of having a segregated community, ”said Edric Knight, a black lawyer. Knight lived in Minnesota and mentors students in the state.
He points to a history of racial segregation and the state’s school funding system as reasons why educational opportunities are so unequal.
“The funding goes to whites, so if you’re not close to whites, you won’t have access to that funding. And that’s the problem, ”Knight said.
The survey, conducted April 26 to June 14, asked 1,532 Minnesota residents a variety of questions, including their attitudes toward K-12 public schools in the state.
While a majority of Minnesotans – 56% – said they trusted schools across the state to do what is right “almost always” or “most of the time,” more than a third were agree with Knight that they “never” or “only some of the time” trust schools.
The history of segregation and discrimination in loans in Minnesota, known as redlining, may explain why survey respondents of different races and ethnicities have such radically different views on public education.
Jessica Calarco, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, said Minnesota was not alone.
“In most states of the country, schools are extremely separated by race and ethnicity and also by socio-economic status,” Calarco explains. “So when parents think of their own white children versus colored students, they only think of the handfuls of colored students who are in their schools. And they think, “My child has the same opportunities as this child and therefore everything is equal. What they ignore in many cases is the fact that there are deep inequalities between different communities and between different schools.
“Funding for schools is based on property taxes and because of that it is inherently unequal,” said Jenny Shorter, a special education paraprofessional in Sartell, Minnesota, who is Caucasian.
Shorter’s experience with diverse groups of students shaped his understanding of the Minnesota education system. But she also took the time to read and learn about how the education system is funded and structured.
Minnesota residents have the lowest levels of trust in K-12 schools in the state. And respondents to the Hmong survey were less likely than other Asian Americans in the survey to believe that Minnesota’s public schools provide children with equal opportunities almost always or most of the time.
Mee Moua, 36, and a resident of St. Paul, said schools in Minnesota do not provide equal opportunities for Hmong children.
“I’ve seen good and bad,” Moua said. “As a person of color you see that you don’t get any benefit. But I wouldn’t complain too much. It was fair.
Moua has four children who attended schools in Minnesota. She graduated from a public school in St. Paul. Her parents were refugees, and she said it was sometimes difficult for her to participate in the same opportunities as her white classmates.
She said she often had to help interpret or translate things for her parents, who were not always able to champion her cause and that of her siblings.
“I can see that when it comes to the benefits or the programs, or even the grants or the scholarships, I don’t see as many Asian children recognized or recognized,” Moua said.
More Hmong language and history lessons would be helpful. A program focused on white experiences has failed to equip students with knowledge of other cultures, Moua added.
Race and ethnicity are not the only factors that influence opinions about equality in the Minnesota education system; politics, geography and educational attainment also play a role. Republicans were three times more likely than Democrats to say they believed all children had the same opportunities in Minnesota schools.
More than half of those polled in Greater Minnesota believed children had equal educational opportunities, while 35% of residents in Twin Cities thought the same. Only 28% of those who graduated from college thought Minnesota schools offered equal opportunities, compared with 45% of those who had completed college education.