Some people are concerned that the effort to address racial inequities in the K-12 school system is hurting rather than helping students.

The Center for the American Experiment held a conference Tuesday afternoon in Rochester as part of a tour around the state. Dubbed the "Raise Our Standards Tour," multiple speakers gave presentations highlighting the ways they say the educational system is providing a disservice to young people.

ALSO READ: From different places and headed different directions, Rochester area seniors prepare for graduation

Kendall Qualls, who recently ran for Minnesota's 3rd District Congressional seat, shared his personal story, working his way up from a family of humble means to a successful career in the military and the private sector. He spoke about the pervasive issue that a large percentage of children are born into single-parent or broken homes within the Black community.

"Let's make sure we diagnose the right issues," Qualls said. "This is not a racial disparity issue. This is a family disruption issue."

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Catrin Wigfall, Center of the American Experiment policy fellow, speaks during a stop at the Rochester Golf and Country Club as part of the Center of the American Experiment's "Raise Our Standards" tour Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Rochester. The tour's goal is to "counter the 'woke' political movement invading Minnesota's Public Schools," according to a press release. The tour is stopping in 17 Minnesota cities. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Catrin Wigfall, Center of the American Experiment policy fellow, speaks during a stop at the Rochester Golf and Country Club as part of the Center of the American Experiment's "Raise Our Standards" tour Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Rochester. The tour's goal is to "counter the 'woke' political movement invading Minnesota's Public Schools," according to a press release. The tour is stopping in 17 Minnesota cities. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

American Experiment Policy Fellow Catrin Wigfall went on to speak about how "critical race theory" is being introduced to Minnesota's school systems. She said although the theory is dressed up in appealing terms like "inclusion" and "diversity," it's really an extension of Marxism.

"We have seen that the word 'equity' is easily confused with the American principle of 'equality,' " she said. "The two are very different. Equality is all about equal opportunity. Equity, on the other hand, is about guaranteeing equal outcomes, and that only comes when you gerrymander a system to favor one group over another, which, at its core, is discrimination."

Wigfall said critical race theory also serves to distract from core educational areas, particularly for the students of color. According to Wigfall, Black and Hispanic students from Mississippi are outperforming Black and Hispanic students from Minnesota in math and reading.

Republican state Sen. Carla Nelson spoke briefly at the end of the meeting, highlighting the fact that a lot of the decision-makers can be found at the local level. Nelson is the former chair of the Senate Education Committee.

"The school board is so critically important," she said. "The state of Minnesota does not determine curriculum. And that's a good thing. You don't want the state doing that. But it does show the importance of those locally elected school boards."