TRUTH TEST: Walz attack on Jensen education plan gets C-minus

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As a former school teacher, Gov. Tim Walz always makes education a key campaign issue. A new TV ad from his reelection campaign touts his education record while attacking his Republican opponent, Dr. Scott Jensen.

“He invested in summer catch-up programs for students hurt by the pandemic and fought to fully fund our schools,” the ad says about the governor’s record on education.

It is true in May of 2021 the governor authorized $75 million in federal pandemic funds for summer programs to help students who fell behind during distance learning early in the pandemic. It’s also true Walz consistently advocates for much more education funding than Republicans. However, it’s impossible to prove he fights to “fully fund” schools because there is no generally accepted definition of what that means.

The centerpiece of the ad is a four-second soundbite from Jensen in an exchange with a Minnesota Public Radio interviewer.

“But listen to Scott Jensen’s plan,” the ad says. “Do you support more money for public schools or less money?” the MPR interview asks. “Less money,” Jensen responds. “I think it’s a black hole.”

It is true Jensen said that. However, hearing more of the interviewer’s question and more of Jensen’s response give the soundbite much more context.

“Let me ask you about school funding because there was a proposal floating around, I think it was about a billion dollars that would be added to public schools on top of 2% each year added to the per-pupil formula in the budget last year,” the interviewer says in the longer soundbite. “Do you support more money for public schools or less money?”

Jensen responds, “Less money. I think it’s a black hole. We’re just dumping money and we’re not getting results. Our achievement gaps are increasing. They’re not going down.”

It appears from the longer soundbite from the same interview that Jensen is opposed to adding a billion dollars to the funding increases already approved by the Legislature and Gov. Walz. As for student achievement, a state report released last week does show hundreds of schools and thousands of students are falling behind, particularly in reading and math proficiency.

Because this ad includes a mix of truthful, false and misleading claims — and a claim that is impossible to verify — it gets a C-minus on the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS “Truth Test.”

Truth Test
How KSTP Grades Political Ads in Truth Test
  • An “A” requires nearly complete accuracy with little exaggeration and little or no need for more context.
  • A “B” requires mostly accurate information, but gets marked down for minor exaggerations or misleading information.
  • A “C” can be the result of inaccurate information or exaggerated information that misleads or gives the viewer no context.
  • A “D” is the result of at least half the information being false or misleading to the point of leaving a false impression.
  • An “F” is the result of more than half the information being outright false or misleading or out of context.