The topic of debate is whether the state of Minnesota should provide a free, universal, all-day pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds. There is much debate on how this proposed bill is stated, on how much funding in education is already targeted towards families, on why only four-year-old children are covered in the proposal, and on considering if this is the best way to help reduce the achievement gap in families of color. One blog from Minnesota Public Radio http://blogs.mprnews.org/capitol-view/2015/02/state-senate-gop-wants-no-strings-funding-for-schools/ includes quotes from two state senators who view the education bill’s funding from two different points of reference. A state senator from Cambridge, MN argues that Dayton’s proposal as a “burst of funding” without including the needed guidelines on how the funding should be used. Another state senator sees this model as appropriate because is allows the decisions on how funding can be used to be made at the local level. A counter proposal from GOP senators would designate about $455 million to schools during the next two years on an equal, per pupil basis. The senator from Prior Lake, MN states believes that the proposed bill doesn’t fit the educational needs of his district. He would rather see these funds spent on other resources like adding more teachers, or whatever specific concerns a school district needs to address.
Another news blog which is affiliated with the Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/297028161.html, has added a quote from one pre-kindergarten teacher from Newport elementary school saying she notices the differences between students who have gone through pre-kindergarten and those have not gone through pre-kindergarten. The teacher sees value in pre-kindergarten’s role in preparing students for success in further education. An education advocacy group, Parent Aware for School Readiness states that the proposed bill should be directed to about 70,000 low income kids between the ages of birth to 3 years and be $100 million less than the proposed universal pre-kindergarten initiative. The executive director of the group states that districts with many wealthy families do not need this proposal. He questions why the law for pre-school access universal is restricted to four-year-olds; why not three-year-olds? Dayton says that he is open to more funding for additional learning programs covering children of earlier ages.
Here is the press release fact sheet released by the governor’s office: http://www.mn.gov/governor/images/universal_preK_fact_sheet.pdf
I’ve always been interested in the areas of health and education and how our political system can support these initiatives. I have to say I support the idea of Governor Dayton’s free, all-day pre-kindergarten proposal. What concerns me is the wording that Governor Dayton uses to limit the proposal to only target to a certain age demographic of only four-year-olds in pre-kindergarten. It feels like a one-time service for students. I feel the state doesn’t want to address the many issues of helping and educating young people throughout their educational tenure in Minnesota school systems.
It sounds more of a publicity move to make it seem like our state is a nice, helpful state that want to be a national leader in educational achievement. However, when the funds run out, the need to help those students and families still exists. I strongly believe that this proposal needs a better voice and specific requirements than our current governor has provided. He talks about education, but he was only a teacher for several years in his career.