On Jan. 10, Senate leadership announced four priority bills for the 2013 legislative session. I’m proud to announce that I am a co-author of a bill to fund all-day kindergarten programs in Minnesota schools.
Currently about half of Minnesota students attend all-day programs and about 15 percent of students attend all-day programs funded through parental fees. In the past, the state has provided funding for all-day programs targeted at specific students, and school districts have always had the option to provide all-day programs, depending upon available funding. Total cost of the proposed bill is $170 million annually. The program will be voluntary for students; parents can decide if all-day kindergarten is right for their children.
This legislation is a significant education investment for our state and provides an important step toward enhancing Minnesota’s commitment to quality education for all children. Numerous studies conducted over the past four decades have shown that keeping students engaged for an entire day has quantifiable educational benefits, including improved literacy and math skills.
A study from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district provided data on students enrolled in all-day kindergarten in 2003. As third graders, they continued to exceed educational measures relative to their peers in the very same district. The Burnsville study also showed that all-day kindergarten works best when there is critical mass; the best outcomes in child development occur when more students in the classroom have been enrolled in and attended all-day kindergarten.
As chair of the Senate’s Education Finance Division, I anticipate we will be discussing this legislation soon as we begin our legislative hearings the next few weeks.
As we head into another legislative session and we face opportunities to enhance educational opportunities, I leave with this quote by Abigail Adams, a First Lady of the United States: “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.