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Kent: Investing in Early Education Pays Dividends for Children, State

A column from Sen. Susan Kent.

As the 2013 Legislative Session continues, I am meeting with constituents on a variety of issues. The biggest issue facing Minnesota is our budget. After swinging from deficit to deficit, with budget shortfalls in eight of the past 11 years, we need to put Minnesota on a financially sustainable path.

While the budget works its way through the committee process and we wait for the next budget forecast, I’m moving my first bill through the legislative process. It is SF 162, which will allow flexibility to spend money on early education and all-day kindergarten.

Study-after-study shows the value of early education and all-day kindergarten. Recently here in Minnesota, the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District conducted a multi-year study (following students from kindergarten to third grade) to report the impact of all-day kindergarten. To no surprise, the study found children benefitted from all-day K. Students enrolled in all-day kindergarten programs received higher test scores than students in half-day kindergarten, with students in the universal all-day K program maintaining their achievement levels better compared to students enrolled in a fee-based program. Also, the study showed that a “critical mass” of students is necessary in the lower elementary grades in order to sustain achievement gains of all-day programs, which means we need a universal program to reap the greatest benefit.

At the same time, we cannot forget about pre-kindergarten education. It is as important as all-day kindergarten. Approximately 15,000 low-income students come to kindergarten underprepared, which costs the state nearly $860 million every year this continues (about $56,000 throughout the lifetime of each unprepared child). The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has calculated that investments in early education achieve a return as high as $16 for every $1 spent.

We have seen the benefits to children and to society when we invest in education at a young age. We’ve also seen it is important to have as many children as possible enrolled in these programs. My bill provides school districts with flexibility to better meet the needs of their community. It allows for more local decision making and greater local control. What is good for Woodbury might not be good for Thief River Falls. We need to allow our school districts the ability to determine the right path for them.  

As I meet with businesses in Woodbury, Oakdale, Maplewood and throughout the district, I hear over and over the need for well-educated, highly skilled workers. Making sure our local businesses have the work force needed to compete in the global economy begins with early education. The students of today are the workers of tomorrow, and we need to make sure Minnesota continues to have the best workers in the world.

 

-Sen. Susan Kent

Joe February 14, 2013 at 05:29 PM
So on the ISD 833 website, it describes Kindergarten Plus (all day kindergarten) as "full-day kindergarten option which includes the same student outcomes as the traditional half-day program with curriculum extensions and enrichment opportunities." So if half day kindergarten produces the same student outcomes as full day, then why do we think we need to pay for everyone to have full day? Something isn't making sense here. Both positions can't be right. Why don't we call this what it is, a handout to families to get free daycare from the state. That is essentially what this is. By the way I have a preschool child, so obviously, this new program would be beneficial to me and my family, but I just think people need to know the facts on this issue.
Alex February 14, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Why are children entering kindergarten unprepared? Do their parents not want what is best for their children? Who is a child's first & best teacher? Their parents of course! I'm sorry but I have little tolerance for people who refuse to teach their children. The state can throw more money at early education, but what of the parents who pretty much sabotage their children's future by not bothering to teach them the basics? Would it not make more sense to force a parent somehow to take responsibility for their child, instead of trying to change a child who was molded by a parent who didn't feel it necessary to teach their child the basics? For better or for worse, a child's biggest influence is their parents/guardians.
SomeGuy February 15, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Kindergarten Plus is not free. An additional $292/month per child is charged to families for the '12-'13 school year (financial aid is available), according to the CE web site (http://www.cecool.com/programs.aspx?ID=60). And, that is the same cost to families as last year.

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