Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton started March 20, 2015 in a preschool class at the Newport Elementary School. The Governor is trying to increase support for his proposal to spend $343 million of the state’s projected $1.9 billion budget surplus on ensuring that all of Minnesota’s four-year-olds get to attend full-day preschool.
Children who attend a quality preschool have an advantage when they enter kindergarten. For instance, they learn such skills as being able to identify letters that will help them learn to read.
Teachers at the Newport Elementary School see a big difference in the performance of children who went to preschool compared to those who didn’t. The Governor is trying to even the playing field so that all of Minnesota’s children have equitable access to education. He observed that only one third of the students in kindergarten in the South Washington County Schools had prior access to preschool.
The Governor faces opposition from educators who fear that funding universal preschool in Minnesota could limit the funding available for disadvantaged students in higher grades. They feel that the money could be better spent on children from low-income families. In addition, some school district officials fear that they don’t have adequate room for such an expansion and are afraid that they might have to lay off teachers.
Senate Democrats are mixed in their support of Dayton’s efforts. While some consider universal preschool to be a high priority, others are wary of fully funding the program. They have other priorities such as increasing the funding for each pupil and improving facilities.
Despite this opposition, Dayton plans on pushing hard for his initiative. If passed, Minnesota would be the tenth state to have universal preschool.