Governor applauds pre-K proposal heard in Senate Education Committee today
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Senate’s version of a voluntary pre-K program received a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday morning. Debate lasted well over an hour on the merits of the $25 million bill that would serve just under 4,000 Minnesota 4-year-olds. Bill author Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Cottage Grove) said the bill is a step forward to one day providing access to pre-K for all Minnesota 4-year-olds.
“I appreciate the Governor and Sen. Wiger’s support of universal pre-K. School-based four-year-old programs make sense on many levels – for children and families. This is a solid step toward ensuring all children have access to a high quality four-year-old program,” said Sen. Sieben.
The bill offers funding to school districts or early learning centers that offer either half-day or full-day pre-K with several stipulations. It also qualifies that class sizes must be no more than 20 students, and student-to-teacher ratios of no more than 10:1. All children who attend a state-funded pre-K program will be eligible for free breakfast, and will be taught by a licensed pre-K educator by the 2022-2023 school year. All of these requirements were laid out as the keys to success by a group of talented educators who make up the Educator Policy Innovation Center also known as EPIC.
“In order to close Minnesota’s achievement and opportunity gaps we must make bold steps forward. I want to thank Sen. Sieben for bringing forward this bill and championing the need for pre-K across the state. Minnesota’s pre-K system ranks 41st out of 50 states when it comes to the number of children who have access to high-quality pre-K programming. We can, and must do better,” said Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
“Expanding access to voluntary pre-K in Minnesota will help narrow our state’s achievement gap, and provide excellent educations and a strong start for more students in Minnesota,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “I thank Sen. Sieben and Sen. Wiger for their outstanding leadership, to help make early education more affordable for more Minnesota families across our state.”
“We need to continue to make the kind of investments that Sen. Sieben and Sen. Wiger are leading on this year, to help narrow our state’s achievement gap, ensure more kids are ready for kindergarten, and expand economic opportunity for everyone, everywhere in our state,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith.
The pre-K proposal is supported by the Minnesota Coalition for Education Equity which includes several groups including Education Minnesota and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. The group stated at a press conference on Tuesday that they hope the state’s budget surplus can be directed to a handful of proposals including pre-K that will help improve racial equity in Minnesota schools.