Early Learning Teachers and DFL Legislators: Minnesota values Early Childhood Education, but the Republican budget cuts Pre-K

SAINT PAUL – Today, early learning teachers from around Minnesota discussed the value of pre-K and the problems posed to their districts by the proposed Republican education plan. Despite a $1.65 billion surplus, Republicans are cutting voluntary, public pre-K funding across the state. Governor Dayton has called for a $175 million increase in funding.

Chris Messer is a kindergarten teacher in Barnesville, and past president of the Minnesota Kindergarten Association. Barnesville offers half-day pre-K for $100 a month for two days a week and $145 a month for three, in addition to what families already pay for daycare. Messer advocated for more pre-K investment, not less.

“Universal pre-K would remove discriminating tuition costs and free up district resources for more staff,” said Messer. “The benefits of a quality pre-K experience need to be made available to all Minnesota students.”

Kimberly Antonsen is a preschool teacher in the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth school district. Thanks to voluntary pre-K funding, they added a new preschool classroom and teacher and now provide all-day, everyday preschool to 51 children. Cuts to pre-K funding would threaten this success.

“In our rural area, it’s necessary to have all-day pre-K because most families do not work nearby,” said Antonsen. “I invite anyone to visit Ogema Elementary and see all the good that state pre-K funding is creating.”

The teachers were joined by DFL legislators who agreed early childhood education benefits kids—particularly in Greater Minnesota— and that with a budget surplus, cuts to pre-K and early learning are the wrong choice.

“Pre-K is a proven strategy for improving educational outcomes for Minnesota kids,” said Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL—St. Paul. “Recognizing that there is an opportunity gap for kids in Minnesota, there’s no excuse not to make this investment in early learners and in our future.”

Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-White Bear Lake) serves at the Ranking Member on the E12 Finance Committee in the Senate and is a conferee on the E12 budget bill conference committee, which will eventually determine the fate of pre-K investments.

“When our students are ready for K, they are ready to learn and ready to succeed. Minnesota teachers and schools have shown that there is demand for public pre-K. Last year, sixty-percent of the schools that applied for pre-K investments had to be turned away, because there was just not enough funding to keep up with the demand. Public pre-K is what experts say we should be investing the state’s surplus in, and I agree,” Wiger said.

Long-time education advocate, Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) is the Ranking Member on the E12 Policy Committee in the Senate.

“Education experts just released a study that backs up what Minnesota teachers are telling us. The study found that that students who attend a public pre-K program are better prepared for Kindergarten than those who do not. With a surplus of $1.6 billion we should be prioritizing proven, effective public education programs like pre-K for investment, not stagnating or endangering these important investments,” Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) said.

Senate DFL Media