Early learning teachers and DFL legislators: Minnesota values early childhood education, but the Republican budget cuts Pre-K

Early learning teachers from around Minnesota this week 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.

She argues that universal pre-K would remove discriminating tuition costs and free up district resources for more staff. She adds that 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.

She told the audience, “In our rural area, it’s necessary to have all-day pre-K because most families do not work nearby.”

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.