Dayton pushes back at Republicans unwilling to expand preK education

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Governor Mark Dayton held a press conference this week to highlight the importance of permanent funding for preK education in Minnesota. In 2017, the Minnesota Legislature provided new one-time funding for this important program for some communities. Today, approximately 6,100 four-year-olds are attending free, school-based preK. If the Legislature does nothing, preK programs will be eliminated for more than two-thirds, or approximately 4,000 students, at more than 59 school districts and charter schools across the state.

Republicans have resisted Dayton’s push for prekindergarten funding. In the House, their education finance bill eliminates the base prekindergarten funding approved last session. In the Senate, Republicans argue the program favors public schools over other options and have not made movement toward a funding commitment for future years. Senate Republicans are instead supporting legislation that would tie the hands of local schools and early childhood education providers by putting percentage requirements on which programs future investments must be spent.

Governor Dayton’s supplemental budget recommends making Minnesota’s preK funding permanent. It continues and expands current program funding by 5% each year, offering thousands more Minnesota students the opportunity for quality early education. This is an important investment for students, families, and Minnesotans across the state. Research shows that access to high-quality early education has significant benefits for all children. It helps close the school readiness gap and ensures all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, can succeed in their elementary and secondary education.