An editorial in the Star Tribune this week advocated for maintaining investments in the state’s youngest learners, citing the party differences on this issue at the State Capitol. The editorial came after Governor Dayton proposed that a $50-million one-time commitment to prekindergarten be made permanent. Republican lawmakers said this proposal should wait until there’s a new governor and legislature in 2019, making it clear that the issue is political.
The investment in early learning opportunities would be an important building block added to the foundation that Governor Dayton has fostered over the last few years. The Governor is proposing ongoing funding for voluntary PreK and School Readiness Plus, with a 5% increase for 2020. The Governor estimates this will serve over 22,000 over the next three years.
Studies show that for every $1 invested in early education programs, there’s a $16 rate of return. Inaction on early education shows this is not a priority for Republican leadership in the senate.
Unless changes are made this session, schools and programs that received part of the $50 million in 2017 will lose out. Approximately 6,100 four-year-olds are attending free, school-based PreK this year in 109 school districts across Minnesota because of the Governor’s and DFL senators’ commitment to early learning.
However, the Legislature only provided one-time funding for some communities. 59 of those school districts would lose state funding for PreK if the Legislature does not agree to make that funding permanent.