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September 10, 2006

On the issues: Early Childhood Education

Following is a comparison of the major party candidates for Minnesota Governor in the September 12, 2006 Primary Election on the issue of Early Childhood Education and the role of state government.

Several candidates reference Art Rolnick's proposals on early childhood. A critique of the Rolnick proposals may be found on our website. ( Click here.)

EdWatch has many concerns about preschool programs regarding promotion of controversial government outcomes dealing with gender identity, multiculturalism, environmentalism, and careers, to name a few.  The academic outcomes are broad, vague, and nearly meaningless.  There are also concerns relating to cost, effectiveness and no acknowledgement of studies indicating the academic and emotional harm that outside care and teaching at too young an age may have for young children. Other EdWatch background information on these issues may be found at the following links: Governor Tim Pawlenty (R)
March 7, 2006 Press Release
        Citing the need to improve the transparency and accountability of early childhood programs, Governor Pawlenty today announced a package of initiatives to give Minnesota's youngest residents "a running start as they begin the educational race." 
        The Governor's early childhood reform proposals total approximately $10.2 million in the first year and $10 million per year thereafter.  Funding will come through redirected federal TANF funds.  The Governor's proposals include: Sue Jeffers (R)
April 24, 2006 Minnesota Public Radio, Midday Show
        "I think we concentrate so hard on the earlier years and we forget about the later years in high schoolI propose spending less money on our three and four year olds, our ready for K programs that they talk about, and I propose spending more money for the junior high and senior high kids to get them ready to go to college. 

        "I find it absolutely appalling that in Minneapolis, fifty percent of the black males do not graduate from high school and thats in our state.  That is second only to Washington DC. So, education has to be a priority, and we have to get our kids ready to go to college Some experts say that ["if you spend that money early on that the kids will do better in school and they will be ready to go to college" (Question from the host)] other experts say different.  They say that the money you spend and that the effort you make with that is lost by the time the child gets to the fourth grade. I think where you see the kids dropping out and making poor choices, which may lead them down a path of criminal activity instead of productive activity, is because we fail them in middle school and high school.
Attorney General Mike Hatch (DFL)
Hatch for Governor website
        Other studies and surveys verify Rolnick and Grunewalds claim that an unacceptably high percentage of Minnesotas preschoolers are behind before they even start school. In February 2004, the Minnesota Department of Educations second annual school readiness survey found that up to 20 percent of 4- and 5-year-olds started school well behind their peers. Likewise, a Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board survey found that less than half of the citys public school children start kindergarten with key pre-literacy skills such as rhyming and knowing the alphabet.

         "Citing evidence from several studies, including one which tracked a group of 3- and 4-year-old African American children born in poverty into their late 20s, Rolnick and Grunewald concluded that for every dollar spent investing in early education, society gets a 12 percent (inflation adjusted) public return and a total return, public and private, of 16 percent. This return, they argued, results from the fact that the children require much less remedial intervention, are less likely to be poor and more often become successful, contributing adults.We need to narrow the achievement gap and support early education programs.
Senator Becky Lourey (DFL)
January 19, 2006 Minnesota Public Radio
        "I am a disciple of Art Rolnick.  I believe him when he says that for every dollar we invest in early childhood, we get a return of either seven to twelve dollars into the states economy.  I was chair of early childhood for a number of years in this state and we were building this system of investment. And, it was so beautiful and for the last four years, that has been destroyed.  Again, I put my money where my mouth is.  I built a childcare with an education component on site at my business up there in Bruno, Minnesota, and it works.  But, beyond that, we need to make sure that our families can do the job of parenting and partnering with their schools that is so important.  We cannot have latchkey kids.  We have to have children with access to adult supervised activities.  It is a huge issue that if we want our state to become competitive, we need every single child in the state ready to reach their full potential.
Peter Hutchinson (Independence)
January 25, 2006 Minnesota Public Radio
        To do that, it seems to me we really need to focus on three things.  First, preschool education - only fifty percent of our kids in Minnesota show up at kindergarten ready for school. Now, I love teaching and I love teachers. I think teachers are absolutely fabulous, but if only fifty percent of your kids are showing up ready for school, thats too much.  Thats too hard.  Thats too big a lift. So an investment right now in preschool education, not another task force, not another study, but an investment in preschool education I think we ought to do instantaneously and move a much higher percentage of our kids to being school ready.
Independence Party website
Expect early learning and school readiness from every family - delivered at home or in child care settings.

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