MREA supports Governor Mark Dayton’s call on Tuesday for a $175 million investment to offer Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten opportunities. This would serve 17,100 Minnesota four-year-olds and their families at more than 260 school districts across the state. View chart of funding by school district.
The Governor’s proposal builds on the current $25 million in funding for the program that has helped 74 school districts across Minnesota offer Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) to 3,300 four-year-olds. It would offer VPK funding to every school district that has applied for funding this year, extending opportunities to 13,800 new four-year-olds. View map of districts that have received VPK funding and those who have applied. This proposal is in line with MREA’s legislative platform, approved by members last fall.
“Every family wants to do what’s best for their children,” said Cindy Stolp, Director of Community Education and Early Childhood for Pine City Schools, a member of MREA. “It breaks my heart when a four-year-old shows up at our school with their backpack loaded up and ready to learn and we have to turn them away. I wish we could help every child, but right now, we can’t.”
House Republicans have proposed eliminating funding for the voluntary offering entirely. Eliminating Voluntary Pre-K would mean that 74 school districts would no longer be able to offer this opportunity to 3,300 four-year-olds and their families across Minnesota.
“Offering voluntary preK to more Minnesota families will help close opportunity gaps, and help all our children succeed,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “The Governor’s proposal to offer Voluntary Pre-K to all school districts that have applied – and serving an additional 17,100 children – is a great step towards Minnesota’s promise of an equitable and excellent education for all children.”
Governor Dayton has taken an all-the-above approach to funding early childhood education in Minnesota. This approach allows more opportunities to reach more Minnesota students, allowing families to have the options and opportunities they need to make the best choices for their families. Since Governor Dayton took office, funding for early education efforts in Minnesota has tripled, from $114 million in base funding for 2012 and 2013, to $365 million in base funding for early education programs 2018 and 2019.
“We know that access to high-quality, early learning is the best way to ensure every child enters Kindergarten ready to learn,” Lt. Governor Tina Smith said. “The investments proposed by Governor Dayton will help more Minnesota four-year-olds and their families access the best opportunities, everywhere in our state.”
Across the 74 school districts that have received voluntary preK funding, and the additional 109 school districts which applied, but could not be funded, Minnesota schools, students, and families have demonstrated their interest in offering early education opportunities. Many school districts that are already receiving funding have altered staffing or spaces to support the newVoluntary Pre-K opportunities, and would now see those efforts made fruitless. Additionally, many working families rely on the busses and other transportation options made possible under Voluntary Pre-K, which would not be possible under other early education programs ifVoluntary Pre-K opportunities are eliminated.