A bill that would give school districts the opportunity to offer all-day preschool to 4-year-olds stalled last Tuesday in the House Education Innovation Policy Committee. This year, the proposal came forth in the form of HF46 sponsored by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL – St. Paul).
The bill would allow eligibility for children who are 4 years old and not enrolled in kindergarten to participate in a universal, all-day preschool program run by public schools. After several hours of testimony on the bill, including an initial hearing last week, the committee voted 11-8 along party lines to reject the bill.
Several Republicans who voted against the bill expressed their support for expansion of existing early learning scholarship programs as an alternative to building preschool into public elementary school systems.
“We need to target our finances where they are needed most,” said Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea), a recently-retired first-grade teacher. “If we offer universal preschool, that takes away from our ability to prioritize our at-risk students.”
Given the Governor’s public support for universal preschool and lack of formula dollars makes us think the House GOP is planning on coming to conference committee with more on the formula and less in early childhood to establish conference committee negotiations.