MN Republicans say no to four-year-olds

Photo by Barnaby Wasson, published under Creative Commons license -

Photo by Barnaby Wasson, published under Creative Commons license –

In the debate over universal preschool vs. targeted scholarships, the Minnesota legislature is just saying no. Governor Dayton proposed $348 million to create a free, all-day preschool program in public schools across Minnesota. The money would come from the two billion dollar budget surplus. Republican legislators said no. Instead of funding preschool, they want permanent tax cuts for businesses, permanent elimination of all estate taxes, and temporary tax cuts for individuals. Instead of $300 million-plus for early education, their bill proposes $30 million in targeted scholarships for poor families.

MPR sums it up:

“Ignoring Dayton’s $348 million funding proposal for universal pre-K, the GOP bill would boost spending on scholarships by $30 million to allow parents to avoid school-based programs by using state money to send their children to other preschools or church schools.”

Children’s advocates differed on where and how money for early education should go. None advocated reducing a $348 million proposal to $30 million.

Some children’s advocates said that state resources should flow to the children who need help the most. Children’s Defense Fund pointed to Minnesota’s long waiting list for sliding fee child-care subsidies, a budget line that was slashed by $200 million in 2003 and 2005 and has never recovered. The business-backed Parent Aware program advocated for preschool scholarships that parents could use at programs certified as high quality. Child-care industry representatives opposed universal preschool and advocated for more scholarships.

Sanctimoniously, the GOP says that they want to target help to children who need help the most. If they re-targeted $348 million to scholarships and child-care subsidies, that would be helping children who need it the most. Redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars from children to tax cuts doesn’t do it.

Minnesota children need early education AND funding for sliding-scale child-care for all eligible families. No matter how you torture the numbers, $30 million will not provide anything close to the support for early education that the governor proposed, or the support that Minnesota children need.

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