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Legislature poised for another preschool debate

February 19, 2016
AccessEconomics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityOutcomesQuality and CurriculumState & LocalUniversal and Targeted
Tim Pugmire
Capitol View

Minnesota lawmakers are expected to consider a host of spending proposals when the session starts next month, including several aimed at early childhood education, if the projected $1.2 billion budget surplus holds up. Early childhood education advocates highlighted their funding needs Thursday in St. Paul, during a conference called the Children and Youth Issues Briefing. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who pushed unsuccessfully last year for universal preschool funding, won’t release his supplemental spending proposals until next month. But Lt. Gov. Tina Smith made it clear to the group that preschool is still part of the discussion.

“I’ve talked to parents and superintendents and kindergarten teachers, and I have actually never heard anybody say that they don’t think pre-k is a good idea, an idea that we need to move forward on for every family that wants it,” Smith said. “The truth is most school districts are offering preschool right now, with inadequate funding and with long waiting lists, because that’s what families want.” 

Smith also emphasized the need to enact paid parental leave benefits for state employees and to increase funding for a government-subsidized child care program. House Republicans continue to resist Dayton’s push for universal preschool.