_9.3 average___ On a scale of (0) strong
disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, relative to other education investments, should investment
preparing at-risk children for kindergarten be increased,?
_4.5 average___ On a scale of (0) strong
disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, should early-childhood education take place primarily
public school system?
Vici Oshiro (10) (5)
Wait and see what MELF develops.
Donald H. Anderson (10) (10)
If public money is involved it should be in the public school system.
Ed Dirkswager (10) (0)
It is crucial that this not be seen as within the public school
system--read the districts. Must include charter schools and other
John Adams (10) (4)
John Hottinger (10) (3)
Without question, investments in early childhood care and education is
the public investment with the highest return in public value. The
possibilities for brain development during the first five years of
life are incredible and to let children stagnant during that time is
tragic. Supporters of early childhood investment range from some key
business leaders through law enforcement and health officials through
educators and, despite what Duane said, through labor organizations,
which currently work actively for funding of early childhood programs.
Of course they also work to raise wages of sadly underfunded staff who
are the architects of the quality we need, but virtually all observers
agree that should be one of the goals.
It must be made clear that early childhood quality programs include
child care – it is not just a warehousing mechanism for middle-class
parents to store their kids while they are at work.
Art Rolnick’s concept of focusing funding on grants-in-aid for low
income families is an excellent one and part of what MELF is testing.
There is no efficient system now and change needs to take place
focused on the children’s and families’ needs with a more flexible
funding stream. In order for that to work – and the investment to
reach its potential – we need a permanent funding source, probably
imbedded in the Constitution. Business support for such an idea could
make it a reality.
The states where the biggest successes are apparent like New Jersey,
Illinois, Oklahoma and others have had the boost of a Governor willing
to take the lead. Unfortunately, Governor Pawlenty has not chosen to
do that here so it is good that Duane is talking to other potential
candidates, as are a number of us who are actively engaged in this
debate. Many of the Democrats mentioned for Governor are already
leaders in the area and there are also some Republicans who have taken
a firm positive stand.
Early childhood opportunities should be available in a wide variety of
settings that provide quality: schools, businesses for employees,
faith-based, community driven, for-profits, non-profits. The test
should be quality services, period. The quality rating system is an
excellent concept to give parents an objective guide to allow them to
make quality choices.
All of this is an academic exercise without the commitment to a
funding source which is consistent and sufficient. Because of the
vagaries of the legislative process and the inability of changing
legislatures to make unwavering commitments, whatever that source is
needs to be protected by constitutional amendment. I hope MELF also
contributes some suggestions in that area. System improvement is
certainly necessary to maximize the value of the opportunity and to
build public confidence in the vast potential, but the financial
commitment has to follow.
The Legislature has to get its act together also. I headed the Senate
Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division my last three years at the
Capitol; the House had no committee. For the last two years, the House
had a committee and the Senate eliminated its Committee. It’s pretty
obvious that if Minnesota is going to give this issue the priority it
not only deserves but we need, both Houses have to have distinct
committees to deal with these issues!
I could go on and on……….The federal mantra is wrong. It’s not no child
left behind, it should be No Child Starts Behind!
Robert A. Freeman (9) (8)
I serve on the MN Chamber of Commerce's Education Policy Committee and
we have been studying the issue of early childhood education (ECE) in
some detail. Art Rolnick and others have made a good business case
that increasing funding for ECE can be seen as a good investment, with
more than a tenfold return - most of this money coming back in the
form of savings in the criminal justice system as these kids are less
likely to commit crimes in later life.
There are several caveats - this logic only applies to the poorest
children, with diminishing returns as family incomes rise. Most of the
gains are probably from the social and parenting skills taught in
these programs, rather than the education of the children itself,
which makes intuitive sense, as the poorest parents are least able to
afford to spend this time with their children. And all ECE programs
are not created equal - some show little gains and are little more
than babysitting services.
The Chamber's Ed Policy committee has also tried to examine whether it
would make more sense to spend this huge sum of money upfront in ECE,
or further down the line, in high school tutoring, or subsidizing
college etc. Rolnick thought it did - although we still had concerns
that much of the gains seen in first years of school after ECE fade
away, probably as a result of a sub-par K-12 system. It is my
recommendation based on this that we increase funding solely for
evidence-based ECE programs (perhaps based on a grant process) that
are means-tested and continue to pursue aggressive reforms in the K-12
system to ensure this investment is not wasted. I also think MELF is a
great program and should be supported.
A good expert in this general area not mentioned in the email below is
Dr. Joe Nathan, of the Humphrey's Center for School Change, who has
been in the midst of several education reforms over the years.
Final note - I think Benson's suggestion about limiting campaign
donations to donors in the same district would disenfranchise
Republicans in blue districts/states, and vice versa, and would likely
Wayne Jennings (10) (3)
Like former Sen. Jerry Hughes, I believe we must invest in prenatal
and early childhood programs. He said if we had $5 to spend on
education, he would spend $3 of it on early childhood. We'd end up
spending far less later on remediation and incarceration.
Good research like High Scope and Betty Hart/Todd Risley (Everyday
Experiences of Young American Children and Alison et al (The Scientist
in the Crib) sheds great information and clues about the importance
and direction of early ed and its powerful yields.
I'd be reluctant to turn it over to conventional educators. They don't
keep up with research and have made a bureaucratic, hegemonic(not to
mention expensive) mishmash of their k-12 programs with attendant weak
(and, too often, harmful) results for most children. For example, when
K-12 people run preschool they often fall for drill and kill skill
programs that do more harm than good for most kids.
Paul Hauge (10) (5)
It's good to see that the Caucus continues its interest in early
childhood development- keep it up.
Alan Miller (10) (10)
The dividend paid by effective early-childhood education are
incredible and well worth the cost. Art Rolnick says it pays 12-1 in
Charles Lutz (10) (7)
Chris Brazelton (8) (6)
The return on investment is significant. The need for freedom of
choice and alternatives is somewhat at odds with the need for
standardization and meeting common goals.
The rating system, if properly managed, may be able to transcend this
and maintain the diverse range of service providers. Any program for
at risk youth needs to be welcoming to the client base, accessible,
culturally competent and user-friendly.
Bill Frenzel (7) (3)
1. As long as confined to at-risk children, narrowly confined, OK, but
let's creep before we stand up and fall down.
2. I really don't know enough to be messing up your survey, but I have
the feeling that if it is sited in public schools, it will become a
program for everybody, not just the at-risk kids.
W. D. (Bill) Hamm (4) (0)
One of the key issues here is the definition used for the arbitrary
term "At risk" coupled with the arrogant assumption that "poor" people
are unable to teach these things to their children. Due to the
education establishments arrogant misapplication of these concepts the
affect can result in an undermining of family rather than a
Since this has primarily been done by "Head Start" and this
organization underwent a federal takeover restructuring a few years
back, I have serious trust issues as psychological goals seem to have
taken precedence over educational goals. It's all about local control
and input as opposed to imposed arrogance.
Tom Swain (10) (2)
David Broden (10) (0)
When the risk to related to ensuring that the children of the future
can move thru K-12 and beyond and become contributing citizens and job
holders the early childhood investments seems to be a low risk pay-off
opportunity. As Duane Benson outlined the need is very complex with
multiple at risk communities each with perhaps some unique community
and learning as well as family issues--yet all of the communities with
early childhood deficiencies have a common need a can benefit from a
common goal and uniform processes across the state as long as we allow
some tailoring for areas or groups. Avoiding the parochial boxes is
however an absolute need or failure is assured by fragmentation of
issues. It seems to me that part of the issue as expressed by Duane is
jobs for the parents--thus working thru the relationship of child care
and early childhood education--how these connect and yet are separate
goals must be part of the plan and the implementation-each is at risk
to fail if they are not linked correctly. I also feel that the funding
and administration should be as expressed by outside of the education
system since this whole issue gets to quality of life--opportunity for
parents and children--and how the state is integrating immigrants as
well as applying the same resources to families in needed etc who have
been here and simple do not have the opportunity. The idea--now mostly
gone that many companies considered in the 70's and 80's was preschool
and child care in the workplace--while this may be history the concept
still makes some sense--any recent thoughts on this idea?
The early childhood scope and problem is much different than that of
K-12 in that it is an effort in my view to provide the children a
sense of values and community and to link that to the family and the
community in which they live. The education system is a structured
parochial world which will likely put the task in a "stove pipe"
atmosphere and try to solve it alone rather than as a
community--family--peers--and work environment--education will benefit
by the success of the early childhood being independent and will not
have the burden of another management and education level. I also see
that the "people who implement the early childhood are broader in many
ways than just teacher they are "life style" and "value added"
individuals who understand how the early childhood environment will
shape the individual and a future student and citizen as well as the
parents and others in the community.
Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (7)
For years I have proposed that we need to get at-risk children out of
their homes for a long as possible and into a learning situation. I
believe we should be working with 3 year olds in the public school
system. No one knows how to fix the dysfunctional family, so we need
to try to save the children by getting them out of their home
Ray Schmitz (10) (5)
My concern is that this program, however admirable in intent,
addresses the symptom not the problem. Why are these children at risk,
low income in many instances could be resolved by supporting the
parents thru education and training, age of parents, we know that the
best indicator of failure of parenting is the age of the parent, but
what are we doing about the teens who are getting pregnant, are they
ignored to focus on the children. Have we made a decision to write off
another generation of kids in hopes of reaching the next? We have
locked up entire cohorts of black males in prison, someday a
sociologist will look at this period, and perhaps compare it to the
decimation of the males in WW 1 in Europe, and the impact on their
counties. I was involved in abuse prevention efforts in the 70's and
80's that were not funded because we could not prove outcomes, they
also focused on early intervention, parenting training, and the other
recognized methods of addressing the problem. This appears to look to
the parents to make choices, are they really going to do that, that
is, are the parents who are the major problem going to do that. Would
we be better to pay living wages and allow parents to be involved with
their kids, the best intentions in the world fail when both parents
are gone from home when the children are awake.
Al Quie (10) (0)
It would be a disaster if the prenatal to K were turned over to the
failed K-12 system.
Bob Brown (10) (5)
1. There has to be some integration of current government programs for
pre-school age kids. Specifically, Head Start (which is a welfare
program) and ECFE (which is an educational program should be merged
into one rational program. ECFE is too often seen as a program for the
middle class who know how to play the system and Head Start was
supposed to be for the purpose of readiness for those who are not
prepared for school.
2. I think the most important element is something like the "Career
Teacher" program that Jerry Hughes got going on a pilot basis several
years ago. This really was similar to what the Business Roundtable
discussed in it's 9 components of a successful school - every child
must have an advocate who sticks with the family for a number years
until the child and family are passed on to another advocate. I wrote
the response of the National Education Leaders Consortium to the BRT
proposal and this was one area in which all were in agreement. For
those disadvantaged families I think this is the only way to level the
playing field to provide truly informed choice – and it can challenge
and upset the “silo” system that exists in the human service and
3. On a completely unrelated topic, while I wholeheartedly agree with
Duane that it would be great to have campaign contributions limited to
the candidates home districts, I would point out that there were times
in the past when lobbying groups controlled the funding of the caucus
campaign committees so that is nothing new. In the mid 70s Ernie
Lindstrom and I took control of the GOP caucus fundraising away from
the lobbyists and we did not apply any litmus test (except party
endorsement in the general election) to any candidate we supported.
Unless we can legally adopt Duane’s suggestion, or other suggestions I
have made in the past, we will see and ebb and flow of the influence
of special interests on caucus campaign expenditures.
Richard McGuire (10) (6)
Don Fraser (10) (5)
The use of quality controls is essential. Then the difference in who
provides the early childhood education becomes less important. But the
larger question (unanswered still) is whether quality pre-school will
be available to all children or only to some children. A sliding fee
system may be appropriate here, making wider use of pre-school
available to all families (affluent parents already pay for quality
pre-school). I am a strong advocate of the age 3 grade 3 (PK3) school
- especially in high poverty areas. This might argue for public
sponsorship of preschool, but PK3 schools may be achievable using a
mix of private pre-school and public primary schools. We should
examine closely the experience of the many states that are far ahead
of Minnesota in providing state funded pre-school for their children.
(A sad note - Minnesota used to be a leader in early childhood matters
- we were the first state to initiate parent education- ECFE - but now
we're way behind).
Carolyn Ring (10) (3)
We are members of Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield which has
sponsored a pre-school at Oliver Church at 26th and Bloomington in the
Phillips neighborhood for 21 years. Our daughter, Linda Haugen, has
directed it for 17 years and it is staffed by well trained volunteers.
The ratio of teachers to students is 5 to 1 or less. The children are
Native- American, Black, Hispanic, Hmong, Caucasion etc. and are from
low income/poverty homes. The children are completely prepared for
kindergarten and also have learned social skills, behavioral skills,
and have had the opportunity to interact with
other children and adults. The parents are involved in many ways. We
have a "Mothers Club" which teaches money management, parental skills
and offers other counseling. Because it is sponsored by our church,
both the school and Mothers Club includes Bible study. I don't know if
MERF or any governmental agency is aware of the school, except that it
is approved by the state and inspected regularly by it. I do know
those of us involved in it know the tremendous results and are 100%
supportive of early childhood education and preparation for
kindergarten among minority and other children from low income homes.
Clarence Shallbetter (8) (2)
Donna Schmidt (8) (0)
Prices for everything has gone up, it is just a fact of life that the
cost for maintaining the current programs will be going up
I am a true believer in private education, home schooling and also
getting private foundations or private groups to fund preschool and
after-school programs along with working with current government
programs and preschool programs. Some of the best programs have been
in local churches and local community groups. The closer to home the
better. Some of the best programs may be just an hour or two
enrichment program in music or phy-ed that is offered weekly. This
should also go hand-in-hand with local groups, such as boy scouts,
girl scouts, 4H, many of those programs are starting to offer
something for those kids not yet in school.
Ray Ayotte (8) (8)
Interesting perspective from Duane Benson. I look forward to reading
future papers on this topic.
Pam Ellison (10) (10)
I agree wholeheartedly and supported this concept when I ran for
Governor in 2006. It makes sense to enfold this into the current K-12
system with the ability to opt out, if parents are confident and
desire to keep their children home until kindergarten. Most parents
who are confident and educated themselves without financial hurdles,
feel they would rather keep their children home until enrolling for
kindergarten and I believe that is a choice that should be allowed,
however, it may be a good idea to have all children regardless of
situation to be tested for kindergarten readiness at 4-5 years old, to
make certain there are no learning disabilities or speech/language
issues. Sometimes even very astute parents miss a weakness that an
Early Childhood professional might detect with an evaluation.
A suggestion I would have is to make certain that all new parents are
given MELF information before they leave they hospital or better yet,
have a representative familiar with the program visit personally and
deliver the information and explain the benefits of the program to
their family and make certain they know how to get connected.
An online system that parents can access is great, but I can tell you
from experience, having worked at Arlington High School for the past
nine years that most low income parents do not own computers, nor do
they understand how to use computers. Perhaps this is how the public
school system can be helpful by offering parents to be trained in how
to use a computer and make them aware of other programs their public
school system provides to assist them with keeping track of how their
child is doing in their work, grades and to track any possible truancy
issues. In Saint Paul Public Schools we
provide a "Parent Portal" system online that helps parents track all
pertinent information and allows them to communicate directly by email
with each of their student's teachers.
Teaching reading readiness to the child is great, but it will fall on
its face if it is not partnered with a companion program to help
parents that are functionally illiterate, and/or who lack confidence
in their reading level and skills. This is a HUGE problem in the
United States with our literacy rates plummeting yearly. Parents who
DO start reading to their infants and continue in a reading routine,
generally also take their children to the public libraries but they
are confident readers themselves. We need to also help parents that
are struggling to get basic skills training, and why not extend that
through our public schools? We need to start allowing parents who need
extra help to be present in elementary classrooms to review basic
reading, writing and math skills to help improve their lives if they
choose to do so. This would also encourage parent involvement in the
classroom as volunteers, with the benefit of them re-learning or
strengthening their skills that will allow them to break the cycle of
poverty and prepare them for more education to be able to get better
Another way to integrate and streamline public education would be to
make early childhood education integrated with a daycare in the
Elementary Schools. With declining enrollments causing schools to
consolidate and close, we need to be mindful that we may be able to
weather the financial crunch of enrollment cycles by making certain
that daycare/early childhood education is covered under the student
capitation of K-12 education. Those who have challenges to find safe
and affordable daycare, particularly single parents would benefit
highly. If an added cost from the parent would help to subsidize the
costs, or if there would be a 50/50 split of the cost between the
parent and the school district to provide this benefit, the parent
could pick up their children at the same location, cutting down on
driving an additional place to pick up their daycare aged child, and
providing more quality time in the evening for the families.
I strongly agree with Mr. Benson that part of the reason the education
system is overtaxed and under funded is due to the high percentage of
need in the urban core, due to high poverty and language issues with
the immigrant populations. Health and Human Services has been stripped
bare due to overreaching reforms in Welfare programs, and there are
few services available temporarily for families in crisis, unless they
are single parent households. Due to this shift in services, the
schools have been forced to focus on social services in addition to
provide nutrition through meals on a grander scale and all of this
takes time away from learning. A hungry child that is homeless cannot
learn because their basic needs are not being met. Example: Maslov's
Hierarchy of Need.
And finally, we cannot innovate education and provide cutting edge
education, if we are bogged down with the above. Again, when I ran for
Governor in 2006, innovating education was one of my big issues, and I
stated that the government moves too slow and remakes public education
with every new State Executive change, with nothing constant and
stable, we do not have the time to innovate like we should. My
daughter works at Capella University and I suggested to her that the
way for Capella to grow in new markets, they should consider providing
the online component for gifted and accelerated learners and make it
available in the 6-12 public education system by contracting with the
state to provide it at no cost to students who wish to participate.
The State would need to fully fund it, but it would completely
innovate education in Minnesota and beyond if Capella could be the
vendor. Online learning is a natural progression to PSEO(Post
Secondary Education Options) for high school students. If students can
get a jump on college for free through PSEO, they will graduate from
college sooner and be motivated to work hard on their own, and the
schools keep their funding by offering online education through the
individual high schools much like they currently offer PSEO for
Juniors and Seniors.
My last idea that I wish to share with the caucus was one of my key
issues that I supported in my campaign and that was to offer public
school to our children at times that make sense for their families.
One of the reasons parents in the urban core do not participate as
volunteers, is that many times the parents are working two part time
jobs to make ends meet. In addition, they work when their kids are in
bed, and sometimes have little contact with parents whose shifts do
not mesh with the other parent and the children. We pay to light heat
and cool the buildings year round, why not offer staggered shifts for
students, and employ more teachers at different times of the day to
meet the needs of the schedules of those who struggle with several
jobs at competing times. Let's try to make it easier on these parents
rather than more difficult. In fact each school district may only need
a pilot program for each stage of K-12 education. One Elementary
school, one middle school and one high school per district that would
offer this. It would also eliminate a big problem in families, where
kids are taking care of siblings while their parents work, sometimes
overnight, there are no parents home, and this poses a safety problem
for children and families where this is mandatory. When students
become responsible to parent, their studies suffer, because they
cannot handle it all. Transportation could not be provided for other
shifts than traditional day hours and parents would need to drop off
and pick up their children as an added responsibility to choose a
shift that coincides with theirs.
Thanks for listening. I didn't mean to make this an edict, but I work
in education and ran a home daycare business for five years, so I am
pretty well aware of the challenges.
Schluter (10) (5)
I am not sure where the education should take place
as often there are other problems within the children and families
that need additional attention.