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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Frank Forsberg  Interview of

Early learning scholarships will help prepare at-risk kids for kindergarten

Half the children in Minnesota are not ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, according to Frank Forsberg of Greater Twin Cities United Way. United Way and other groups advocate funding scholarships for low-income families to send their three- and four-year-old children to high quality early childhood programs as the best way to prepare at-risk children for kindergarten. He estimates it would take $300 million per biennium to fully fund the scholarship program for all low-income three- and four-year-olds in the state. Governor Mark Dayton has proposed funding of $50 million for the scholarship program in his FY2014-FY2015 budget. Expanding a quality rating system statewide is a high priority so parents will have reliable information to help them choose the best child care/early education programs for their children. Allowing parents to choose the best program for their children will bring about system reform, Forsberg says, because the programs will have to compete to offer the highest quality. The state's teachers union backs all-day kindergarten, which competes for funding with the preschool scholarship program. However, Forsberg says research shows that quality preschool education is more effective in preparing kids for success than all-day kindergarten.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Forsberg. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. (7.4 average response) To combat the problem of at-risk children falling behind early, the state of Minnesota should provide early learning scholarships for low-income 3-and-4-year-old children.

2. Pre-K more important than all-day K. (5.5 average response) Funding for at-risk 3-and-4-year-olds should receive higher priority than all-day kindergarten.

3. All pre-K providers should compete. (7.6 average response) Early learning providers, whether government or non-government, should compete side by side for early learning enrollees.

4. Rate all providers on quality. (7.0 average response) To help families choose, early learning providers statewide should be subject to a quality rating system.

5. Require parental involvement. (8.6 average response) Because parent-child relationships are so important, eligible early learning providers must demonstrate effective parental involvement in their programs.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. (2.8 average response) The state should not pay for pre-kindergarten care or education. We should rely on parents to provide their children adequate preparation for school.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Provide state-funded scholarships.







2. Pre-K more important than all-day K.







3. All pre-K providers should compete.







4. Rate all providers on quality.







5. Require parental involvement.







6. Keep the state out of pre-K education.







Individual Responses:

Wendy Walz (10) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (0)

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. But I still think there is a missing link. In the Chicago Perry Preschool Program and in the Ypsilanti, Michigan, programs, parents were highly involved and part of the program. That is what brings quality success for young children. Without the parents being educated in how to help prepare their children for school success, the progress drops off in later school years (Head Start study). If we don't keep informing parents how to be the best teachers of their children, I don't believe full success can be achieved.

4. Rate all providers on quality. I just wonder who is going to monitor the on-going quality rating of centers and/or programs. Without consistent monitoring and staff development, quality can fall off pretty quickly.

5. Require parental involvement. See answer in number 1. It is absolutely critical to keep parents educated and informed about how to be the first and best teacher(s) of their young children.

Bert LeMunyon (0) (0) (0) (0) (7.5) (10)

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. Since low-income kids don't get much support for learning at home, pre-kindergarten programs are largely baby-sitting programs.

3. All pre-K providers should compete. Government should not be involved in pre-school programs except for the most financially needy.

4. Rate all providers on quality. Next will be a bureaucracy for quality ratings of grocery stores.

5. Require parental involvement. Any pre-school program for needy children must involve parents.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. Except for the most needy, I agree.

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (0)

Dave Broden (10) (5) (7.5) (10) (10) (0)

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. All the available data confirms the value of early childhood education; the questions are how to defined who is eligible and what the specifics of the program implementation should be and how monitored.

2. Pre-K more important than all-day K. This is a very open question and likely not ready for a clear answer or a recommendation. Best to proceed with pilot demos of early childhood education and then measure relative value.

3. All pre-K providers should compete. A reasonable approach but needs to be thought out regarding the criteria and approach, etc.

4. Rate all providers on quality. Agree but a quality rating system does require some form of well-defined metrics, which are easily tampered or adjusted to favor a specific situation.

5. Require parental involvement. Agree but this extends the early childhood education into another arena and adds complexity.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. A state funded program for a specific category of disadvantaged families must be available; some state guidelines or aid may be appropriate for others.

Anonymous (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5)

Chris Brazelton (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (0)

2. Pre-K more important than all-day K. Both are important, but if we have to choose between the two, we need pre-K.

5. Require parental involvement. To the degree that one can. There is a great deal of economic pressure on parents of young children to also provide for them financially. There must be flexibility around work hours.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. With at-risk children, it hasn't been working well so far, and there is no indication that things will improve on their own. How many generations of struggle and failure do we need, and at what cost?

Don Anderson (7.5) (5) (10) (7.5) (10) (0)

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. Another case of needs exceeding available funds from private sources.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. If the parents don't have the funds to live on because of low income or unemployment how can they pay for their children's education?

Ralph Brauer (10) (0) (7.5) (2.5) (10) (0)

2. Pre-K more important than all-day K. The at-risk student should also have all-day kindergarten. Modeling and research have shown time is the key currency of education. This either-or mentality is what is killing public education. Both are needed. It's like saying you need health care to pay for office visits but not treatment. Why bash all-day kindergarten to tout your own program. It is counter-productive and unprofessional. The way to pay for this is to tax vendors of K-12 record-keeping software or turn MARSS into an open system, saving schools millions.

3. All pre-K providers should compete. What …does "compete" mean? We know children have different learning styles, so one program might work for one and not another. If there is going to be competition there needs to be free assessments for the students so the parents know the needs of their child. Programs should be modeled to test their possible outcomes. If we can model sending someone to the moon before the actual mission, we owe it to our children to do the same for their education.

4. Rate all providers on quality. Who is going to do this? What criteria will they use? Finally any systems thinker will tell you the payoff for this does not necessarily come tomorrow. In the late nineteenth century the major payoff for the Morrill Act did not come until half a century after it was passed.

5. Require parental involvement. Without the parents it is doomed to fail. One school we worked with bought a vacant apartment in a housing project and used it for an early childhood learning center that was open to anyone. Parents were there doing various tasks on computers (which they had been taught to use) while their children were engaged in learning projects. To see a parent and child together at a computer was worth the whole project. In short, if you want parental involvement you need to bring the project to the neighborhood.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. Keeping the state out involves more than paying for it. The fear of a project like this is that Pearson and other big vendors will turn it into yet another state boondoggle as they have with student record-keeping which costs districts anywhere from six figures on up.

George Crolick (5) (2.5) (5) (7.5) (10) (7.5)

4. Rate all providers on quality. Choosing a provider may be mostly a function of location, convenience to the working parent. How can they drop off and pick up?

5. Require parental involvement. How much do we know about this? Has it been studied?

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. Any successful examples, [from] other states, other countries? Maybe education is just not valued?

Wallace Neal (10) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5)

Scott Halstead (10) (5) (5) (5) (10) (0)

5. Require parental involvement. Parents should participate in early learning classes and provide feedback to the instructors periodically. I presume there would be savings in remedial education and perhaps that would offset some or all of the pre-kindergarten education costs.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. It appears that it is highly unlikely that private funding could fund a total pre-kindergarten education.

Dennis L. Johnson (0) (0) (0) (0) (5) (10)

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. What next? One and two year olds?

2. Pre-K more important than all-day K. Nonsense.

3. All pre-K providers should compete. They already do, in private systems.

4. Rate all providers on quality. Another big bureaucracy to do this?

5. Require parental involvement. Another big bureaucracy.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. Now, you're thinking straight.

Nancy Jost (10) (5) (10) (5) (10) (0)

1. Provide state-funded scholarships. Actually, we should be doing more sooner.

2. Pre-K more important than all-day K. Should do both. It is the most effective strategy.

4. Rate all providers on quality. If they are receiving state and federal dollars we should have some way of assessing quality. We should have some way of improving quality whether they are in a rating system or not. All children deserve to be in environments that are warm, nurturing, and relationship-based so they can reach their full potential.

5. Require parental involvement. Providers and parents are a team; they need to work together to provide that warm, nurturing, relationship-based environment to help children reach their full potential.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. Early childhood is the foundation/preparation for life as well as school.

Anonymous (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (0)

4. Rate all providers on quality. Must be voluntary.

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. Everyone benefits if we support access for low-income children.

Fred Senn (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Wayne Jennings (8) (8) (8) (8) (8) (1)

All advanced nations in the world provide free preschool and parenting programs. We should get with it. It has enormous benefits for the children, families and society.

Roger I. Johnson (10) (5) (7) (10) (6) (0)

The evidence is in. Research tells us that when children's brains remain unchallenged through age 5, they come to school totally unprepared for a K-12 experience. In such cases, children are not only behind at the K-level; they remain behind through all of elementary grades. This does not bode well for them in middle and high school, because without the basic reading skills and math skills that they ought to have mastered prior to middle-school level, the rest of their education suffers. Every dollar invested in our children prior to kindergarten pays much larger dividends throughout our state and national economy when the children become participants in that economy. If we expect to seriously participate in the global economy in the future, we must make not only an investment in pre-K but also in all-day-every-day kindergarten. Both of these investments will finally put us on a par with other industrialized nations. Should we expect not to compete with them anymore? Of course not.

John Milton (10) (10) (10) (10) (8) (0)

How we approach this challenge will determine whether our country can remain as a leader among developed countries, or fall back as simply a rival of Yemen for most guns per capita.

Chuck Lutz (10) (8) (9) (8) (9) (1)

Carolyn Ring (6) (4) (7) (5) (9) (4)

I worry about those who are slightly above the 185% of poverty and not eligible for scholarships and then don't get the education. Hope Presbyterian church has sponsored a pre-school in the Phillips Neighborhood for over 20 years. There is no cost to those who choose to attend it and it has been highly successful. Teachers at the Anderson School and others have commented on how prepared the children are. On the other side, we have a granddaughter whose first kindergarten class had 23 students, 18 that came from homes that did not speak English. Every one of her students was ready for kindergarten. She worked closely with the parents and visited in the students’ homes with an interpreter. Pre-kindergarten is not a one size fits all proposition.

Al Quie (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

This should be the present state government's highest priority.

Roger A. Wacek (0) (0) (10) (0) (0) (10)

A voucher system funneling education dollars through parents could accomplish all of the above and it could be done through our income tax system. We already have education credits, dollars that can be claimed on state tax returns. Let's expand the system in creative ways that will funnel money through parents into our school districts.

It is the parent's job to educate their children, not the state's job. The key to parental involvement is to include parents in the funding loop. We've done this with college & technical school scholarships. I had to sign my scholarship 'check(s)' to SJU in the early 70's.

Robert J. Brown (8) (7) (10) (10) (10) (5)

6. Keep the state out of pre-K education. We should rely on parents to provide their children adequate preparation for school. Not all parents are capable of adequately preparing their kids, but those who can should be allowed to do so.

Tom Spitznagle (1) (1) (5) (5) (8) (8)

William Kuisle (2) (3) (10) (9) (10) (5)

At some point these programs have to show that these kids’ test scores are better than those who do not take enroll in these pre-school programs. A recent study showed that HeadStart graduates are no better off after 3rd grade.

Tom Swain (8) (5) (5) (9) (10) (2)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   David Broden,  Janis Clay,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,   Jan Hively,  Dan Loritz (Chair),  Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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