retired Senior Vice President of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank,
describes his involvement in early childhood education, from his
initial development of the economic argument for investment in quality
early childhood programs to the subsequent design and implementation
of a market-based system providing scholarships to low-income families
for enrollment in quality programs.
Early Learning Foundation (MELF), formed to support this market-based
approach, has sponsored pilot early childhood education programs since
2005. MELF provides families with the means, information, and
mentoring to choose existing quality early childhood education
programs. The system has broad appeal nationally and has garnered
attention at the federal level. As MELF plans to expand pilot efforts
to a broader scale more sustainable forms of funding and evaluation
are being examined.
For the complete
interview summary see:
Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement,
to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed
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.
(8.7 average response)
Brain development in early childhood is all based on experience. If a
child is neglected or abused, or if the communication is all one-way
command interactions, then the rapid neuron connections made in the
early years of development are stunted.
2. Rating quality
(8.6 average response)
To make help make
choices for their children, parents need information that rates the
quality of early learning programs.
(8.6 average response)
Scholarships should be provided to low income families to help pay for
(8.2 average response)
Mentors are needed for families to help them identify early learning
needs and understand options.
(7.0 average response)
The most effective
employment and economic stimulus plan that the Minnesota Legislature
could undertake in 2011 would be expansion of early childhood
Ray Ayotte (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
John Branstad (7.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5)
Rating quality. Rating programs makes more sense in an urban /
suburban area where there are many choices for parents, but it's less
effective (but still has some value) in Greater MN when choices are
Scholarships. The state has recognized its role in providing
opportunities for financial assistance for post-secondary learning and
the value it provides. I suspect this is because the return on
investment for post-secondary aid is shorter. I believe the state has
a role in helping to provide scholarships for early learning - the
short-term results have been demonstrated, the value is there, but
people need to accept that the fiscal return on investment happens on
a much longer timeframe.
Economy. The phrase "the most effective" is hyperbole. That said, I
do believe expanding early childhood education has incredibly
significant employment and economic value, in both the short- and
long-term. It does take some time to ensure there is an adequate
supply of qualified early childhood educators to staff an expansion of
early learning facilities.
Anonymous (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5)
Polly Bergerson (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Mentors. While mentors are important; there should be a connection
between the Medical Field (doctors; nurses; ER) to make the system
aware of these people. It should not be left in the hands of the
family that cannot think clearly in the beginning of the chaos.
Economy. If the education treats the issue and not the symptom.
W.D. (Bill) Hamm (10) (0) (0) (0) (0)
Brain development. While I wholeheartedly agree with the statement, I
adamantly oppose the "Nanny State" solution I am hearing proposed
here. What I support is putting this issue out to community-based
organizations and "Church" groups by building strength in communities
not government. Empower parents, grandparents, community leaders, men
in general. Above all keep your Social Circus controlled "Mentor"
programs out of our faces. Your very elitist suggestion that you
elitist outsiders can straighten out this poverty level problem with a
little more Socialistic love is (ludicrous).
Rating quality. Parents need help learning to do what they need to do
with their children, This isn't rocket science and has been done
instinctually by mothers for well over 200,000 years. Get out of our
faces with your socialistic top down stupidity. Empower us to help
ourselves; don't make economic slaves of us for your profit oriented
public employee boosting schemes.
Scholarships. Absolutely no State or Federal funding with its
insidious strings. I could support a structure supported by community
non-profits but never by Government.
Mentors. Absolutely not, this is about the most insulting statement
here today. It clearly indicates belief that these people are to
"ignorant" to ever help themselves so they need these social service
connected mentors in their face to learn them the right way. Save
training your … mentors and train young parents and grandparents, or
better yet encourage communities to find resources to do that, not the
state or the Social Circus.
Economy. What is being pushed here is massive nanny state socialism
invading and undermining our families even further. Our families and
children need support from each other not a nanny state to pat them on
the back. Yes children are our most important investment, but it needs
to be an individual growth effort not a dependency creating effort.
Elaine Voss (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Brain development. This is so true. Years ago I worked on an intern
program in the inner city of Minneapolis in public health. A good base
is so essential.
Rating quality. Information is power!
Scholarships. There is need for boost to be able to observe
progress. No boost, no progress.
Mentors. Again, information is power.
Economy. Have felt this for a long time. We need to again be a leader
in education. Our children deserve nothing less. So many leaders want
to see results before any funding. I think it's a sham, they don't
support because they don't understand. By not getting results before
the program begins is the perfect ingredient for failure and thus
avoid their desire to ‘just say no’, and feel self-satisfied. It
makes me sad.
Pat Barnum (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (0)
Don Anderson (7.5) (2.5) (10) (7.5) (10)
Brain development. My concern would be how important are the parents
or lack of a parent in the interactions; and if the parent has been
neglected or abused as a child how does this affect communications?
Rating quality. Where do parents get the information that they need
Mentors. How will we pay for the mentors -- given the no new taxes,
don't tax the rich, philosophy of today?
Dave Broden (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5)
Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)
Brain development. We experienced this problem with adopting 3
neglected and abused children.
Mentors. Or educating parents of newborns.
Bob White (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (10)
Brain development. From what Art said, I'm quite sure this is
accurate. However, because I know so little about brain development
(I'm still waiting for mine to improve), I temper my response from
strong to moderate.
Economy. I have long believed this intuitively. Art's unmatched
economic expertise gives me confirmation.
Vici Oshiro (10) (10) (10) (10) (2.5)
Scholarships. In the long run there may be better ways, but
scholarships seems best for the present.
Mentors. And not just for the poor. In this and other areas we need
to recognize the importance of Early Childhood Family Education. It
too is a very important effort - and successful - in helping families
raise healthy kids
Economy. Stimulus is usually considered a short-term program. This
effort would provide some stimulus, but the real value is long term.
Peter Hennessey (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (0)
Brain development. And therefore what? Let me guess.... more
government programs? Let me ask a question: what do you think
mothers are for? Why does every mammalian species have their young
taken care of by a mother? Is it not the mother's job to provide the
stimulus, entertainment, pre-school "education" and other life
experiences to her child? How the heck did the species get this far
without some government program trying to substitute for mothers?
There is far more to education than academics; where is the child
supposed to learn about life, love, devotion, caring, chores,
responsibility, handling crises big and small, if not from a loving
family and especially his mother?
Rating quality. OK, not all women are "born" mothers. Some relish and
thrive in the role, others hate it and it shows. So maybe some women
should have more babies and some should have none. Others may not have
had very competent mothers to teach them, so maybe the "early learning
program" that is needed is to teach mothers how to be better at their
job. The worst thing you can do to a pre-K child is to forcibly
separate him from his mother at an age when he is still very clingy,
as nature intended. Maybe the right way to do "early learning
programs" is to have the child and his mother attend the classes
together. But let's get something straight: it takes a mother to
raise a child, not a village, not a classroom, not a teacher, not a
day care center, not a government program.
Scholarships. First of all, people who can't afford it should not
have children. Secondly, (pre-)schools have scholarship programs.
Thirdly, there are many ways a parent can pay for (pre-)school,
especially for children this age. For example, mothers can take turns
being classroom helpers, playground attendants, crossing guards, or do
other work around the school such as helping in the office. The last
thing we need is yet another expensive and wasteful government program
-- expensive and wasteful because by definition all government
programs require a rigid bureaucracy complete with paid staff,
qualifications, standards, procedures, compliance verification, etc.
etc., of which very little if any is needed if mothers are allowed to
participate with their own children. Yes, I am saying that mothers
have no business trying to hold down an outside job when they have
little ones at home. That is their one job and their most important
Mentors. Well, yes, some parents need help recognizing pathological
conditions such as ADD or worse. Some parents are simply too ignorant
and too proud to admit that their perfect little child may have a
problem, or they might have a problem knowing how to be parents in
general. That is why at this stage in the child's life, it is more the
parent, rather than the child, who may need education.
Economy. What nonsense... absolutely no government program has ever
provided economic stimulus. By its very nature it can't, because the
money that the government spends must first be diverted from
productive use in the private economy. The only way government could
possibly stimulate the economy is if somehow it had a revenue stream
independent from and in addition to the private economy. This is what
they are trying to fake at the federal level, by uncontrolled
borrowing or outright printing of bogus paper money. But as long as
the government's only source of income is taxes, which is the only
option at the State and local level, then government is a burden, not
a stimulus. If the service that the government proposes to provide
were truly valuable to the economy in general, then someone in the
private sector would recognize it as a business opportunity, and there
would be a customer base proving it is a valuable service because
they'd be willing to pay for it. That would be a stimulus to the
Robert Freeman (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (5)
Economy. The results of early education can come 15-20 years down the
road so whilst it may be a great payoff, it is not an immediate one.
Dennis L. Johnson (7.5) (7.5) (5) (2.5) (2.5)
Economy. General comment regarding all questions: This is no doubt a
worthy program and Arthur Rolnick makes a fairly persuasive case that
it is a good thing. But it is also clear that some of our most
productive, inventive, or creative citizens have come from early
childhood experiences often harsh or deplorable. One can think of
literally dozens of programs that would also be desirable. Given
limited resources, how does one choose among them? The first priority
should be to establish an affordable overall level of expenditure for
the state budget, then decide on priorities to be met within that
budget. As in family households, many things that are desirable in an
ideal world are unaffordable in the real world. In the final analysis,
this is another "progressive" collectivist program intended to create
"fairness" in educational opportunities at the early childhood level.
The actual outcome might well raise the general level of mediocrity in
children but remove the creative spark or drive that results in
individualists such as Bill Gates, writers like Samuel Clemens, and
poets like Carl Sandburg. How did our generation ever survive without
these advantages? And how long will it take to prove that this
enhanced early education has really improved our society? I think
we are better off leaving parenting up to the parents.
Will Shapira (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
Lesson One: no public funding for billionaires for anything, ever.
Malcolm McDonald (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Keep up all of
these good efforts. Most importantly we need all children in school -
on exceptions - if not in regular schools then in schools designed to
have those not in regular schools want to learn.
Greer Lockhart (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Art Rolnick is a
gem, but I am not very hopeful that a Republican majority legislature
will hear him.
Chuck Slocum (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
learning has long had forceful advocates, the economic research and
advocacy of Dr. Rolnick has moved the issue closer to the front
burner, especially with business leaders concerned about the future
workforce. I believe that a three part approach is necessary: 1) focus
on early engagement of the most “at risk/high potential” kids
involving parents; 2) a concentration on reading by 3rd grade as a
central element; and, 3) involvement of a non family adult mentor as
early as possible for as long as possible or at least until age 25.
Robert J. Brown (8) (10) (10) (10) (5)
Don Fraser (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Austin Chapman (5) (9) (9) (9) (7)
John Adams (8) (9) (9) (7) (7)
money now spent on college scholarships may be partially or largely
Might it be the
case that investing more in college scholarships merely encourages
colleges and universities to keep raising prices rather than
identifying efficiencies that would control costs of instruction?
Might it make more
sense to divert some of the money that now goes to support college
students in overpriced colleges and universities and instead use some
of that resource to invest in pre-K learning so that two things would
happen: (1) one would be to control spending in higher education as it
is unclear that that marginal spending equals the marginal benefit to
students as prices rise, and (2) it would improve the performance of
pupils in school prior to college age so that fewer dollars would need
to be spent on remedial education in our colleges and universities.
At MnSCU, the
expenditures for remedial education (i.e., high school-level courses
to prepare students for college-level work) currently absorb 40
percent of MnSCU’s instructional costs.
Quie (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
As Art says, he
approaches this from an economic point of view. I approach it
primarily from a moral point of view. Art is the greatest expert with
the economic perspective. Ada Alden, e-mail address AAlden1216@aol.com
is the greatest expert from the perspective of the child and the
family. MELF has done the best study and pilots. Their report should
soon come out.
Hans Sandbo (10) (10) (10) (10) (5)
Not sure on # 5 -
but do not have a better suggestion.
John Hottinger (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
There is no
question that investment in human capital is the way out of the
long-term economic challenge facing Minnesota – especially in early
childhood. With proper attention we can create an opportunity for no
child to start behind rather than trying to catch up in the later
years. Helping provide parents solid information which better informs
their child raising decisions is a job for all of society to
participate in because we all benefit – especially the business
Michael Martens (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
On the subject of
early childhood learning, the research show that (it) is effective in
getting children ready for Kindergarten. Some long-term studies have
shown that by grade 6 there is no difference in test scores between
the children with early education and children without early
That is a key
point that I have never heard Rolnick or other supporters of early
childhood ed address.
Has the Civic
Caucus looked at the long-term impact of early education? If the
long-term impact is not studied, there is no point in large-scale
early education? Why spend the money if there is no lasting impact?
Steve Tjeltveit (8) (7) (10) (8) (9)
Thanks for this
William Kuisle (7) (8) (7) (7) (0)
Paul and Ruth Hauge (8) (8) (9) (9) (7)
Nancy Jost (2) (4) (5) (3) (1)
scholarships at a 5 because I don’t know how they will work in rural
MN. I don’t think there is one silver bullet. I think it will take
comprehensive approach but we need to start with the expansion of
early education through the MN Legislature.
Mary Tambornino (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
experienced the absence of this approach; it is time to institute this
path. I have spent a long time promoting early intervention and
prevention and have listened ad nauseum to the naysayers who
say it is too expensive, etc. Like a lot of things the expense is in
not doing it.
Clarence Shallbetter (9) (8) (9) (9) (9)
All of the above
questions and the focus of early childhood development overwhelmingly
speak to the needs of children and homes of single parent, low income
families. The children of middle-income families are coming to school
well prepared to engage in learning. My high scores for each of the
above would be markedly lower if the questions applied to all
children. In addition, there is no way we as a society can afford to
do all of the above for all children. The challenge will be to contain
these early childhood initiatives almost entirely on the group that
needs this intervention and assistance the most.
Jackie Underferth (10) (9) (10) (10) (9)
I sit on our local
community ed advisory board and hear stories all the time about the
difference early childhood intervention makes in the lives of the
child and the parent. We need to reach these children early and
often...I believe mentors are truly the answer.
Tom Swain (10) (10) (10) (10) (7)
Chuck Lutz (9) (9) (10) (8) (9)
Alan Miller (10) (9) (10) (9) (10)
As I'm researching
for my TV show tomorrow, and going through education statistics
worldwide, Art could not be more correct. We have fallen to 33rd
in math & science proficiency -- and dropping. If our legislatures
don't reset their early childhood educational priorities, we will sink
in a few decades to the status of a 3rd world country.
Fred Senn (10) (10) (10) (10) (7)
for Early Learning (both Art and I serve on the board) just released a
new website for working parents: IsYourChildReady.com. This tool
recognizes that too many working parents don't know the developmental
milestones that lead to school readiness. MELF also funded this
John Rollwagen (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
As you can see
from my answers to the above questions, I am totally sold on Art’s
significant thing to keep in mind in considering his recommendations
is that he has come to this from not from an altruistic concern for
disadvantaged people or a general concern for the quality of education
but from straight economics and serious research.
he is doing just plain makes sense.
Carolyn Ring (9) (10) (8) (8) (7)
They need the
information, but, also, someone to explain it in terms they can
What is the
criteria for eligibility of scholarship funds?
Roger A. Wacek (0) (5) (0) (0) (0)
The shift that is
necessary is to realize it is not the state's job to take care of
"We the People",
not government, need to take care of people; the government has no
I want to add that
early childhood learning has nothing to do with the economy; OIL is
Shirley Heaton (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
The key to all
this lies in Rolnick's observation: '...customize experience through
mentors...'. As a mentor of high school students with promise for
college but jeopardized by family/friends influences, I can vouch for
that. Also, fathers must understand their family responsibilities. The
USA is a total failure in ‘bandaiding’ its assistance programs for the