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 Response Page - Rolnick  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Arthur Rolnick Interview of

Arthur Rolnick, 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.

The Minnesota 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:

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 Rolnick. Average responses 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. Brain development (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.

3. Scholarships (8.6 average response) Scholarships should be provided to low income families to help pay for early learning.

4. Mentors (8.2 average response) Mentors are needed for families to help them identify early learning needs and understand options.

5. Economy (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 education.


 Response Distribution:

Disagree Strongly

Disagree Moderately


Agree Moderately

Agree Strongly

Total Responses

1. Brain development







2. Rating quality







3. Scholarships







4. Mentors







5. Economy







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

John Branstad  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

2. 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 much fewer.

3. 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.

5. 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)

4. 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.

5. Economy.  If the education treats the issue and not the symptom.

W.D. (Bill) Hamm  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. 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).

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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)

1. 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.

2. Rating quality.  Information is power!

3. Scholarships.  There is need for boost to be able to observe progress.  No boost, no progress.

4. Mentors.  Again, information is power.

5. 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)

1. 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?

2. Rating quality.  Where do parents get the information that they need this information?

4. 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)

1. Brain development.  We experienced this problem with adopting 3 neglected and abused children.

4. Mentors.  Or educating parents of newborns.

Bob White  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

1. 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.

5. Economy.  I have long believed this intuitively.  Art's unmatched economic expertise gives me confirmation.

Vici Oshiro  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (2.5)

3. Scholarships.  In the long run there may be better ways, but scholarships seems best for the present.

4. 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

.5. 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)

1. 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?

2. 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.

3. 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 job, ever.

4. 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.

5. 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 economy.

Robert Freeman  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (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)

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)

Terrific, Art. 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)

While early 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)

Excellent program!

Austin Chapman  (5)  (9)  (9)  (9)  (7)

John Adams  (8)  (9)  (9)  (7)  (7)

Consider this: money now spent on college scholarships may be partially or largely misdirected. 

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.

Al 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 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 community

R. 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 education.

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 work.

William Kuisle  (7)  (8)  (7)  (7)  (0)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (8)  (8)  (9)  (9)  (7)

Nancy Jost  (2)  (4)  (5)  (3)  (1)

I rated 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)

We have 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)

Minnesota Business for Early Learning (both Art and I serve on the board) just released a new website for working parents: This tool recognizes that too many working parents don't know the developmental milestones that lead to school readiness. MELF also funded this effort.

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 brilliant program. 

The most 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.

Furthermore, what he is doing just plain makes sense.

Carolyn Ring  (9)  (10)  (8)  (8)  (7)

2. Rating quality.  They need the information, but, also, someone to explain it in terms they can understand.

3. Scholarships.  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 people!

"We the People", not government, need to take care of people; the government has no compassion.

I want to add that early childhood learning has nothing to do with the economy; OIL is the economy.

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 lower income.



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.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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