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Dayton’s plan for raising great ‘workers’: Turn your kids over to the state

Gov. Mark Dayton announced on the Chad Hartman Show on WCCO on Feb. 23 that universal pre-K was his No. 1 priority in the upcoming legislative session. He said he will hold the tax bill hostage until he gets his way. Echoing President Barack Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton, Dayton is demanding that all of Minnesota’s 4-year-olds be sent to school.

Kim Crockett
Kim Crockett

Not incidentally, universal pre-K is expected to produce at least 3,000 new union jobs (teachers for the 47,000 4-year-olds across the state). That would bring roughly $3 million in annual dues to teachers unions, which are one of the biggest spenders in state and local elections. If you go to the Education Minnesota home page, you will find the push for pre-K and an endorsement for candidate Hillary Clinton.

Dayton also said he wants new child-care initiatives from “birth to age three.” Yikes! That used to be called parenting. It is interesting how he talks about the value of our children to the state; our kids are future “workers” who will make the state great, and so on. It is as if our kids are being prepared to serve the state rather than the other way around.

While the demand for pre-K came out of nowhere last session, and resulted in a special session so an education bill could pass in 2015, Dayton has led the way for child-care providers to be unionized by AFSCME since he got into office. That union campaign failed on March 1 when child-care providers voted decisively against unionization. Providers opposed to joining AFSCME have told me they are convinced that Dayton wants to put them out of business to create demand for universal pre-K and other state programs.

Decline in the number of providers

Since Dayton began the campaign to unionize child-care providers in 2011, the number of providers in the state has plummeted. According to DHS data, the number of licensed providers has fallen from 11,697 in 2010 to 9,231 in 2015. The drop has been even greater among providers who care for kids in the “CCAP” or Child Care Assistance Program for low-income kids.These are the very kids we worry most about.

Citing the achievement gap and the needs of employers, Dayton continues to push for universal pre-K even though there is scant evidence that this is good for the majority of children — and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Katharine B. Stevens is a research fellow in education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), specializing in early childhood education. Last year she wrote an article for U.S. News, “Why Minnesota Doesn’t Need Universal Preschool.” She noted that Dayton is using Minnesota’s massive achievement gap among mostly poor, minority children to send all of our kids to school at age 4.

The need isn’t universal

Dayton’s one-size-fits-all approach threatens to rob existing programs aimed at disadvantaged kids who may really need and benefit from that extra attention and tender care. Art Rolnick has done a great job of making the case that we need to protect early learning scholarships and funding streams to offer high quality intervention, but only for a small group of Minnesota’s kids. This is not a “universal” need, yet politicians all over the nation are demanding this major expansion of the public school mission.

The Atlantic offers an answer to the question, “So why the push for universal pre-K?” The article makes the case against the idea, though it concludes that once you hook the middle class on a new program, you can get the program for poor kids, too. Case in point: All-day kindergarten has taken off in Minnesota as working parents shift their kids to school instead of paying for child care. Half-day kindergarten is now discouraged and will probably cease to exist. The parents in my neighborhood did not want all-day kindergarten, but it has quickly become the new standard. Parents feel they are out of step with their school community and failing to prepare their kids for first grade if they keep them closer to home or use a church-based nursery school for a few hours a day. I can see that happening with pre-K if the state taxpayer picks up the tab.

As a mom, I predict that when (most) children are pushed out into the noisy world of school and adults too soon, they will be exhausted and suffer in the long run. I like the Finnish model where they send kids to school at age 6 or 7. I do not think it is an anomaly that the Finns kick the world’s behind in achievement tests. My daughter found this article in The Atlantic: “The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland.” My kids have vowed to raise my (future) grandkids with the books, naps, art, nursery school and cookies model even if at great financial sacrifice because those were joyful days of their childhood. My approach prepared them well for school and life. Yes, yes, I know we were fortunate to have that option, but it was not just luck. It was a conscious choice — and a well-planned choice, at that.

The state as parent

My colleague Mitch Pearlstein has written poignantly for decades on the high price we pay when we fail to finish school, get a job, get married and then raise kids who can thrive in this rough and tumble world. When we ignore that simple formula for success, we invite the state to peer over our shoulder, stepping into the role of parent, provider and educator.

Another colleague, Katherine Kersten, has studied the studies that are cited to persuade Minnesota’s lawmakers to expand the state even further into territory traditionally left to parents, extended family, and faith-based programs. Here is what she has found: “In the end, there’s only one reliable way to shrink the learning gap. That’s to ensure — somehow — that far more low-income boys and girls come from homes with two dedicated parents who give them the love and support they need to succeed in school. Without a cultural sea change of that kind, our learning gap is likely to bedevil us for a long time to come.”

Katherine B. Stevens from AEI has a message for lawmakers who want to do right by Minnesota’s children. Noting the abject failure of public schools in addressing the achievement gap, she writes that “(a)warding an exclusive pre-K contract to a single provider with such a weak track record in serving disadvantaged children is like a mail-order business giving an exclusive shipping contract to a company that loses half the packages.”

Focus on at-risk kids

Dayton threw the 2015 session into chaos with his demand for universal pre-K, but lawmakers rejected the idea and kept the focus on the kids who need the most help. AEI’s Stevens wrote: “The agreed-on 52 percent budget increase for early childhood reflects an impressive commitment to helping the state’s at-risk kids. And Minnesota’s innovative, sensible approach – targeting disadvantaged children from birth to the age of 5 through a decentralized, quality-based, choice-driven system – provides a valuable model for other states now scaling up efforts to ensure the well-being of young children.”

During the upcoming 2016 bonding session, Dayton may hold the tax bill hostage until he turns blue in the face. But taxes and universal pre-K are unrelated policy issues, and except to the extent that they affect the state budget, should be weighed on their individual merit during the upcoming budget session in 2017.

Come what may, let’s keep our 4-year-olds off the collective bargaining table.

Kim Crockett is vice president of Center of the American Experiment and director of the Employee Freedom Project.

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Comments (47)

  1. Submitted by Tricia Cornell on 03/07/2016 - 08:47 am.

    Ignoring the full “Finnish model”

    Ms. Crockett rails against universal preschool. Then praises the Finns for starting kindergarten at age 6 or 7. Where do you think those Finnish kids are before they hit 7? In the woods?

    No. Almost universally, they are in publicly subsidized preschool. 97 percent of 3- to 6-year-olds, as a matter of fact. (http://www.npr.org/2014/03/08/287255411/what-the-u-s-can-learn-from-finland-where-school-starts-at-age-7)

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/08/2016 - 08:53 am.

      On point !! Ms. Crockett’s informational shell game

      …unmasked again !!

      There was a day – long gone now – when it was necessary to bring at least a minimum level of intellectual integrity to your work if you were to lay claim to being a “think tank”.

      The Center of the American Experiment, in disrespect if not abject contempt for its audience, laughs this idea off – and continues marking its hamburger with a label that says “Filet Mignon”.

      Buyer Beware !!

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 03/07/2016 - 09:28 am.

    If our current system of K-12 (13 years of public schooling) can’t prepare our children for the workforce or college, I am sure that 14th year of pre-K will turn it all around. Just think when we add another year to it with pre-pre-K……

  3. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/07/2016 - 09:28 am.

    Social Ambivalence

    “Not sure, maybe, how so?, what then?, why now?”

    Many good questions must be considered, and incompetent answers discarded.
    This proposal must be thoroughly vetted simply because it shapes a permanent cultural shift, whether one thinks positively or negatively about its impact.

    As one with no direct, or even tangential stake in possible outcomes, I do feel we must remove politicians from this arena, and press responsible sociologists and psychologists for astute studies and comments. If ever a “long view” is vital, it seems to be critical to these proposals.

    If Learning Tree and Kinder Kare have greatly shaped our Millennial generation, we must thoroughly examine the ultimate issues of turning over to the State three-year-old minds at the earliest stages of cognition.

    Everyone must think well beyond immediate issues and biases in this one.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/07/2016 - 11:20 am.

      Astonishing!

      While I disagree that you have no stake at all (we’re all affected by poverty and poor education, even if they’re not our kids), I do agree that we need to be listening to the experts, and not the “experts.” At this time, the experts are at least leaning toward real advantage to early childhood learning. While I don’t believe that childcare should be universally free, I do believe that early childhood learning should be universally available based on gains in long term learning. Studies have shown that early childhood education yields, at a minimum, a $1.80 return on every $1 spent, with returns as high as $17+ (boy, I wish my 401k would be guaranteed with early childhood education).

      For those complaining about the cost of education in areas with high concentrations of poor kids, there is an explanation for that, and a solution. If early childhood education yields a $1.80 benefit for every $1 spent, it is very likely that the costs of k-12 education would be reduced due to early childhood education. That is, the high percentage of kids that are simply not prepared for school is a big cost because they must be “caught up” with tutors, paraprofessionals, and materials that kids that have already received higher quality early childcare and/or early childhood education don’t need. It’s an investment that we need to make, not only for the children that will benefit, but for the benefits of society (and directly, the benefit on taxpayers’ pocketbooks).

      Why universal? Because it’s clear that targeting any benefit to the poor is a non-starter. There is no obvious benefit to those who believe themselves to be somehow morally superior because they manage to make ends meet, even if just barely. If there is a direct benefit apparent to more people, there will be greater will to get it done. Plus, by making sure that early childhood education isn’t just for the poor and rich, but also for the middle class, there’s less likelihood that early childhood education will suffer from segregation as much as our k-12 already does. Kids learn from each other, and just like adults, they learn better from diversity.

  4. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/07/2016 - 09:31 am.

    This column brought to you by…

    This column brought to you by the Opinionated, Over Privileged Soccer Mom with rose colored glasses so thick, she can’t see what real people look like.

    “Yikes!” In case you haven’t noticed, parenting isn’t enough in a world where lots of parents (most) don’t have the resources to do without child care in the first few years of their child’s life. And, often, when they find child care they can afford, it isn’t a learning environment. The education gap is real, and if you and your colleagues can afford to replace child care with “parenting” (how condescending), you can do so. No one will make you “turn your children over to the state.”

    But, you live in a society, and you enjoy the benefits (or suffer the consequences) of how the rest of the people in that society are treated. Touting the “52% increase” in pre-K spending, when the bar is set in the basement, is akin to “let them eat cake” (or brioche, or whatever the foolish, clueless, headless French woman dismissed the rabble with).

    Further, a “decentralized, quality-based, choice-driven system” is what we’ve got now, and clearly it isn’t working. Do you know why? Because there is the assumption that it’s a matter of willpower, and not REAL disadvantage that puts children at a disadvantage. Since the 70’s, “think tanks” like the AEI have pushed this malarkey on us through clever manipulation of public perception and political movement to result in one of the LEAST upwardly mobile first world country in the world. If the disadvantaged had the power to change their lot, they would. Contrary to popular belief, being poor is not a moral failing.

    In other words, you might want to expand your horizons beyond your AEI role models’ writings. Maybe even spend some time with people that can’t afford to “parent” their children. It’s easy to condescend from your vantage point of insulated comfort, but it’s neither realistic nor respectful. You could use some time in the trenches.

    Finally, sticking the child care unionization bit in your article is not only off-topic, it’s moot. I’m not sure what exactly you’re getting at there, other than to put as much disdain toward policies that might actually help people into a single article.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 03/07/2016 - 10:08 am.

      Rachel

      So what you want is free child care for all. I am happy to hear someone just come out and say it. I was taught when you become a parent you parent, how is that condescending? If you don’t want to parent for goodness sakes do not become a parent. Parenting is a 24/7/365 job, thinking that knocking off 40 hours a week for “pre-K/child care” for 9 months a year is going to make you a better parent or raise better kids does not make sense.

      Our inadequate (teachers union run) school system NOT preparing our children for a real world work force or college, is the reason we are the LEAST upwardly mobile first world country in the world. Adding 14 years to our public schools will not help that. What they cannot achieve in 13 years of public schools, preparing children for workforce, they will not be able to achieve with 14 years of public schools. Just call it day care spend 100’s of millions on it but don’t claim it is going to fix our broken school system because that is condescending.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/07/2016 - 11:06 am.

        Nope

        Read again. And, when you do, try not to put words in my mouth.

        • Submitted by joe smith on 03/07/2016 - 12:04 pm.

          Rachel I Read it again…

          Same questions? How will 14 years of public schools out perform 13 years of public schools? Parents should parent or no? We spend over $20,000 per student now in MPS system (not helping) so how is more money an issue? Teachers unions running schools the past 40 years have lowered upward mobility more than anything else you point to, that is a statement.

          Kindergarten was introduced when I was a kid, that was supposed to reduce the achievement gap of 1st graders. How did that work out? Another question. Dayton did say this pre-K was going to reduce the achievement gap and help Minnesota workforce, if Kindergarten didn’t help why will pre-K be the key?

          Same questions, but no real answers besides Teachers Union talking points.

          • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/07/2016 - 01:21 pm.

            Questions

            You didn’t pose any questions to me. You put words in my mouth.

            To answer your questions, let’s start with the proper background:
            Upward mobility has not changed in the last 40 years. Even The Economist and Forbes will attest to that (http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21595437-america-no-less-socially-mobile-it-was-generation-ago-mobility-measured). So, the premise that teachers’ unions screwed it all up is false.

            We are not the LEAST upwardly mobile in the first world, but we are near the bottom (England is worse, but there are others that are far more mobile; http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/). The biggest kick in the pants is that, while the US hasn’t improved on upward mobility, much of Europe has (http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0199258457.001.0001/acprof-9780199258451). That’s pretty sad for a country that never formally had royalty and nobility. It’s interesting to note that Norway, Finland, and Denmark are FAR ahead of us. Over 97% of 3-6 year old Finns attend some kind of educational program. Norway has universal access to subsidized and regulated early childhood education, as does Denmark. Interestingly, England only recently adopted a universal pre-K program. It will be interesting to see how that works out, but I would expect that upward mobility will improve.

            So, how did the introduction of kindergarten turn out? You tell me. As far as I can tell, there is precisely one study that looked at the outcome of universal kindergarten in the US. While I have a hard time believing that the data is fine enough to distinguish the effects of kindergarten vs other, secondary variables, the conclusion was that white kids disproportionately benefited, while black kids didn’t gain as much. This suggests that, indeed, kindergarten has a positive effect in the right conditions, and certainly doesn’t have a negative effect. But, why the disparity? The author of that study suggested a couple of things: money was pulled away from Head Start which is known to have a positive effect (more on that in a bit), and black kids were disproportionately in poor quality kindergarten. While those economic effects may have contributed to the disparity, I have a third possibility: kids from poor families (disproportionately black, a variable that appears not to be considered in the single study) were less prepared for kindergarten. That is, a larger percentage of white kids (because of their economic advantage) went into kindergarten primed with early childhood learning experiences. They were already getting quality learning experiences, while children from poorer families were not.

            If you’ve got some data to point elsewhere, feel free to provide it. Otherwise, you’ve just got an unsupported opinion.

            • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/07/2016 - 02:29 pm.

              Observations

              Rachel, you are one of the most cogent contributors to these comment strings. Thank you very, very much.

              While very few bother with any kind of citation, or with Wiki links or some other scholastically questionable source, you write clearly with example and excellent source support. Again, thank you.

              Oh, as for my self-described irrelevance in this structural cultural/civic proposal, please know: I recently turned 68 (how many here are either surprised or confirmed?); and, I do feel those who will be the ultimate designers and civil guardians of such fundamental normative change should be the ones to act and enact.

              Aside: For example, I firmly believe critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare should be carefully reviewed and modified–not by current or pending recipients–but, rather, by those ages 30-50, who will experience those adjustments in funding and benefit. Old people do fear many things, so they must be reassured in the short run, but should not be significantly involved in setting new standards for those still working and contributing.

              Again…good on ya!

            • Submitted by Dan Berg on 03/07/2016 - 06:42 pm.

              So…

              You seem to be attributing upward mobility in part to all day kindergarten? Seems like that conclusion would be quite a stretch. There are of course almost innumerable factors in mobility that likely dwarf that of kindergarten making a few extra hours of school for 5 year olds little more than background noise in the data one way or another. The largest study done in this country was done on Head Start and the results showed that there was basically zero lasting gain from the program.

              • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/08/2016 - 10:11 am.

                Not exactly

                I don’t think there’s any debate on the fact that kids that get a good education do better–so, not a stretch at all. I attribute higher overall academic achievement to a higher overall opportunity to exceed the class status of a person’s parents.

                If kids aren’t primed to learn when they enter formal school, they’re already at an academic disadvantage. Children learn to learn very early in life (http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/brain-architecture/). If kids aren’t exposed to a learning environment, even informally, they miss an important cognitive opportunity. Brain development resulting in physical connections that allow children to learn peaks in 3 areas, all before the age of 5–sensory, language, and higher cognition, in that order (http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED446866.pdf –there’s a nice graph on page 188). That window of time, BEFORE kindergarten, will affect how much and how well children CAN learn once they’ve started formal education. White kids did, on average, see improvements in graduation (and reduced incarceration) rates in tandem with the advent of universal kindergarten. Of course, on average, white kids came from richer families and a higher percentage of single-earner households. On the other hand, black kids, on average, didn’t see an improvement–but they didn’t see a negative impact, either. On average, black kids have a higher level of poverty, and likely, less access to higher quality daycare with learning environments. They weren’t as primed for learning, so the effects of kindergarten weren’t that great because it’s already outside the window of critical brain development. The single study on the effect of kindergarten doesn’t show the whole picture because it didn’t compare income levels, only race, and most of the education gap can be explained by income disparities, not race.

                So, why universal if the education gap is about poor kids, and not all kids? Because the world is not black and white and there are lots of shades of grey. At what income level should a child be given a chance of a good education? Pick some arbitrary number and you’ve handicapped children who don’t deserve to be handicapped. Separate the rich kids from the poor kids and you miss an opportunity for learning on both ends.

                For the record, the conclusion you claim from the Head Start program study is incorrect. Even if the study came to that conclusion (it didn’t–look at the study directly rather than rely on talking heads: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_executive_summary.pdf), the study itself had very little power to tease out nuances. For example, the two groups were the control group (kids that didn’t have access to Head Start, but could enroll in other early childhood programs) and kids that had access to Head Start. Clearly, that set up can’t directly compare Head Start vs nothing. Further, it didn’t control for changes in circumstances of each of the groups. That is, some of the control group became Head Start kids, while some of the Head Start kids left the program, so it’s impossible to take the study without some rather large grains of salt. Further, your conclusion on Head Start is not the foregone conclusion on early childhood education overall because the study could not determine those effects at all due to the flaws in the design.

                • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/08/2016 - 11:47 am.

                  Personal Interjection

                  More than a few years ago, my daughter was accepted by exception at age three by a good civic league preschool program. All staff were K-certified, so the teaching/guidance was truly professional. She fit “right in” and learned very much, beginning at that age 3 cognitive threshold I mentioned previously.

                  Given more recent expansion of precollege high school coursework as well as early college entrance, earlier formalized education is very worthy of discussion and broader implementation of some kind.

                  I do agree that early assimilation/socialization in our rapidly growing cross cultural/ethnic/racial American society makes a lot of sense now, and may possibly strengthen our social fabric while giving very many younger children critical seminal opportunities of intellectual and social growth.

                  As with everything else that ultimately becomes a bureaucratic bog, we must intelligently pursue a plan truly meant to succeed, by carefully examining all current assumptions and perceived outcomes. Failure in this will truly make everything worse.

                • Submitted by Dan Berg on 03/08/2016 - 02:41 pm.

                  Assumptions

                  All of your points rely on unsupported assumptions.

                  It is a stretch because the terms “good education” and “do better” are not defined in any way that connects them to the policies for which you are advocating. Simply adding a few hours a day to kindergarten and attributing huge social trends to it is patently ridiculous. You are assuming all day kindergarten is “good education” and then attributing the level upward mobility in part to that difference. There simply is no evidence of that connection outside of your own bias. At least no more than the connection between all day kindergarten and the fact most of the kids in Norway speak Norwegian. Correlation is not causation.

                  All the studies in the world about brain development are fine and dandy but they also provide zero actual evidence that the policies you seem to advocate have a positive impact. The studies might suggest an opportunity but they are meaningless as far as supporting a particular path forward. The theory you draw out is the one that was used to develop various programs; kindergarten, all-day kindergarten and Head Start.

                  You might not like the conclusion of the study on Head Start and it certainly isn’t perfect but that doesn’t change the fact that the conclusion does not paint a favorable picture of the program. Another assumption you made is that my opinion is based only on repeating “talking heads”. I had already read not just the executive summary but a number of fairly complete articles on the topic and the fact you disagree with the conclusions of the published study is not of great consequence. The deficiencies in the study you mention simply do not change the basic result. The longest and largest study ever done of pre-K uncovered little to no positive lasting effect. This study wasn’t about “teasing out nuances” it was designed to take a macro look at a massive large scale program and the effects it has had over a long period of time.

                  Yes, we can take it with a grain of salt, same with all research, but in the meantime we are spending billions on programs (or advocating for more of them) which are not able to provide evidence of efficacy. The default position seems to be to spend money until it can be proven inconclusively that we shouldn’t which is completely backwards. If you want funding provide overwhelming actual verifiable evidence that the program works and provides benefits which are not able to be achieved in a less expensive manor. It might be a high bar but not unreasonable when you are asking everybody else to pay for it. With Head Start even if there were any minor improvements shown in select areas tested (there seemed to be about as many negative results as positive) you must still look at the value those gains provide relative to the dollars spent and be able to say there was no better way to allocate those resources.

                  If I were to guess, much like you have done, I would say that at such young ages a child’s connection with their parent(s) so overwhelms any outside effort that no matter how much money we spend on direct public intervention in their upbringing there will never be a significant effect.

                  • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/08/2016 - 08:11 pm.

                    So in other words

                    Throw up our hands, tell the children who might benefit, and their parents, too bad? If you think this is strawman, please provide some other summarization of what it is you are getting at. I would say elimination of rigid social stratification is important enough to warrant any expense. To accept it is to accept that which our country is supposed to be the antithesis of. Not to mention proving the lie of the rhetorical argument for meritocracy that so many feel we should be moving toward. There can be no meritocracy without equal opportunity.

                    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 03/09/2016 - 09:19 am.

                      Good decision?

                      I never claimed a straw,an argument but your last post is a picture perfect example. I never stated a desire to “throw up my hands” just that the method for addressing them for which you advocate forcing others to spend billions have zero evidence of being effective. You even state that it “warrants any expense” which is of course ridiculous and something you don’t believe. Unless of course you have eschewed all but the most basics of life in favor of pushing that goal. So even you, despite your protests, believe there is a value equation that must be understood. That value equation is absolutely critical as it allows the best results given whatever resources are available. Failure to acknowledge this fairly basic reality is in fact detrimental in the efforts to reach your goal as it detroys your credibility and wastes usable resources. Simply throwing money willfully ensures failure.

                      By the way, your last two statement wrap things up by arguing against things I have never stated and for which you have no indication of my thoughts. If interested I think the idea of a large country full of diverse ever changing individuals can’t have an antithesis. I think diversity is a major strength of this country which precludes any antithesis. Your beliefs, no mine, no matter how closely held don’t represent a country. As for equality and meritocracy they can each exist simultaneously to varying degrees. Neither exists in any pure form. Also, perfect equality necessitates zero diversity so I prefer to focus on rewarding merit rather than artificially enforce equality. Especially at great expense with no evidence of effectiveness.

            • Submitted by joe smith on 03/07/2016 - 07:18 pm.

              Rachel, let’s see…..

              Kindergarten was set up to close the gap for under privileged/challenged kids so going into 1st grade they would be caught up. Now pre-K is being set up to close the gap for the same kids to close the gap with Kindergarteners. If Kindergarten worked as promised we wouldn’t need pre-K. You tell me how well did Kindergarten work? Do you believe that the same system that can’t prepare our kids for real world job markets or college with 13 years of public schools will magically do it with 14 years? Does that actually make sense to you? Do you need data points or common sense to decide that?

              We have gone from leading the world in sciences, math and reading skills for children 50 years ago to the lowly ranking of 25-35 in the world depending on which study you look at now. What data would you like to see that we have fallen? Remember when we started the Dept of Education and the promises they made? I do, they haven’t done anything to improve the gaps between under privileged kids and the rest of the students (as promised). Don’t need data points for that either. They have however, increased spending and built a huge Democratic backing Teachers Union. I don’t remember that being in their pledge to help educate our kids.

              • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 03/09/2016 - 09:30 pm.

                Good point Joe. Except that most of the countries now ahead of us have compulsory or very rigorous kindergarten and pre-K.

    • Submitted by Mike martin on 03/09/2016 - 02:24 am.

      Rachel what does this mean?

      “Maybe even spend some time with people that can’t afford to “parent” their children.”

      What does can’t afford to parent their children mean???? Is it people too busy working to spend time with their children? People too busy shopping and playing golf to spend time with their children?

      Life style/ standard of living is a choice A family can have 2 parents working and make $50,000, $80,000 or $100,000 or a family can have one parent working and make $25,000, $40,0000 or $50,000. Its what the family’s priorities are. Time with the children or making money.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/09/2016 - 10:12 am.

        “Life style/ standard of living is a choice”

        Are you saying that people choose to be poor? That their poverty is dictated entirely by them?

        “A family can have 2 parents working and make $50,000, $80,000 or $100,000 or a family can have one parent working and make $25,000, $40,0000 or $50,000.” If only it were really that simple. A family can have one parent, and only one parent, and he or she could be working at multiple jobs just to make $25,000. That family’s priorities are probably limited to food and shelter.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/07/2016 - 10:26 am.

    Thank you…

    …Ms. Kahler. Ms. Crockett needs to escape the right-wing echo chamber, read less AEI propaganda, and get out more.

    All-day kindergarten has been a staple in quite a few other states, and for quite some time, yet their societies have somehow not collapsed. Whining about it being a jobs program for teachers is truly a red herring – would she prefer that children be taught and/or supervised by someone with no qualifications? The alternative, a stay-at-home mom, hasn’t been part of the real world for most people since Ms. Crockett was herself a child.

    A retired teacher, I serve as the primary child-care provider for the children of my son and daughter-in-law, both of whom are employed. Their lifestyle would be significantly different if they had to pay someone to provide those same services, and it would be surprising if many of those paid to provide child care were trained as teachers. I’m well aware – as are they – that I’m saving them thousands of dollars a year in costs, and in the process providing the grandkids with both educational and emotional benefits they’d be unlikely to get at most day care facilities, with the possible exception of the most expensive ones.

    I daresay Ms. Crockett’s lifestyle might be rather different, as well, if she’d had to pay most of her income to a child care provider while her children grew up. That’s the situation for many, many families with which I’m acquainted. When both parents are present, they both have to work, and most of the second income goes to pay for child care. Many families, of course, are headed by a single parent, usually the mother, and for those moms, having to contribute a sizable part of their income to a child-care facility is an unpleasant reality with which Ms. Crockett appears to be unfamiliar. Lucky her…

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/07/2016 - 08:08 pm.

      Our latest parenting trend

      As I look around neighbors, friends, relatives, I have noticed the increasing number of grandparents who are the primary daycare providers for their children, Certainly it is good to see grandparents spending more time with their grandchildren, but I have also noticed that many of the parents EXPECT their parents to take care of their children. It is not even necessarily a financial decision, the parents have great jobs, big houses, new cars, and still “require” their parents to do the daycare or most of the babysitting. These grandparents certainly are free to do as they please, but it seems less and less likely that they can actually say “no” when the grandchildren are dropped off.

      The last paragraph sums up my core belief of which “affordable daycare” is merely a symptom: We have too many parents having children that they cannot afford.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/08/2016 - 06:12 am.

        Umm

        To all of those proclaiming so much of of society unfit to parent, where exactly do you expect the next generation to come from? As many of you are those I see railing away about the influence of immigrants in society, as well as speaking in favor of various military adventures around the globe, it seems you have a math problem when it comes to population. Simply put, there aren’t enough people who seem to meet your qualifications (that being independently wealthy) to produce the continued population to meet your desires for an immigrant free, (ostensibly, all white but you’d never say THAT, right?) militarily powerful, economically secure nation. Then again, as so many of your generation came from what YOUR parents probably deemed unfit parents (as so many seem to express pride in pointing out) I really cannot process to understand what it is that motivates your arguments beyond the simple envy so many of the conservative bent seem to feel toward the poor, and increasingly even toward what’s left of the middle class. That, and perhaps the irrational hatred of unions or the power they wield at thwarting the complete conservative takeover of all citizens way of life.

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/08/2016 - 08:04 pm.

          Suggesting that too many people are having children

          That they cannot afford, says nothing about immigration, war, or unions. A math problem we all have regarding population is too many people. Our earth can only support a finite number of people and since each person contributes to global climate change, the easiest way to slow that process is by slowing population. But that is another subject.
          Affordable daycare, “living wages”, sick time to care for sick children, affordable health care, over 25% of schoolchildren on free or reduced lunch programs. These problems almost go away if people can afford the children that they bear. Wages go farther if you feed a smaller family, have no daycare expenses, don’t need a vehicle that holds six people, etc. I am not suggesting “means testing” before parents take a baby home from the hospital, I do suggest that parents do some means testing of their own BEFORE they create problems for themselves and the rest of society that must take care of them.

          • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 03/10/2016 - 05:35 pm.

            What does

            Unions have to do with your “analysis” ? What about a Target CEO who receives millions of dollars for utter failure? LOL!

  6. Submitted by Clete Erickson on 03/07/2016 - 10:45 am.

    Targeted

    I like the idea of targeting preschool where preschool will help kids who are already falling behind before they even reach kindergarten. I do not think that the one size fits all is really worth it until we find out if the program actually works as expected.

    Given how MPLS. Public Schools has a huge minority achievement gap I think it would help getting those kids help at an earlier age would benefit everyone in MN. But I am not sure if MPS is up to the challenage; they already spend over $22,000 a year per child (most of any District in the State) and with that much money being spend per student the results are pretty weak.

  7. Submitted by Dan Berg on 03/07/2016 - 03:56 pm.

    How about

    Since this is a never ending argument maybe it is time we change the framework rather than rehash the same ideas. How about instead of giving tax breaks to people for having kids and then give them free stuff on top of it we tax people per child. It can be a progressive tax of some sort so people with no or little income don’t need to pay. Keeping childless folks out of the equation of funding makes sense they have a natural bias to not want to fund additional programs.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/08/2016 - 08:39 pm.

      So another variation

      Of the theme that only the wealthy are worthy of reproduction. Hell, throw in only the intelligent and healthy, and before you know it you’ll be founding a whole new eugenics movement. I mean why not, fascism seems to be back in fashion, let’s all party like it’s 1929!

  8. Submitted by Michael Friedman on 03/07/2016 - 04:02 pm.

    Award winning

    The author is a very skilled propagandist! Describing universal preschool as “turning one’s kids over to the state” is award winning in finding alarming language to describe a public good. The state is after your children by paying for preschool!. Beware!

    Surely, any parent who disagrees with the state’s offer will be able to home school, just as now is available for a parent of a third grader who doesn’t require a paid job and similarly believes he/she should control his/her child’s education and not allow the state to snatch precious into the yellow school bus and who knows what horrors thereafter.

    More honest is if Crockett just says that her organization’s wealthy funders have sponsored her job in order to promote greater disparity of wealth through two means:

    1) eliminating unions (“Employee Freedom Project” is a less award deserving propaganda phrase)
    2) reducing the social wage (what government provides to make up for the fact that low wages do not cover expenses adequately)

  9. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/07/2016 - 04:29 pm.

    Thank you Ms Kahler

    What more can one say…you said it all so well. It was most rewarding to read your responses to CAE’s standard, ingrown attitudes.

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 03/07/2016 - 09:50 pm.

    First, let’s distinguish between two possible objectives of universal Pre-K: Helping parents and helping kids. Surely, providing universal free pre-K will save parents money and maybe allow some of them to join the workforce. As any of the “free” government service approach, it should be understood that it is not free and someone will have to pay for that. Whether the society will benefit if we take money from some people and provide free pre-K (and possible free daycare in the future) for kids of others should be the actual question.

    The second aspect is the kids themselves. One of the most important predictor of how kids do in school is how much time their parents spend with them. As Mr. Smith pointed out, if 13 years in school can’t help a kid (and that is a different problem), an extra year will not make any difference. And if some parents have such a negative impact on kids that it would be beneficial to take kids from them to school one year earlier, then logically kids should be taken from them at birth for the kids’ benefits.

  11. Submitted by Al Iverson on 03/07/2016 - 10:18 pm.

    Yikes, indeed.

    What more can one say? This is possibly the least intelligently considered thing I’ve ever read on Minnpost. I thought this was a smarter platform than that and I’m quite disappointed to learn otherwise. Dayton’s not mandating that children be hauled off into camps, what the hell. How dare we help working parents by giving them pre-K access that they could otherwise likely not afford on their own. Yeah! Everybody poor just quit their two jobs and stop eating.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/08/2016 - 10:48 am.

      First Time?

      Are you new to articles by writers affiliated with the Center for the American Experiment? The CAE is a low-rent right wing “think” tank that gets a lot of local attention. Poor reasoning and ludicrous hyperbole are hallmarks of their articles. Toss in an inability to consider that people other than upper-middle class suburbanites might have a point of view that merits consideration, and you’ve pretty much got their entire output.

      The sad thing is that they seem to think their token appearances in local media adds up to influence. This is why I refer to them as “Get Rid Of Slimy liberalS:” They’re sitting in their treehouse, playing at being conservative intellectuals, but they are the only ones paying attention.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/08/2016 - 11:57 am.

        aw, come on, RB

        “This is why I refer to them as “Get Rid Of Slimy liberalS…”
        Since when?

        Harsh hyperbole, yes? Maybe true, but nevertheless harsh.

        [also a bit distracted, I am, now thinking about High rent Left wing “tanks” of sorts]

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/08/2016 - 12:33 pm.

          Since when?

          For awhile, but it’s not something I trot out often (I don’t want any copyright squabbles).

          “Maybe true, but nevertheless harsh.” As Georg Lichtenberg once noted, “It is almost impossible to bear the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing somebody’s beard.”

          “[also a bit distracted, I am, now thinking about High rent Left wing “tanks” of sorts]” Heck, there are high rent right wing think tanks–the Manhattan Institute, for example. In the marketplace of ideas, the CAE is Wal Mart.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/08/2016 - 06:15 pm.

            Well, OK

            Holy Matches, Batman! Good thing I shaved my four-day trial beard last night, truly.

            Rip on CAE, OK. I’m certainly not here in defense. I just think your prose needs to breathe a bit more, that’s all. I really like your reference to WalMart. They do have a very large market share.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/08/2016 - 12:33 pm.

      Community Voices

      Al, this is the “Community Voices” section of MinnPost. Authors of articles in the Community Voices section are not MinnPost personnel. Rather, as described by MinnPost:

      “Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. MinnPost welcomes submissions on current topics of broad interest in Minnesota. We suggest that they be limited to 800 words.

      “If you’d like to join the discussion by writing a Community Voices article, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.”

      Hopefully this will help you to understand what on first glance may have seemed to be a logical disconnect.

  12. Submitted by Chris Williams on 03/08/2016 - 09:19 am.

    Nationally, not so partisan

    While I personally support universal access to pre-K and believe the long-term benefits to a state where 38 percent of children live in poverty is worth the upfront costs, I can understand how fiscal conservatives would support a smaller benefit for less taxpayer money. Reasonable people can disagree on this one.

    But what strikes me about this essay is the paranoia about union membership. Is it really so bad to create a few more jobs with good wages and health benefits? Those are college-educated people who will be buying houses, raising families and doing all the other things that benefit the state economy.

    I’ll also note the states of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee and the city of San Antonio, Texas, have all turned to universal preschool models and no ever accused the leadership in those states of being beholden to unions.

  13. Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 03/08/2016 - 05:51 pm.

    Pre-School

    I’m responding as a parent, and as a retired teacher.
    As a parent, I wanted to parent my own child, allowing him plenty of time for creative, free play–which is no longer part of kindergarten.
    As a teacher, I saw how our curriculum placed more and more brain skills upon kindergartners. From what I have read, countries like Finland that introduce reading at a later age have much better levels of success, and lower levels of ADD, ADHD.
    Parents want all-day kindergarten to save on day-care costs.
    Having said all of the above, as a teacher, I saw that some kids were better off in a school environment than at home in front of a TV, with parents who had no parenting skills.
    I would rather have us teach parenting skills than try to coerce little children to perform skills that their brains are not ready for.
    It’s time that our society looks for ways to support families, not businesses, corporations, etc. who demand more and more hours from workers at lower wages–thus putting the workplace ahead of the family. How are we going to raise emotionally and physically healthy kids under such values?

  14. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/10/2016 - 11:17 am.

    That was then….

    A former member of the Deephaven City Council, Ms. Crockett opposed a Senior Housing project 3 blocks from her home because of all the extra traffic that would be created by those wild and crazy octogenarians racing around at all hours of the night. When argued that these folks drive very little, Ms. Crockett and her associates next argued about all the ambulance traffic needed to cart the old folks off to the hospital causing a distraction. A matter of public record…

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/10/2016 - 02:05 pm.

      This is Now

      There is something of the professional contrarian about Ms. Crockett’s piece here.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/11/2016 - 08:56 am.

      Really?!

      Oh wow. So, it’s not just that she doesn’t /see/ how normal people live, she pretty much just dislikes normal people. Some day, she too will be old. I hope someone is more compassionate at that time, for her sake, than she is.

  15. Submitted by Fiona Birch on 03/11/2016 - 09:09 am.

    Wishful Pre-K

    For what it’s worth, I am a parent to a 4 year old. I would love to send him to pre-K. I am an elementary school teacher and I believe that good pre-K is very valuable for children. Unfortunately, I cannot afford preschool. I looked into all the options available to us and we can’t afford any of them. I know many people commenting on here will accuse me of bad budgeting or suggest that I should not have had children, statements like that do not help. Luckily I am a teacher so I will just teach my son everything he needs to know for kindergarten. I do wish I could send him to preschool though I have some wonderful memories from attending preschool myself.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/11/2016 - 11:31 am.

      Such irony here…

      You are clearly a compassionate and thoughtful parent, and ironically, an elementary school teacher.

      That you teach young minds in a setting that does not include pre-K space, is so terribly more than ironic.

      Your words prompt feelings of anguish. So unfair…

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