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Despite Dayton’s angry rhetoric, advocates see a potential roadmap out of the early-ed impasse

An excerpt from Tuesday’s news conference of Gov. Mark Dayton discussing the education bill.

At the Tuesday news conference where he reiterated his plan to veto the K-12 education bill, Gov. Mark Dayton detailed a version of events in the last days of the legislative session that left early-childhood-education advocates in a quandary.

Do they disagree with the governor’s claim that he offered to compromise and to support approaches that are more flexible than his proposed universal school-based pre-K for 4-year-olds, or do they jump on what seems to be an olive branch?

One prominent advocate has clearly chosen the latter.

“I looked at the governor’s veto letter and at the long list of things that did not get funded,” said Art Rolnick, the former Federal Reserve economist who did the original, groundbreaking research that showed an eye-popping return on investing tax dollars in early ed. 

“I agree with him. It’s pretty upsetting there’s no money for the North Side Achievement Zone, no money for the Head Start waiting list. I think it’s important that the governor is speaking out for early childhood education. I agree with him; with this surplus we should be investing a lot more.”

Rolnick said he was particularly encouraged to hear that Dayton was willing to be flexible about the way early childhood services are delivered. “We need a governor with that kind of leadership.”

The quandary — and a possible way forward

Early-ed advocates had been stuck between fearing that the special session that has now become inevitable could result in even less new education spending than the $400 million in the bill passed Monday, and throwing their weight behind a pre-K proposal they have described as impractical and overly one-size-fits-all.

The idea that the governor might be willing to direct meaningful funding increases to multiple approaches to targeting pre-K resources seemed to provide a roadmap out of the impasse.

It might be a good idea to give everyone a little time off before sitting down to discuss the nuts and bolts, however. The olive branch proffered Tuesday, if that’s what it was, was swaddled in the angry rhetoric Capitol insiders say came to characterize the last weeks of the 2015 session. 

Dayton Tuesday voiced some ugly characterizations that had the pre-K community wondering what version of their concerns had reached his ears.

“There were other vested interests that fought furiously behind the scenes to destroy our pre-K proposal,” said Dayton, adding that they included “real and self-proclaimed experts” on early childhood.

Art Rolnick
MinnPost file photo by Bill KelleyArt Rolnick

The governor didn’t name names, but one wishes he had. The voices speaking out against the proposal include Rolnick; Karen Cadigan, an early childhood researcher who Dayton himself tapped to be the first chief of his state Office of Early Learning; a who’s who of Minnesota’s civil and philanthropic communities; and his own task force on early learning.

“The naked, petty self-interest of all this is shocking,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been told that and I’ve seen it in evidence over the last couple of months.”

That self-interest, in his view, included school superintendents and board members who raised concerns about the practicality of the proposal: “They don’t want to do it ’cause they don’t want to do it.” 

The child-care providers who decried universal pre-K’s potential impact on the state quality ratings system that’s been under development for the last decade “don’t want to lose their clients,” he said, supplying air quotes around the word “their.”

Districts stretched

Many district leaders have repeatedly said that while they would like to be able to offer preschool to all, they are stretched past their limits finding the classroom space for the all-day kindergarten approved in the last biennium. 

Nor are there enough licensed early childhood teachers to make a dent in the demand the proposal would create. Nor do they believe the true costs of the programming are reflected in the governor’s budget.

Meanwhile, the child care providers who have been scrambling to earn the high quality designations that would allow them to compete for scholarships have tried to point out that because adult-to-child ratios increase as kids grow, losing 4-year-olds would be a budget-buster for small and home-based early ed programs.

Dayton also advanced a chronology of negotiations leading up to the legislative stalemate that doesn’t jibe with the recollections of several members of the early childhood education community, whom he derided at the Tuesday press conference.

Brenda Cassellius

For their part, the advocates say they were told in a meeting with Brenda Cassellius and Lucinda Jesson, commissioners of education and human services, respectively, that Dayton would be sticking to his guns on school-based preschool. This is, of course, the same stance the governor maintained in public over the weekend and into the wee hours Monday as lawmakers inked a bill they knew he would reject.

Indeed the advocates point to a May 15 letter from Dayton to legislative leaders in which he said he would settle for no less than a list of priorities including 1.5 percent increases on the general formula in each year of the biennium and $173 million for half-day universal pre-K.  

On Tuesday Dayton sounded determined to prove there was a groundswell of support for his pre-K plan. He reiterated a plan to criss-cross the state talking to people. The remark came partly in response to a tart comment from House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who said that the governor had five months to show there was broad support but failed to do so.

Even his administration’s own testifiers offered tempered support and experts called to speak in conference committee continued to voice a preference for a mixed delivery system.

Indeed in its final omnibus bill, the state Senate adopted a pre-K approach that would have put money into school readiness funds, a pot of money districts said would better suit their needs. While the universal pre-K proposal would have created a uniform school day for all 4-year-olds, the readiness dollars could be used to target fragile families with tailored programming.

The bill Dayton will veto contained $30.7 million each for school readiness and for the early learning scholarships preschool advocates have been hoping to scale up for years.

Rolnick is one of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s early ed advisers. That city has adopted universal pre-K, but parents have the option to choose between school-based programs and community providers. That is enabling the program to come to scale rapidly, Rolnick said.

Along with the crude characterizations of their positions, the stark difference between the chronology Dayton laid out Tuesday and the recollections of many early ed advocates had some wondering how information reaches the governor.

At several junctures over the years Cassellius has expressed a strong desire that a large share of early-ed spending be directed to public schools.

On Twitter, Cambridge Republican Rep. Sean Nienow wondered whether Dayton had been influenced by Education Minnesota, whose relatively new director of policy, research and outreach is married to his communications director.

Dayton refused Tuesday to commit to a different pre-K approach during the special session, but Rolnick said he is still optimistic: “Once something’s on the table, it’s always on the table.”

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Comments (83)

  1. Submitted by John Appelen on 05/20/2015 - 12:09 pm.

    Great Summary

    Unfortunately I have a hard time giving Dayton the benefit of the doubt on this one. So many experts and too much logic is against his proposal, and yet he keeps pushing. If you want to close a gap, one must focus intensely on the kids that are lagging.

    RB left a comment that may explain the logic. “Making pre-K a universal program could be a way of building future support for it. History shows that programs targeted to the disadvantaged have a weak constituency. Programs that benefit the middle class and above will have stronger support, and are less vulnerable to budget cutting.” (ie social security, medicare, K-12 education, etc)

    It makes sense, even if it would maintain or increase the academic achievement gap. Rationale: kids with strong home support will also gain, and likely gain faster…

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 05/20/2015 - 12:32 pm.

      I don’t understand your comment

      Kids with home support are already likely to be attending a quality preschool. Making it universal won’t get them more preschool we have now. Also, if both groups end up better than where they are now, why would we be concerned about a “gap”? Are you suggesting the way to close the achievement gap is to drag down the high achievers?

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/20/2015 - 02:46 pm.


        Would this not be an indictment on the very private facilities championed as the best alternative? After all, I thought public schools are universally deficient? Yet, by Mr. Appelen’s assertation, the act of transferring students to a school based program would result in gains that would outpace the gains in achievement by those on the at risk side of the equation. Why would anyone argue favor of the current system if that is the case?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/20/2015 - 03:33 pm.

          Good Points

          Good point, I wrote that poorly. Since many middle and upper class (ie lucky) kids do already attend pre-school or good daycares, the gap will likely stay the same or shrink very slightly. To really shrink the gap I think we need to get the unlucky kids in good day cares or pre-schools starting at age 3 or before, and their . Spending tax dollars on lucky families/ kids who are doing fine robs funds from those who really need it.

          No one except Dayton is proposing any changes for the Lucky kids. So I am puzzled by your “drag down the high achievers” comment.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/20/2015 - 04:48 pm.

            perhaps this will help

            Your “lucky kids” are not suddenly going to undergo a magical transformation, rendering them that much more advanced than the “unlucky ” brought on board. They will stay mainly where they are now, with the bottom raised to meet them. Hence the question of why the gap would remain. In reality the only difference between our position and yours is 1. The number of children benefitted (you disregard those “unlucky” kids who don’t happen to be poor) and 2. Who the adults will be that reap the rewards. (Public school employees vs. private pre k providers.)

            While your position is understandable given the implications, I don’t think its the correct one for the largest number of people.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 08:34 am.


              Sorry, I don’t see kids with caring and capable parents as being unlucky. To be an unlucky kid in my book, the child’s family is poor and the parent(s) are incapable or unwilling to be good responsible parents. As I said, your children are very lucky.

              You forgot who will gain the most financially from this proposed change, it will be the parents of the lucky kids who will no longer need to pay for childcare /pre K. Most of the daycare / pre-school teachers are likely qualified to be a Lead Teacher or an aid in the public program, so they may win out with higher comp and better benefits. And the Union gets more heads so they win.

              Since most daycares and pre-schools take younger children and provide before/after care, I am not sure why it would impact them as badly as implied by someone else. In my situation, it would not have a big impact other than my taxes will be higher to pay for another public program.

              • Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/21/2015 - 09:09 am.

                Up down scale

                How much would people’s taxes go up?

                How much would people’s daycare or preschool costs go down?

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 11:13 am.

                  Different People

                  Well the daycare / pre-school costs would go down for all Parents who have 4 year old children. (~$5/hr per child)

                  And I assume if they passed full day Pre-K the cost would be higher than that for kids in Kindergarten, since the required ratio is lower. ( ~$12,000 / kid /year) I am not even sure how they would handle busing 4 years olds, 5 year olds are small and challenging enough.

                  And the taxes will increase for all typical income tax payers to pay for this. How precise do you want to be?

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/20/2015 - 09:47 pm.

            A shockingly unacceptable result–everyone’s achievement goes up !?!

  2. Submitted by Mark Kulda on 05/20/2015 - 12:57 pm.

    What will happen to the rest of high quality daycare

    I think Sen. Nienow is on the right track. It is frustrating to think that Dayton’s plan will sacrifice high quality daycare for 0-3 year olds in order to put all four year olds in public schools to be ‘taught’ by trained and licensed teachers. The director at my children’s daycare was at a conference last month and she was shocked how many said they would have to go out of business because they won’t be able to afford their fixed costs once 25% of “their” clients get yanked into public schools and the daycare centers won’t be able to raise rates up enough to cover their costs without losing even more “clients.” The flexible option is clearly best but why won’t he realize that?

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/20/2015 - 02:24 pm.

      MN has some of the highest daycare costs in the

      Country so it doesn’t surprise me that those providers want to protect their bounty. Nor does it surprise me that Nienow (that amazing businessman) takes potshots at the teachers. However the losers are middle class parents who have to pay their daycare costs and also pay for kindergartner schooling for other children. The middle class has no “flexible option.”

      • Submitted by Mike M on 05/29/2015 - 03:23 pm.

        Daycare Costs

        Child care is expensive in MN because MN is one of the most regulated states when it comes to chlid care. Teacher qualifications, training, ratios, etc. If you want high quality it’s not cheap. By the way an hour of public school care is about 3-4 times higher than an hour of private preschool. And the private preschool is higher quality because of DHS regulations. Schools won’t need to adhere to the DHS regulations.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/20/2015 - 02:32 pm.

      “Their” clients

      Are not “theirs.” They are children in need of a good education. Whether or not the answer to increasing the value children get out of their education is a universal school-based pre-K, I don’t know, but if daycare centers can’t afford the loss of 25% of “their” clients, then it is THEY that need to be flexible. While a flexible approach is the easier approach, clearly the best approach is the best approach for the kids, not the daycares or the schools. Do what’s right by the kids and let the businesses that rely on kids as “their” clients learn how to deal with the changes.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/20/2015 - 03:41 pm.


        “businesses that rely on kids as “their” clients”

        Technically the businesses rely on Parents to spend their money or scholarship money to enroll their kids in the best school they can afford or choose to afford.

        Whereas the Public School system and Ed MN is relying on the State to force children and the money that is tied to their head count in to their district.

        However I do agree with you that we should do what is best for the kids who truly need the extra boost. The majority of kids are doing fine.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/20/2015 - 02:40 pm.

      Daycare centers wont be able to cover cost

      Here’s a thought, maybe have less “directors” and more folks actually providing care. You are aware that centers rates are ridiculously high, so muchbsk that the majority who use them are either wealthy or being subsidized. What she was actually saying was that their rate hike would push the subsidized folks out of their market, and as there aren’t enough wealthy folks kids to make up the difference they would be in a bind. Sorry if I can’t feel bad for folks literally raking in the dollars by purposefully excluding all but the wealthy and those whose subsidies allow them the opportunity to turn taxpayer dollars into private profit.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/20/2015 - 03:48 pm.

        Raking It In

        If you think it is such a high profit business, I think you should open and operate one. Just watch the centers that open, close, change names, etc and you will quickly understand how intensely competitive it is. Please remember that the student / teacher ratios are very low for Pre-K age groups, and even lower for toddleras and infants.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/20/2015 - 04:22 pm.

          Raking it in?

          Knowledge Universe, parent company of Kinder Care and other chains of child care centers, is the largest for-profit provider of child care in the US. Approximately 200,000 children are enrolled in its various centers and programs. The company had $1.4 billion in revenues in 2013.

          • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/20/2015 - 04:59 pm.

            To be fair

            Revenues do not equal profits. And KinderCare is more than just a daycare or babysitter.

            Still, it’s a pretty sizeable chunk of change to use their services–nearly as much as a single parent’s income for someone at minimum wage working full time. And it’s definitely not the same quality as school-based pre-K based on my observations with my nephew who is doing both. Granted, it’s just one observation, but I’d like to see data that KinderCare provides equivalent pre-K experience for kids, especially those who need a leg up.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/20/2015 - 07:14 pm.

          Only personal experience to rely on

          We’ve had to search for daycare far more we’d like (the perils of the in home system). We decided to scope the prices on centers in our area during the second to last search process, about 6 months ago, just to see if anything had changed since we last checked them out. There are 4 centers in our immediate vicinity (within a couple miles, none of which have gone under or changed ownership in the last 4 years at least by the way) a mix of franchised and independent. The lowest price, for a non infant, $850 PER child, per month. The highest?
          $1400 PER child. They seem non plussed when I laughed in their face and questioned their sanity at that one. I think they’ll be alright Mr. Appelen.

          • Submitted by Mark Kulda on 05/20/2015 - 11:01 pm.

            You are mistaking revenues with profits

            You seem to imply that just because daycare is so costly in Minnesota, the providers must be ‘raking’ it in and they can absorb the loss of income from the loss of preschoolers. Day care rates cost so much because it is so costly to provide this care. And the market will surely sort out inefficiencies so that day care operations that can’t survive the massive loss of income will close. The sad part of this is that for the very high quality day care operations that can’t survive, we have now sacrificed high quality early education for our 0-3 year olds so that four year olds can be taught by unionized teachers in public schools. That’s not really an acceptable tradeoff. There are some very good reasons to work hard to improve the offerings available to low income four year olds…..but a one size fits all approach that sacrifices high quality daycare for everybody else is not the solution

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 07:10 am.


              You are operating under the assumption that the opposite is true. The places I list aren’t necessarily providing pre-k curricula, for 4 year olds or anyone else. They were charging double the rate of an average in home facilitity (which still isn’t cheap, mind you) for what exactly? Outside what are usually a bit more expansive hours of operation (a key point), I fail to see anything at all. As far as I can tell centers exist for two reasons, 1. The vanity of certain parents who insist their kids go to a facility with the proper name recognition and 2. A means to ensure the highest number of subsidized parents (who generally don’t work bankers hours, see my key point above) are funneled in to convert government subsidies to corporate (or individual) profit. We’ll be better off without them.

              • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 05/21/2015 - 08:47 am.

                Villifying the centers doesn’t work

                The child centers are there to provide for the kids. Yes they are for profit. But like any other business, if they don’t provide good care, customers leave. The nice thing with centers is that there are choices unlike the government. You don’t like what you get for the price, go somewhere else. But care centers also have large costs and MN has high regulations. Higher regulations equal higher costs.
                What Dayton is basically doing is expanding education. More education equals more teachers, which equals more union money for Dayton and the DFL since over 99% of their dues goes to the DFL. The schools say they are far from ready for this. The experts say there is a lot that still needs to be done. Dayton has propped this issue only because we have a projected $1.9B surplus which is not permanent while adding on much more permanent spending that is above future revenues, thus the need for more taxes.
                Almost all of the legislature, both sides of the aisle, has said we need to slow this down and do some targeting first. They have done their research. Yet, as this article shows, Dayton is going this with his own opinions and not facts, which is par for him no matter what the issue is. Because he didn’t get what he wanted, he threw a tantrum.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/21/2015 - 09:21 am.

                  “If they don’t provide good care, customers leave”

                  Not necessarily. Customers will leave if there is an adequate alternative. There are not always going to be acceptable choices for parents. Cost is a factor, as is availability. Many parents are stuck with the corporate child care centers (which, in my experience, are little more than expensive babysitters) because there is nothing else that is affordable or accessible (geography plays a role here).

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 11:26 am.

                Rate Difference

                “double the rate of an average in home facilitity (which still isn’t cheap, mind you) for what exactly?”

                The parents are paying for convenience and consistency. Centers are always there and always open. Parents who bring their children to in homes need to be much more flexible and have a deep trust in the provider.

                The centers are usually open long hours and some parents use them. (seriously, some kids are dropped of at 6:30 AM and not picked up until 5:30 PM) The center has multiple Teachers and a Director watching over each other. And they hire subs when someone is sick or takes vacation. When the adult needs to go the bathroom or deal with a trying child, there are other adults there to cover.

                Of course, in homes with a good provider also have significant benefits.

          • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 05/21/2015 - 07:51 am.

            $1,400 per MONTH

            That’s $350 a week, its absolutely normal in MN. If you think its outrageous please try to source an alternative under the required ratios in MN. The single largest factor in the cost of daycare in MN is mandated staff ratios and group size. Infant ratio I believe is 1:4:Toddler 1:7: Preschooler,1:10. Compare those to other states and there is your high childcare costs. I would love to see the cost estimate of pre-k assuming the 1:10 ratio daycares are required to maintain.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 10:04 am.

              That’s peachy

              It’s also ridiculously unaffordable for large swaths of the populace. Make whatever excuse you like, if your industry cannot provide the necessity of early childhood education at a reasonable cost, the government is well within its scope to step in and do so.

              • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 05/21/2015 - 12:47 pm.

                Let me be clear

                The cost of childcare in MN is artificially high relative to other states because of required ratios. The blame for the cost is not with the market or care providers its with the regulation. Your complaining about affordability is grossly misguided. You need to understand the mandated cost structure prior to placing that blame.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 01:22 pm.

                  Let me be clear

                  That argument is bunk. I WANT the most stringent regulations available when it comes to the care and education of my children. That is the standard that is required. If private providers don’t feel it possible to make a high enough profit margin under those conditions they are welcome to pursue other business opportunities not involving the care and education of children. I don’t care if their business model for providing education and care to children is viable or not, if what they are doing is resulting in care that is unaffordable for basically everyone on the lower half of the income scale in this state then it’s time to find a new way of doing things. The state’s duty is to the education of its residents, not to guarantee the profits of private citizens and corporate entities.

                  • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 05/21/2015 - 04:23 pm.

                    I’m sorry you don’t understand cost structure

                    and I hope you will make an attempt to understand the issue better. Calling an economic reality bunk because you don’t understand the subject matter is a problem. I would recommend starting with Revenue vs Profit and the effect of expenses between the two items. Do you believe there are currently zero state funded daycare options for people currently? All of your comments are all or nothing. What part of the $1,400 a month do you actually believe to be eliminate-able profit? Where do you infer the state is guaranteeing profits for private citizens? Indexing ratios to other states to make MN less of an outlier would go along ways toward reducing total cost from my perspective.

                    I really don’t believe any response aside from free universal pre-k will change your opinion but as a father of two that needs a childcare options removing a grade of enrollees will only further consolidate provider options and drive up costs for infant to 3 year olds.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 04:19 pm.

                      You do realize

                      There are places in the world where childcare is provided as a government service right? As is post secondary education, and healthcare. Revolutionary, I know.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 05:05 pm.

                      So let’s just see

                      If my apparently overmatched intellect can parse this out. Asking the state’s taxpayers to contribute to the education of all its 4 year olds, in order that all can afford that education… Bad, terrible, unthinkable. Asking all parents to pay private providers, whether they can afford it or not, in order to preserve “options” for those apparently able in some cases to afford 2800 dollars a month to be spent on childcare, A Ok! Yep, those priorities seem in order.

                    • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 05/21/2015 - 10:28 pm.

                      Wider Scope

                      I really don’t know how you can only see this as a singular positive outcome. And tone, why must you be so condescending, do you think I enjoy paying $2,800 a month for childcare, parenting unfortunately requires significant personal and financial sacrifice. Its was a difficult decision I made with my family that I will not apologize for making.

                      “Options” as I stated above should mean competition and competition positively effects price for a consumer of services. Unless you disagree with that economic theory?

                      To help you parse this out you need to observe the event from a wider scope: specifically what would happen to all parties if the plan passed, cost to the state aside.

                      First assuming your local school district actually had excess capacity to onboard a new grade and enough licensed teachers, I would suspect you would see mass exodus of all four year olds from all types of daycare (centers, non-profit, and home based). The weak rebuttal would be if you liked your old provide you are more than welcome to keep them. This is true but moving from $275 a week to free would have a higher elasticity than heroin, so virtually everyone would convert.

                      So what impact would this have on the legacy child care system?

                      I believe it would be materially negative for providers, consumers, and most importantly current employees.

                      First provider revenue would likely decrease between 20%-30%. This type of shift will always be traumatic, but in service sector that requires significant long-term capital investments in property and equipment you could virtually guarantee consolidation via bankruptcy. Think about the the fixed cost conditions you would be left with… a building that is now 25% underused but still costs the same, unchanged real estate taxes on the over-sized building. If the business was remotely challenged before I suspect it would be closing shortly after the conversion.

                      Then the consumer (parents of infants to 3 year olds) would feel the aforementioned decease in supply from consolidation. Its been a long while but I believe this was called a factor that shifts the supply curve (i.e. a change in government subsidy). The leftward shift would increase price because supply has decrease from external factors. My guess would be that the price of care rises for parents of infants to 3 year olds.

                      Lastly the employees. Obviously there will be significant layoffs, but the truly sad part is knowing the demographics of the most likely effected. Basing this on my own personal experience at a few metro daycare’s, most of our teachers (yes I think that word is appropriate) were female without an undergraduate degree and often parents themselves with multiple years of experience. That said this would seem to create huge employment shift that will discriminate future employment opportunities to licensed teachers holding undergraduate degrees and away from presumably a less educated predominantly female workforce. A uniquely negative impact from a Dem Gov, structurally disenfranchising a less stable less educated workforce. You almost can make it up.

                      So in summary what could we see, a shortage of public school space (metro), a shortage of licensed teachers (out-state), provider consolidation reducing “options”, higher prices from less “options”, and higher unemployment for the legacy less educated (but duly qualified) workforce. That seems veto worthy….

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 12:47 pm.

            900 per month

            $900/mth divided by 21 days/mth divided by 10 hrs/day = $4.28/hour

            20 kids/classroom at $4.28/hr = ~$86/hr/classroom (if full enrollment 5 days)

            Does $4.28 / hr seem like a high cost for childcare?
            Does ~$86/hr/full classroom seem excessive to pay for 2 teachers, a facility, insurance, marketing, oversight, training, etc.

            Please remember that a K-12 classroom is closer to:
            $10,000/child X 25 children / 174 days / 8 hrs = $179/hr/classroom

            Though they do need to pay for buses.

            • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 05/21/2015 - 02:07 pm.


              Do you think this pre-k program will be allowed to have a higher child to teacher ratio than private providers? This seems like such a “People’s Stadium” or SW LRT costing disaster waiting to happen. If the ratios are the same, wouldn’t this be the highest cost per student in the system (outside of special needs).

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 03:12 pm.

              Its a miracle

              They find anyone to staff with those math figures, what with their earning a little over 10k a year. 4.28×20=86/2=43×5= 215×52=11,180

              I know for a fact that this is untrue, so you might want to fiddle with those figures a bit. (Hint I suspect they make up the difference elsewhere, with certain kids).

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 06:32 pm.

                Parents Cost

                $4.28 / hour / child was the approximate cost to a parent who works full time.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2015 - 10:00 pm.

                  I was aware of what you were aiming for

                  However, using the figures you cited including the 2 teachers you claim are present in every classroom, yields the result I came up with, which you may note includes none of the overhead you cite later. Unless your assertation is that employees at these centers are working for what are quite literally poverty wages, you need to come up with a source for more dollars. I suspect that source might skew your results with regards to per pupil cost vs public schools, hence its disinclusion.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/21/2015 - 06:10 am.

      You seem to be under the misapprehension that the vast majority of daycares provide quality education. Their primary goal is to keep the children safe and to keep the children entertained enough so that they will not resist coming back the next day.

  3. Submitted by Fritz Knaak on 05/20/2015 - 04:46 pm.

    Veto Threat

    A lot of Senate Democrats took some hard votes to get that bill out. As I see it, Dayton will be throwing them under the bus with a veto.

    My advice to the Speaker is to let the pot simmer. It’s mostly DFL constituencies who will be affected by a failure to get a bill passed on time. Much like the earlier shutdown, the Governor’s intransigence is hurting his core constituencies. And like the earlier shut down, he doesn’t have to care: then because his election wasn’t coming up and now because he’s not running again. But this time, the DFL gets its share of the blame with a Senate majority. The longer they wait, the nastier it will be for DFLers, to cast the situation in the most Machiavellian light. He may wish that blaming the Republicans will work again…… but there are all those DFLers in the Senate majority that voted for it too.

    Daubt has his own problems with a constituency that thinks the Ed funding pot was too rich. There isn’t anyone out there he cares about that’s telling him to spend more. Good luck, Mark. I hope you learn to actually negotiate one of these years.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/20/2015 - 10:32 pm.

      Please take this advice

      Daudt. BTW make sure to watch the last 90 seconds of the House session to see how impressive the GOP was Monday night.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 08:40 am.

      Good Point

      That was a good point. The GOP supporters and many moderates will think the $400,000,000 is more than a fair increase, so this mess really will have little impact on their views. They will likely just see Dayton and the DFL “wanting more” as usual.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/21/2015 - 09:17 am.

      Hurting constituencies

      I prefer to think of it as “hurting citizens.” It’s not always about politics.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 08:51 pm.

        Hurting Citizens

        Who exactly is being hurt by not adopting universal pre k?

        And please remember that Dayton’s veto is what is delaying a $400,000,000 increase in additional education funding…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/22/2015 - 11:27 am.

          Who is hurt?

          My reply was directed at Mr. Knaak’s political calculations regarding whom the Governor’s veto would hurt. It was all laid out in terms of constituencies. The real consequences to the people of the state (as opposed to bloc-like “constituencies”) was not mentioned.

          It is too easy to fall into the trap of thinking about this kind of debate as being all about the politics. Who should compromise with whom, whose backers take it in the shorts, etc. The better debate–and one that most of those who post comments on this thread seem to be wiling to engage in–is about how this would or would not be good for the children of the state. As I said, it’s not always about politics.

          “Who exactly is being hurt by not adopting universal pre k?” I happen to think universal pre k would be a good thing for the entire state. And yes, I know what the Governor’s veto is doing. No one is working particularly well with others here.

  4. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 05/20/2015 - 05:06 pm.

    What are we willing to do for our youngest children?

    School administration want more money to deal more effectively with their current students. Nursery schools want to preserve their paying customer base. If the Legislature had fully funded Head Start, then it could say it was serious about the issue of school readiness of low income children. Instead, it is sitting on about a billion dollar surplus, unlikely to be focused on programs that would help these poor children in other ways. Roads and tax cuts don’t mean better living conditions and more opportunity for poor children, but focus spending on adult needs

    So Dayton thinks the Legislature should get serious about early childhood education, but the experts would rather hem and haw than start at least moving in the right direction. Think of Dayton’s goal as being all kids are ready for school. We are far from there today, and we need to start.

    If you think Dayton’s plan is too much, too fast, then at least go beyond being the critic and come up with another approach that accomplishes the same thing. In New York, parents have a choice between private and public pre-school. That would reduce the immediate demand on public schools and leave the nursery schools with most of their customer base, if structured correctly. Spend the money now on this, or spend it later on prisons and social welfare. For me, it is a no brainer..And if you think about those poor little kids and aren’t willing to do anything more than we are doing for them today, check your pulse – your heart is not working right.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/21/2015 - 12:06 pm.

      Pay now or pay later.

      Excellent and barely taken into consideration point, Joel.

      The statistics on that stuff really ARE eye-popping if looked at. Old saws like, “Penny wise and pound foolish,” come to mind. How “conservative” is it “keep costs down” on the front end, only to see them explode in directly related, yet, somehow, “unrelated,” areas 10 to 20 years down the line?

      “We need to get tough on crime, hire more cops, give them more and better crime fighting tools, impose mandatory sentences and expand or build more prison space and staff if that’s what it takes. So vote for me and I’ll keep you safe from all those uneducated thugs while keeping your taxes down!”

      And that’s just ONE area in which un-education winds up costing ALL of us more than just money.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/21/2015 - 09:45 pm.


        “The United States has the highest percentage of people in its prisons of any nation that can be verified. From the most recent numbers we’ve seen, the U.S. may have a higher percentage than one nation (Cuba) we thought had more of its people in prison.”

        January 14th, 2013
        Does the U.S. have the highest percentage of people in prison?

        The land of the free …

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 07:50 am.


          Are you all saying that every child is at equal risk of heading down the wrong path and going to jail?

          Therefore we should spend additional money on every family / child… Whether they are from stable families, broken families, the burbs, the country, the city, wealthy, poor, etc…

          Please explain your rationale for not focusing the money on the at risk kids / families.

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/22/2015 - 03:57 pm.

            Did you read the MinnPost article

            on commenting standards?

            “Are you saying that every child is at equal risk of heading down the wrong path and going to jail?”

            Just think about this for a moment. Did I say that anywhere in my comment? Do you actually think that I believe this? I hope not.

            I don’t intend to “explain my rationale” to someone who is not being civil – in my opinion.

            That’s all for now. I have grass to cut and a Memorial Day to observe.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/24/2015 - 06:10 am.


              I did not mean any offense. I am trying to figure why Bill and yourself believe that paying for everyone’s pre k will reduce crime stats. I think we should focus the money where most needed.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/21/2015 - 08:11 am.

    In a new report released this year, even the HHS admits early childhood programs are largely a waste of money.

    From the summary:

    “In the cognitive domain, the Head Start Impact Study showed impacts for the sample as a whole at the end of one year of Head Start on a broad range of early language and literacy outcomes for children in both the 3- and 4-year-old cohorts. However, these early effects rapidly dissipated in elementary school, with only a single impact remaining at the end of 3rd grade”

    “..there were no impacts on teacher reported measures of social emotional development for the 3
    year old cohort at any data collection point or on the children’s self reports in 3rd grade”

    “In the health domain, early favorable impacts were noted for both age cohorts, but by the end of 3
    rd grade, there we no remaining impacts for either age cohort.”

    If Dayton presented new information to the legislature during his negotiations, I must have missed it.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/21/2015 - 12:36 pm.

      Not exactly

      I don’t dispute the accuracy of what you say, or of the report you cite, but you are drawing a too-broad conclusion from it. The study was limited to the effectiveness of Head Start, a program targeted to disadvantaged children. It was not an indictment of al early childhood programs.

      There are social factors outside of school that will start to impact school performance by the time a child reaches third grade.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/21/2015 - 03:04 pm.

        Head start is the largest early education system in the country. We’ve poured tens of billions of dollars into it. (

        HHS says it doesn’t work. That’s my conclusion.

        There are social factors outside of school that every kid is going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Most have parents teaching them how to cope. Head Start, purports to help struggling kids; it does not.

        You join Dayton in that if you’ve meant to present information to the contrary, I’ve missed it.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 01:03 pm.

      Left, Right and Logic

      I am always amazed how far the Left and Right folks want to drag things. Here is a test for the Conservatives in the room.

      Let’s assume most children are roughly the same at birth, and that their environment from ages 0 to 5 determines if they will be kindergarten ready.

      How would you help them be kindergarten ready if their parents are unwilling or incapable of helping them develop correctly?

      Please remember that breaking bad habits, behaviors and beliefs is very difficult once they are well entrenched.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 07:52 am.

        Calling All Conservatives

        Are any of you willing to attempt to answer the simple question I have posed above?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/22/2015 - 10:29 am.

          I’m guessing–no

          Your question brings up an uncomfortable truth that most conservatives refuse to recognize: there are disadvantaged people, and the choices that they realistically have are different from others. A child with bad parents, from a disadvantaged economic background could, in theory, choose to pull himself up with no help from anyone else, go to a top Ivy League college, drop out, and become an insanely wealthy entrepreneur. In the real world, we know that is a rare occurrence.

          The fact is that, whatever choices parents make about their lives spill forward and affect their children. Expecting a child from a bad background to do well without help (wherever that help comes from) is, to put it mildly, unrealistic.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 02:07 pm.


            I find this topic fascinating because even the Liberals want to steal aid form the needy.

            Though I like your theory that they want to get everyone on the benefit so that it will be less likely to get cut. (ie social security, medicare, etc)

  6. Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/21/2015 - 11:39 am.

    The $10,000 per-kid elephant in the room

    The first “societal question” seems to be: Should we or should we not make preschool education a part of public education?

    The real world “experiment,” or economic reality, that has been going on since the end of the days when one parent went to work and the other stayed home with the kids has made some form of “friend or relative babysitting,” “preschool education” or “simple daycare” a necessity for the vast majority.

    The second “societal question” is: If we make preschool education part of the public system, what would the economic impact on Minnesota families be compared to the existing system?

    One of the primary arguments against going the public route is the increased tax burden it would impose. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million per year, perhaps?

    I have no idea what that amount (or the more accurate cost) breaks down to on a per-child and per-taxpayer basis, but those numbers would need to be compared to the per-child and per-family cost today.

    From what I can gather (above and elsewhere) it seems the cost of daycare or preschool is at least $9,000 to $10,000 per child.

    So, leaving quality and consistency issues aside, when it comes to the issue of “efficiency,” the question becomes: A) Would the cost of public preschool be higher, lower or the same as it is now?; and B) would parents pay more in taxes or more in private preschool non-tax fees?

    If it proved that “going public” would cost families less, the “last” question would be: Do we, as a “Minnesota Society,” want all its members to pay for our youngest member’s education via taxes, whether or not we are all parents, or do we believe parents are the only ones that ought to be responsible for covering those costs?

    And, while on that subject, I would really like to know approximately how much more it would actually cost each Minnesota tax payer (there are about 2.5 million, I believe). That is to say, I would really like to see it put in specific terms of dollar amount per tax payer as opposed to the perennial general rhetorical terms of “more tax increases!” we always hear.

    For crude, overly simplistic, inaccurate example, if optional all-day public preschool wound up costing $500 million per year, and that was divided evenly by 2.5 million taxpayers, the cost per taxpayer would be $200 per year which would mean family’s with four year olds would have the option to save somewhere around $8,800 to $9,800. Obviously, I must be making some kind of glaring gigantic arithmetic error (500 divided by 2.5 = ?), and that’s nowhere near the way it would work out in reality, but I’m pretty sure the same basic principle and startling result would come from a more realistic and accurate assessment.

    And that’s why I say I’d really like those who oppose on “spending and tax increases” grounds to explain things on a “private vs. public, dollar-for-dollar” basis instead of just saying “more taxes are bad!”

    To Tom Swift’s point. The questions apply to what you had say, regardless. I’m sure there are many who would argue your point, but either way, parents and families have no option but to “make arrangements” for their children’s care so they can go to work to generate the profits for their company’s owners and make the money they need to support their families. So whether preschool actually turns little ones into Einsteins or doesn’t enhance their intelligence a wit, the “cold hard economic reality” is it’s STILL costing families $9,000 to $10,000 per year per child, and it would seem ANYthing that could lower that cost of doing the business of families would be a sound economic thing to do, no?

  7. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/21/2015 - 09:23 pm.

    The argument – that Head Start is a failure therefore spending

    money on pre-K is a waste – is incorrect.

    An excellent discussion relevant to this topic may be found in:

    Research on preschool: Setting the record straight
    Washington Post:
    February 28, 2013

    What I find most interesting in this article are multiple links to facts about peer-reviewed studies of the matter. Highly recommended to those with a professional interest in this topic.

    I’ll give but one example:

    “Question # 1. Do the effects of high-quality preschool programs persist or fade outby third grade?”

    “…The most recent and comprehensive metaanalysis published in the peer-reviewed literature summarizes the results of 123 studies conducted in the United States since 1960 (Camilli, Vargas, Ryan, & Barnett, 2010). The studies included examined the effects of large-scale public programs as well as small-scale programs. The researchers found that although there was some decline in effects after children entered school, on average effects did not disappear and remained substantial throughout the school years …. Cognitive gains from preschool programs are larger when programs focus on intentional teaching, small group learning, and individualized teaching one-on-one (Camilli et al., 2010)….”


    Lumping in “Head Start” with good pre-K programs seems to me to be misleading as are conclusions based on such a comparison.

  8. Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 09:35 pm.

    Daycare a necessity for the vast majority

    I find this a very interesting comment. “Back when”, many households lived in 2 or 3 bedroom homes with 1 or 2 bathrooms and a 0, 1 or 2 car detached garage. Now most folks choose a 4 or 5 bedroom home, with 2 or 3 bathrooms and a 2 or 3 car attached garage.

    So is it a “necessity” that both parents work or a choice?

    Please also remember that the public option will not be full day, most parents will still need to pay for before care, after care, or both.

  9. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/22/2015 - 07:35 am.

    “most folks”

    Sorry, but “most” of us in the city do not have 4 or 5 bedroom houses, 3 bathrooms, or even attached garages.

    The question of whether it is a necessity that both parents work, at least for folks of low income, has long since been settled.

    Ward and June are gone.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 09:46 am.


      Then let’s try this question again. How much should society pay for childcare for the children you chose to have?

      Should society also pay for their food, their healthcare, and maybe their toys?

      Should society pay more to the family who choose to have 8 kids vs those who choose to have 1?

      Should society give the same free money to poor one parent homes, middle class 2 parent homes and wealthy homes.

      Should this payment start at birth, 1 year, 2 year, 3 year, 4 year, 5 years?

      The simple reality is that universal all day pre K would be a ~$10,000 / child subsidy for all parents that will need to be paid for by tax payers. Good, bad? I don’t know.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/22/2015 - 11:19 am.


        What would be your proposal for prevention of child bearing by those you deem unworthy? Would there be an income cut off? How low, 75k a year, 100k? How would this be enforced, forceable placement in the foster care system? Would there be jail time and fines, seems somewhat counter productive. Perhaps we forcibly implant contraception until such time as the proper paperwork to show fiduciary responsibility is produced. I’m sure you get the gist. While it’s fun to play morality police, the fact of the matter is most folks generally don’t have the stomach for the end results of such rhetoric. As we are as such forced to live with the reality of the world as it is, the answer to your question is as much as is needed, when and for how long as is needed, until the results we desire are achieved. Anathema to those who spend a lifetime wheedling out any bit of saving they can through efficiency, but in truth the only approach that will work for anything but the smallest fraction of society.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 02:02 pm.

          Good Parents

          I know good responsible parents who make do on a household income of $30,000 per year. They do local driving vacations, work opposite shifts, live in a small home, do activities that do not cost much, take whatever benefits are available, etc Life is not ideal however those 1 or 2 kids are the center of their lives.

          Based on your comments, it seems that you support every person being free to have as many children as they wish, whether they have the income to feed, cloth, house, provide heathcare, etc to the children. And that society / tax payers should pay the bills. Is this so or did I misinterpret your comment?

          By the way, I would love it if young people were not fertile until they could pass a simple parenting test and provide some plan for their basic care. It goes against my Libertarian views, but incapable or unwilling parents having children is crime towards the kids.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/22/2015 - 11:21 am.


        I hope you are not expecting answers to your rhetorical questions …

        “children you choose to have”

        “for their toys”

        “family who choose to have 8 kids”

        “free money”

        “Good, bad,? I don’t know.”

        Why don’t you just come out and say what is on your mind, rather than trying to hide behind rhetorical questions? Serious folks are not going to pay any attention to this kind of stuff.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 01:49 pm.

          Not Rhetorical

          I would really appreciate your perspective. How much is enough?

          Society already pays for K-12 education / childcare for all children. Society already pays a large amount for higher ed. Society already feeds and provides healthcare for poor children. Society already gives every low/middle income Parent $1,000 /child.

          Now you are promoting that we should pay more Parental bills. I am truly curious where your line is that you think should not be crossed?

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/22/2015 - 03:23 pm.

            You are obviously trying to sell something.

            What is it?

            Don’t expect me to do it for you.

            I don’t draw lines in the sand on economic matters, especially in the area of education. Public education has changed enormously with time as you know. My grandfather was an immigrant with an eighth grade education. And he did everything he could to send all five of his children through higher education. Not possible nowadays. Times change.

            I remind you, if you don’t know it already, that Republican states like Oklahoma have state supported pre-K. If they can do it, don’t tell me that we can’t. You seem to be one of those folks who just doesn’t want to spend money on our future. Education is one of the most important things we can do for our kids. And I say kids figuratively because my son has long left the public educational system.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/22/2015 - 06:09 pm.

              That is kind of funny

              “You seem to be one of those folks who just doesn’t want to spend money on our future.”

              I promote and vote for referendums in my district, and give a fair amount to the seven dreams foundation.

              I am happy to pay to help kids who need extra help, not to keen on paying the parental bills of other parents who should be able to afford them. I have one in college with 2 more going soon. I have enough of my own parental bills.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/23/2015 - 09:41 am.

            I’ve asked that question directly to DFL legislators who cry poverty on behalf of EdMn. I received the same non-answer.

            That is because the only answer they have is an unqualified “more”.

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/22/2015 - 09:00 am.

    From Bill Gleason’s link:
    “…The most recent and comprehensive meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed literature…”

    Meta-analysis is, kindly, the WalMart of research. HHS has, again kindly, a somewhat larger resource at it’s disposal and used it in it’s study.

    Unsurprisingly, the author of the meta-analysis Gleason offered for criticism here is an advocacy group:

    “The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducts and communicates research to support high quality, effective, early childhood education for all young children.”

    My conclusion? The US Dept. of Health and Human Services says after having invested tens of billions of dollars, the largest, oldest early education program in the country doesn’t work.

    Bill Willy makes the argument for government day care, which is, to give him credit, the truth of the matter.

    My observation is that society would be better served by putting the effort expended against smoking behind the message that the care of children is something parents should consider before having them. But if we’re going to provide subsidized daycare, A) It certainly doesn’t need to be provided by licensed teachers and, B) The best way to help working families is to provide a larger tax credit.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/22/2015 - 11:41 am.

      You’ve missed my point, Mr. Swift

      Whether Head Start is, or isn’t, a failure was not it.

      The fact is that Head Start is not equal to pre-K.

      Once again, I call your attention to some simple facts:

      Pre-K, the Great Debate
      Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
      January 2014

      “Against all odds, prekindergarten is gaining ground.”

      “Aside from apple pie, preschool may also be the only issue on which voters agree. A poll last year found that 60 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats support expansion of prekindergarten. Republican-led states like Oklahoma have been leaders in early education for a simple reason: It works.”


      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/22/2015 - 01:01 pm.

        Once again, you’ve called our attention to an opinion piece from a leftist op-ed writer for a leftist media source. You have provided no new factual information to support your position.

        Pre-K – Head Start. You say tomaytoes, I say tomahtoes, we get it; the left loves to spend money on it.

        Once again, I’m going with what the HHS says, and by the way, what all the local experts are agreeing with. God knows, if nothing else, they’ve spent enough money to warrant themselves as experts.

        • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/22/2015 - 02:40 pm.

          Tomaytoes, not tomahtoes.

          Bad analogy Mr. Swift, as preK and head start are not the same thing.

          The real comparison is apples and oranges.

          As Mr. Kristof put it:

          “One of the most consequential national debates this year will be about early education. The evidence that it builds opportunity is overwhelming. So the next time you hear people scoff that it’s a failure, push back — and school them.”

          That’s what I am trying to do, but this is difficult when someone has already made up his mind on the topic. And the irony of your citing the “gubmint” as the last authority in this matter is obvious to all of our faithful readers.

          And you’ve dodged the point yet again in your response.

          “Aside from apple pie, preschool may also be the only issue on which voters agree. A poll last year found that 60 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats support expansion of prekindergarten. Republican-led states like Oklahoma have been leaders in early education for a simple reason: It works.”

          Repeating the same tired old arguments that preK and Head Start are the same thing is not going to do it.

          I’m finished on this topic, for now. Have a nice Memorial Day.

  11. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 05/22/2015 - 02:41 pm.

    A conservative position?

    Perhaps the Republicans can argue in favor of extended paid family leave. Let the children be raised by their own parents instead of paying a day care provider $12,000 annually. That takes the highest cost children out of the system and would balance taking the lowest cost children out of the system due to PreK. The cost for 2 and 3 year olds would be relatively stable.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/24/2015 - 10:23 pm.


      You think businesses should pay for people who are not providing value to offset their cost? And they should hold the position for when they choose to return? Would you do that for someone you were paying to work for you?

      I will never understand this desire to have other people pay for one’s deciding to have kids.

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