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Preschool scholarship program is commendable — and could use some fine tuning

In her Feb. 6 Community Voices commentary Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius makes some cogent points in clarifying the governor’s proposals on expanding access to quality early childhood education. At Pine Technical and Community College, we administer the scholarship program for a large region in East Central and Northeast Minnesota. It is a commendable effort, indicative of Minnesota’s commitment to education.

Currently, the program is also difficult to administer, and the funds insufficient to adequately cover the administrative burden that comes with them. Thoughtful attention to re-engineering the rules would enable us to spend more time with outreach and less on back-office functions.

At present, though, it needs some fine tuning to be truly effective in rural parts of the state. Our research through our Early Childhood Coalition shows that, while cost is indeed a barrier to access by parents, transportation — or the lack of means to pay for it — is equally obstructive in rural areas. The governor and the Minnesota Department of Education should consider loosening the requirements to help low-income parents get their kids to preschool as well as help to pay for it.

Robert L. Musgrove is the president of Pine Technical and Community College.

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