Late yesterday afternoon Governor Mark Dayton held a press conference to restate firmly that he will veto any bill that does not include more money for education, specifically, he wants $150 million more for K-12 and $173 million to establish a half-day universal PreK program for all Minnesota four-year-olds. The Republican–led House already included an additional $400 million from the state’s $1.9 billion surplus for K-12 funding and also included $60 million for PreK scholarships for children from low income families. The DFL-Senate leadership has given their support for this compromise bill and has urged the Governor to pass what’s on the table or risk losing the additional funding.
The question of how to best deliver PreK education, which crosses into the area of childcare, has been a hot topic and the Governor did not back down from his strong stance regarding universal PreK.
During Sunday’s press conference Alpha News asked Governor Dayton to address concerns raised by childcare providers who believe that universal PreK will close down private childcare companies and questioned whether if it was the best answer for Minnesota children. Governor Dayton responded that these claims are “shameful” and that childcare providers are trying to keep a “monopoly” on 4 year olds.
Alpha News followed up with Hollee Saville, mother and owner of Happy Hollee’s, a privately owned preschool and childcare provider, who has expressed concerns with the Governor’s universal PreK plan. “It’s going to create a shortage of childcare for birth through three, it’s going to increase costs to taxpayers, and I’m scared it’s going to hurt children because most public pre-school programs are not play-based, child-centered, they aren’t developmentally appropriate, and if they’re anything like the kindergarten standards, I’m very concerned,” Saville stated.
Saville told Alpha News that she, and other childcare providers, are angered that Governor Dayton would accuse them of wanting anything other than what is best for the children they teach and care for every day. Saville feels that other options, like low-income early learning scholarships without excessive restrictions for who can accept them, are a better option for Minnesota.
Education Minnesota—the teachers union—calls Dayton the “education Governor” and launched a $200,000 ad campaign to promote universal PreK. Dayton’s plan would mean some 40,000 Minnesota 4-year-olds would be eligible to enroll in public pre-school programs. With a 1:10 teacher to student ratio that Dayton has outlined, it would mean another 4,000 teachers added to the 70,000 member-strong union.
The Minnesota House passed the education bill late last night, if the Governor makes good on his veto promise, the legislature will miss its midnight deadline tonight and go into special session.
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