Last Friday, Governor Mark Dayton told the Star Tribune the following:
“You have working parents that are looking at child care bills for one child of anywhere from $4,000 to $14,000, which is an enormous financial burden on working parents….That’s where I have a hard time with those that say we should leave them to their own financial devices and put our money only into scholarships for kids from even more disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Governor Dayton was speaking about his proposal to follow states like Oklahoma and Georgia by offering all-day government-paid universal PreK for all Minnesota 4-year-olds. The fact that he spoke about daycare costs demonstrates that the issue has little to do with early childhood education, and more to do with wealth redistribution.
Dayton gave a speech to a large crowd at the Minnesota Business Partnership last week where he indicated he’d continue his push for the $170 million per year universal daycare/PreK program.
Dayton often speaks of expansion of PreK as a way to close the achievement gap, even though major research conducted by the Department of Education shows that programs like Head Start, for low income 4-year-olds, lose their impact by the 3rd grade. Alpha News looked at the percentage of kids in state-funded PreK programs and found no correlation between that number and high school graduation rates. Washington D.C. has 100% of kids enrolled in universal PreK, and has the worst graduation rate in the country. D.C. also has the highest cost of private daycare in the country per the Washington Post.
Minnesota politicians created the PreK scholarships for low-income families back in 2011, when Republicans had control of both the House and the Senate. The program now spends $50 million annually. The current program allows for students to enroll in private childcare programs. A universal program would expand the programming for local school districts, many of which already have some sort of PreK offering.
According to the Washington Post, Forty percent of 4-year-olds nationwide were enrolled in taxpayer funded Pre-K or daycare programs in 2013. That’s up from 31.2 percent in 2002.