Dayton Vetoes Education Bill, Continues Push for Universal Pre-K

The clock is ticking for the Legislature and Governor Dayton to agree on and pass an education bill. On Friday, Dayton vetoed a nearly $18.58 billion education proposal, stating the bill “falls well short in delivering the public investment in education that will ensure our children the ability to achieve their full potential.”

Part of the proposal included $112.9 million in school readiness funding and $138.7 million for early learning scholarships, but it did not include the governor’s $175 million increase for pre-K funding. In his veto letter, Dayton made it clear he will continue his extraordinary push for a universal pre-kindergarten program because it is “important in closing educational gaps.”

Minnesota struggles to close educational gaps after 13 grades. Herding all 4-year-olds into another grade will neither level the playing field between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers nor be the full game changer at-risk students need. It would, however, be a game changer for Education Minnesota. Requiring licensed pre-K “teachers” would add thousands of new union members to the state’s largest teachers’ union. More union members means more union dues to finance Education Minnesota’s political efforts. Four-year-olds need to be kept off the collective bargaining table.

If the governor really wants to help Minnesota’s “littlest learners,” he should focus on targeting and supporting low-income children by increasing funding for scholarships and other early learning programs (like home visiting and school readiness).

Universal pre-K is a typical blueprint for government expansion and risks crowding out a crucial component of early development and learning: play.

Governor Dayton, please let our littlest learners be little.