The DFL’s “Young Learners” Marching to Pre-School This Fall

Given the insatiable appetite for political and patronage spending, the DFL is always in search of new ways to tap into taxpayer funds via public employee paychecks. And more insidiously, new ways to bend the culture to the left, make Minnesotans dependent on government. What better way to accomplish both ends than putting the state in charge of young children?

Dayton’s and the DFL’s demand for Universal Pre-K has been a major impediment to reaching important legislative agreements, not just on education, but on taxes and transportation, since he got into office. The DFL wants Minnesota to begin the “education” process as soon as possible, with children as young as three. Three! Never mind your ABC’s. Can you spell “indoctrination?”

The DFL plan would create thousands of new “teaching” positions, and other public jobs, that in turn produce big union dues for (mostly) DFL coffers and priorities.

Dayton got $25 million back in 2015 for a “pilot” in 74 schools. In exchange for other priorities, the legislature doubled the money in 2017 to $50 million but they did a smart thing: it is one-time money and it allows schools a lot of flexibility on where to spend the dollars. Legislative leaders like Education Chairs Rep. Jenifer Loon and Sen. Carla Nelson signaled to schools that the 2018 gubernatorial election is right around the corner; don’t get used to the money, and stop buying buildings for nursery programs.

Forgive my pessimism but I am not betting that elected officials will have the courage to de-fund this program, ever. It may have become a permanent bargaining chip. I hope I am wrong.

Last week the Department of Education announced that the new funds will reach 109 school districts and 6,100 four-year-olds this fall. “Additionally, Early Learning Scholarships funded by Governor Dayton and the Legislature will help 16,400 young learners attend early learning programs in Minnesota this year… In total, these funds will help 22,500 young learners across Minnesota attend early learning programs this year.” (Emphasis added.)

The announcement went on to lament, “Despite significant progress, thousands of young learners across Minnesota will still lack access to affordable early learning opportunities, compounding persistent achievement gaps.” (Emphasis added.)

Minnesota is indeed the home of the worst achievement gaps in the nation but that does not mean we send all our kids into early intervention!

There is an old saying in the law: hard cases make bad law. In other words, the fact that some families in crisis can benefit from a helping hand, does not mean that our public schools should be transformed into nursery schools (or child care centers) for all.

Dayton complained that he did not get the $175 million he demanded. “In a time when we had a $1.65 billion budget surplus, many legislators didn’t want to fund an expansion of Pre-k at all, questioned its value to anybody, and then finally reluctantly agreed to this partial funding increase,” Dayton said.

When did it become the responsibility of the state to make sure students enter kindergarten ready to learn? And what makes anyone think that public schools are equipped to do that?  Even if you think schools could do a good job, do we really want to turn them into nursery and day care facilities?

And what is it about kindergarten these days that kids have to “prepare for?”

After six years with Dayton as governor, Minnesota has no idea what Universal Nursery School would cost both financially or culturally. Have we considered what will happen to non-profits that focus on helping at-risk kids, church-based nursery programs, or private child care, if Dayton’s vision succeeds? Heck, most schools have fee-based preschool programs that will have to “compete” with these “free” programs.

And whatever happened to parenting?

Children of all ages need to play and get lots of rest. Nursery school-age children, even at-risk kids who may need our special care and support, do not belong institutional settings like schools, nor do they need to learn a whole more than the fact that learning is really fun. Make ideas, colors, numbers and shapes available at home, nursery programs or child care.

Let kids be kids.