Early childhood education

The state Legislature rightly expanded access to kindergarten and preschool.

 

Last week, the Star Tribune reported  that all-day kindergarten is set to launch statewide fall 2014 thanks to the efforts of the Minnesota Legislature to pass the education-funding bill last Wednesday.

State lawmakers quickly responded to the growing body of research showing the vital importance of a good education early in a child’s life. New studies show that students who learn more in kindergarten are more successful later in life.

Studies also demonstrate that a quality pre-kindergarten education can have lasting effects  and can boost kids’ reading and math skills, regardless if they come from an affluent family or not. 

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board echoed President Barack Obama’s call  to make “high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.” Though Congress unsurprisingly ignored the call, the state Legislature approved a $40 million increase in scholarships for lower-income families  to send their children to preschools. 

The focus on early childhood education is a welcome shift from the tried argument that simply increasing funding will solve the state’s education problems. While funding is obviously crucial, structural changes are needed as well. Far too many children grow up with poor social skills and fail to develop long-lasting good behaviors, and unless these problems are addressed early, they’ll have a lasting negative impact on the child’s learning abilities through adulthood.

Providing universal preschool remains a crucial next step in strengthening American education, but progress at the state level is an encouraging sign that Minnesota lawmakers are willing to make structural changes based on compelling social science research.