From the left hand corner: In support of early childhood education | Pineandlakes.com - Pineandlakes Echo Journal

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From the left hand corner: In support of early childhood education

Posted: December 21, 2012 - 7:10pm

Much has changed since I resumed this column two weeks ago announcing I planned to compare the value and cost of renewing enough top rate income tax dollars in Minnesota to meet the values and costs of providing early childhood education programs for Minnesota’s children.

We again endure the commercialization of Christmas, while enjoying anticipation of our holiday seasons. We edge closer to our politically created “perception of fiscal cliff.” We react in horror to another horrific incident of gun violence.

I don’t think I can offer much that is new or different from the voluminous verbiage generated by the above, so will stay with the intended argument for encouraging, facilitating and, yes, funding early childhood education.

For almost a century, Minnesota education effort has been focused and directed to K-12 and then to college and post-grad. We are long overdue for focus on pre-K and enhancing kindergarten and early primary education.

Not long ago we Minnesotans proudly labeled ours as the Education State and pointed with pride to our highest graduation rates and highest ACT scores. After a decade or more of short-changing education we have slipped all the way to the bottom 50 percent in graduation rates.

Worse, we now have the worst of all graduation rates for Latino and Native American students and next-lowest for African-American and Asian students.

Let’s begin to turn the tide back.

There is no better nor sounder way to reduce the huge gap between the levels of education and absorption attained by white students vs. students of darker skin.

There is no better achievable way to increase overall graduation percentages at high school, tech school, other college and post grad levels, than to provide our youngest with an environment to instill a capacity to develop and morph into a lifetime of love of learning.

Art Rolnick, the conservative banking executive, may be the best known in Minnesota for advancing the compelling financial argument to expanding early childhood education. In repeated concentrated studies that he has encouraged and analyzed over the past decade, convincing results establish that dollar for dollar, society will reap eight to 15 times dollar return for funds expounded in early childhood education.

To say that families should do that and to say “I take care of my kids” (and I provide them with laptops and iPhones, etc.) is no answer. That does nothing for the African-American children in North Minneapolis, the poor Asian child in St. Paul, the Hispanic child in Willmar, nor the very white child of a poor struggling farm family in remote areas of northern Minnesota.

Begin discussing and advocating at local levels now; and keep on doing so. When it becomes really, really crunch times at our Minnesota Legislature late next spring, keep early childhood education funding at the forefront.

Early childhood education programs can greatly improve each child participant’s readiness to learn, income potential and contribution to society. That all enhances a personal sense of self worth.

And isn’t sense of self worth, quite generally, what life is all about?

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