All-day kindergarten offers kids a bright future

Leon Lillie State Representative
District 43B

This past Monday, Rep. Peter Fischer and I proudly joined parents, teachers, and colleagues at Richardson Elementary School in North St. Paul to talk about the need to invest in our children’s education.

It’s no secret that Minnesota has slipped in national education rankings due to budget cuts over the past decade. Fortunately, DFL Majorities in our State Legislature have a plan to make sure our kids are prepared for a bright future.

The recently released House DFL budget framework invests over $100 million in the next two years to begin making all-day kindergarten available statewide. Some school districts around Minnesota already offer all-day kindergarten, including our very own North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district.

Richardson Elementary principal Jim Miklausich credits all-day kindergarten with increasing test scores and closing achievement gaps. Instead of trailing the state in reading and math proficiency as they were 6 years ago, District 622 is now ahead of averages for math and tied for reading.

Mr. Miklausich was a great teacher at Cowern Elementary School and I’m proud to see him continue helping students succeed as principal.

It was exciting to be joined by House DFL leadership in North St. Paul to see the good things happening here thanks to the hard work and leadership of teachers, administrators, and staff from District 622.

The success going on in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district can be replicated statewide. In fact, investing in all-day kindergarten can help Minnesota regain our status as a national leader in education.

Twenty-nine other states, including neighbors such as Wisconsin and Iowa, already offer all-day kindergarten. If we want to equip our youngsters with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for jobs in an increasingly global economy, Minnesota should do the same.

As we all know, making all-day kindergarten available statewide would not be free, but Minnesota businesses, educators, and parents understand that this sort of investment will give taxpayers a lot of bang for their buck. A recent poll conducted by the Star Tribune found that a majority of residents support the idea.

Polling also shows that a majority of Minnesotans favor the House DFL Majority’s plan to pay for all-day kindergarten by asking the richest Minnesotans to pay their fair share in taxes.

We have a real opportunity here to set our state up for long-term economic prosperity. Minnesota has a history of attracting businesses to make our state their home because of our highly-educated workforce, which was possible largely because of investments in education decades ago.

I’m hopeful that lawmakers will find a consensus that puts our kids on the path to success so we can grow the middle class and reclaim our status as a national leader in education.

As our state and nation continue emerging from the worst recession we’ve seen since the Great Depression, please support Minnesotans in our community who need help by donating non-perishable food items to the North St. Paul Area food shelf.

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