U.S. Education Secretary Has High Praise for State’s Universal PreK Proposal

Posted by HBC Newsdesk April 29, 2015

This morning, Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited a preschool classroom in North Saint Paul, meeting with students, teachers, parents, and administrators to discuss the impacts of high-quality early learning programs on Minnesota’s youngest learners. Secretary Duncan talked of his support for Governor Dayton’s effort to provide free access to preschool for all four-year-olds in Minnesota calling the proposal the “ultimate triumph of common sense.”

In his remarks this morning, Secretary Duncan said, “I’m thrilled to be here in Minnesota and I think this is just one of those moments in time that people are going to remember either for good, or for not so good. And so often in education or in government you try and get incremental progress; and I’m all for incremental progress and improvements. But once in a while you have a chance for transformational change. And what the Governor and the [Minnesota Commissioner of Education] are proposing here have just different ramifications. I can’t overstate how important they are and how profound this opportunity is.

“As I travel the nation, virtually every state, including Minnesota, has these massive waiting lists of families looking to get their children off of good start and we as adults deny them that opportunity simply because they weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths and don’t have all the resources. And the vast majority of children from disadvantaged communities who start kindergarten without those opportunities start kindergarten a year to fourteen months behind. When that happens nobody wins, the kids lose, the families lose; it’s not fair to teacher – it is tough on their peers. Now I keep saying in education, we have to get out of the catch-up business.

“In lots of ways, Minnesota’s getting better at a really, really rapid rate and I’m always looking at that kind of growth. So again, with the Commissioner, fantastic teachers, principals, parents, students themselves – Minnesota is improving faster than most states in the nation, and you should take real pride in that. Minnesota, also historically, has devastating achievement gaps and while those gaps are closing they are not closing anywhere near fast enough. And if we’re serious about closing the achievement gap we have to close what I call the “opportunity gap.” And I can’t think of a better way to do it than to provide every single child across the state with access to high quality Pre-K.

“So Governor, I want to thank you so much for your leadership on this. This is not a Democratic idea; it’s not a Republican idea. The state that has probably done this the best historically is Oklahoma – a pretty conservative state. As I look around the nation at many Republican governors showing tremendous leadership on these issues. The Governor of Texas – a pretty conservative state – this is at the top of his agenda. The Governor of Mississippi, Governor Bryant, is pushing very, very hard to increase access. Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, I could go right down the list. So there is nothing political about this, nothing Republican or Democrat. This is the ultimate triumph in common sense, and it should be the ultimate bipartisan effort.

“Thanks to the Governor’s leadership, this state has a pretty significant surplus. Not too many states have that kind of opportunity. And you can think small and think about a little bit of change here, or you can think about how do you change the opportunity structure for children, for generations to come and to do it right now. And the benefits you won’t see until long after the Governor is frankly gone. This is the ultimate long-term play. Most politicians think short-term, from day-to-day, next press conference, next news release. But ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty years from now you talk about that return on investment, less teenage pregnancy, less incarceration, less dropouts, more high school graduates, more folks going to college, more folks contributing to the community, paying taxes, being productive citizens – this is where it all starts.

“I say if I have one extra tax dollar – if I had one extra tax dollar – I’d put it behind early childhood education. There’s nothing more important. So I just want the citizens of Minnesota to understand the very real possibility of transformational change here and I hope folks in the legislature here can work together, put politics aside, put ideology aside, look at examples like Oklahoma, look at what cities like San Antonio have done and New York. This is the ultimate triumph of common sense.

“So Governor, I want to thank you so much for your leadership, your courage. Thanks to good management, you have an opportunity to change the world here. And what you do here will have national implications.

“So the President has talked about this Pre-K through fourteen vision. The K-12 is simply insufficient. We can get the front end right, get the back end right, then we start really preparing young people to be successful in a globally competitive economy.

“So whatever I can do to help to support this effort, to cheerlead for that, to talk about not just return on investment, what this does for kids educationally, what is does to strengthen families, I can’t overstate how important this is. And I hope, I just really hope that this state doesn’t squander this opportunity. Not too many states are blessed to have this kind of chance to do something transformational.

“Again incremental change is good, I’m all for incremental change, but once in a while – once in a while – you just have a chance to go from the bottom nationally, to the very top. You guys have that chance – you guys have that chance – and I really hope you take advantage of it.”

Comments are closed.

Connect with us

Featured Video

Catch the latest from HBC TV 25 Today

Latest Tweets