MDE: Report highlights need for public preschool options

state_mnThis post’s content comes to us from the Minnesota Department of Education.


Contact: Josh Collins, 651.582.8205,

New Report Highlights Need for Public Preschool Options in Minnesota

ROSEVILLE – A new report issued today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) shows that Minnesota ranks last out of the 41 states with pre-K programs for access for 4-year-olds. The report also showed that despite this dismal ranking, the state gets high marks for having set rigorous preschool quality standards. The report comes as Governor Mark Dayton continues his push to expand access to preschool for every 4-year-old, free of charge; and expand eligibility for the state’s early learning scholarship program.

According to the report, only about one percent of the state’s 4-year-olds are currently being served by a public pre-K program. One major factor acting as a barrier to families being able to enroll their children in pre-K is cost. The report noted that Minnesota has the third most expensive child care costs in the nation.

Under Governor Mark Dayton budget proposal, the state would invest $343 million to provide 47,000 children with access to free, all-day pre-K. This investment would not only remove any barrier of cost to families, it would provide every single child in the state with the same early education opportunities. With research documenting how important early education is in laying a strong foundation for success later in life, this investment would be a tremendous step forward in the state’s efforts to close achievement gaps.

Governor Dayton’s budget would strengthen the state’s early education efforts by providing the resources necessary to eliminate the current Head Start waiting list. Head Start is a program that promotes school readiness for low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional developments, and by providing their families health, educational, nutritional, and other services. Right now, more than 2,400 children are stuck on a waiting list, hoping to get into Head Start programming. Governor Dayton’s budget proposal would eliminate the waiting list and ensure no child is denied a great start in life.

“The transformational investments the Governor is proposing would open up the doors of opportunity for every 4-year-old in the state,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “We cannot expect to close achievement gaps if we keep shortchanging our kids on the front end. This is an investment in the long-term vitality of our state, and in the unlimited potential of Minnesota’s children.”

This year, free all-day kindergarten was made available to families across Minnesota. Not only did enrollment exceed state projections with 99.6 percent of eligible students enrolling in an all-day kindergarten program, every single public elementary school in the state, with the exception of one charter school, is offering an all-day kindergarten program.

“We have the opportunity to do something incredible for our kids, an investment that would benefit every child, not just a few. This report serves as a reminder of how important this moment is for our state. I look forward to working with Governor Dayton and Legislature to bring all-day pre-K to every child in Minnesota,” Commissioner Cassellius said.

Read the report here.