Could Public School Choice Extend to Pre-K?

Minnesota legislators, in a rush to finish the 2015 legislative session, passed an E-12 education funding bill on Monday. On Tuesday, the governor announced his veto of the bill because it lacks funding for four-year-old preschool.

Governor Mark Dayton wants universal preschool for Minnesota’s four-year-olds. Others favor expanding an existing scholarship program to target low-income children in private preschool options. Funding for both is an issue.

A possible solution that may be acceptable to all? Public school choice for pre-kindergarten.

The Minnesota legislature has a long history as pioneer in public school choice. Why not extend this to preschool programs for four-year-olds?

Parents, teachers, and school districts who want to create a public preschool program can apply as a nonprofit organization or school district to create a program for the 2015-2016 school year. Preschool leaders will enter into a three-year contract with the Department of Education and commit to certain outcomes in their contract for each year. Preschool leaders will be held accountable for results, or their program may be closed by the department.

Public school choice meets the needs of the competing parties. Here’s why.

Pre-K Choice, not Universal Pre-K. Only those parents who desire a public, tuition-free option for preschool for their children will create and enroll their children in the preschool. Public funding will follow the student. The cost will be far less than universal pre-K, yet meet the existing demand.

Accountable for Results.  Preschool leaders will commit to certain performance results, or their program may be closed.

Access for Every Child. Public choice preschool programs will be open to every child, as every child deserves an effective education. Parental engagement will likely be a key motivating force for founding groups.

Evaluation DataData regarding demand and results will guide growth of tuition-free preschool opportunities for the future.

Public school choice for preschool provides freedom to choose, effective education for every child, and efficient use of tax dollars. Most of all, it provides opportunity.

Supporters of private scholarships and universal preschool can all find something to like in this nation-leading, innovative approach. It combines elements of open enrollment and chartering, both familiar public school choice options in Minnesota and across the country.

And policymakers? They will bring closure to the legislative session as they impact the lives of future generations.