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Push For All-Day Kindergarten Met With Questions

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Top Democratic lawmakers launched a statewide effort Monday to authorize all-day kindergarten in Minnesota.

But it’s an uphill effort due to the potential cost and because some Republicans question if it’s the right place to spend classroom money.

Minnesota is one of only 21 states that does not offer statewide, all-day kindergarten. But for the first time in more than a decade, there’s a strong push to make it happen.

Parents like Matt Koncar can’t afford to pay the all-day cost his school district charges for his twin sons, Lloyd and Loue.

“These guys love learning, and if they could be in all-day kindergarten, they should be,” Koncar said.

School districts that provide all-day kindergarten say students show dramatic gains in reading and math proficiency through elementary school. All-day programs also work to narrow the achievement gap among minority students.

But the cost is significant — up to $200 million a year that would be paid for, in part, with tax hikes.

Democrats say Minnesotans are willing to pay extra for education.

“They understand that it is one of the things that is going to make Minnesota great moving into the future. So I do think that if you ask Minnesotans are they willing to pay a little bit more in order to get the best education system in the world, they’d say yes,” said Rep. Paul Thissen, the House Speaker.

Republican leaders say early education is important, including all-day kindergarten. But they say the evidence shows it disproportionately helps disadvantaged students more than others.

“We know that kids learn differently. We know they learn at different paces, especially in the the earlier learning areas. So, while intuitively  it sounds like a great idea, the studies really aren’t very conclusive that it works for all Minnesotans,” said Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine).

Republicans say it would be much more cost effective to take the $200 million that it costs for all-day kindergarten and apply it to school district budgets.

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