Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Minnesota’s preschool spending fell during pandemic

Apr 27, 2022 07:02AM ● By Editor
Pre-kindergarten teacher Renee Jacques (left) and teacher aid Becky Ranum set up the classroom on Aug. 28 as they prepare for the first day of school at Our Lady of Peace Catholic School. Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News 2020

By Elizabeth Shockman from MPR News • April 26, 2022

State funding for preschool in Minnesota decreased during the pandemic. That’s according to a newly released national report, which details ways the COVID-19 pandemic affected pre-k education. 

“Inadequate policies for quality (pre-k education) were a serious concern prior to the pandemic. Pandemic-related disruptions and restrictions made the situation worse,” said Steve Barnett, co-director of the National Institute on Early Education Research (NIEER), which released the report Tuesday.

The report measures things like how much states are spending on early childhood education, how many children are enrolled in preschool programs and how effective those programs are. Drawing on data from the 2020-2021 school year, it’s the first of these reports to offer a sense of how the pandemic has affected pre-k education. 

Nationwide, the data on enrollment and funding are grim. 

“The pandemic wiped out a decade of progress increasing enrollment in state-funded preschool programs. Large enrollment losses also afflicted preschool special education and Head Start (down by one third),” the report reads. 

Children of color and children from low-income families were the most severely affected.

Preschool funding is also down - in many cases due to these drops in enrollment. 

And the quality of preschool programming also fell. There were severe staffing shortages and a lot of policy waivers due to COVID-19 that affected the ability of programs to maintain best practices. 

Minnesota is one of only a handful of states where preschool enrollment actually increased by a small margin during the 2020-2021 school year. But state funding per child, when adjusted for inflation, went down by about eight percent. 

As this report points out, however, even though enrollment held steady in the first full academic year of the pandemic, pre-K programming is not accessible for the vast majority of 4-year-olds in the state. At least 70 percent of that age group in Minnesota is not served by either state preschool, Head Start or special education.

“Too many children in Minnesota and across the country missed out on a year of learning. Minnesota must implement best practices that mitigate health risks in order to keep children in classrooms” said Allison Friedman-Krauss, Ph.D., NIEER assistant research professor. “And teachers are burnt out as they’ve worked to provide support and learning to young students amid the challenges of the past year.”

To see the original report and read related education reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here