Rosemount workshop: Teach children now, or pay later

Workshop to focus on investment in early childhood education

 

Rob Grunewald

The co-author of the often-cited report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis that found investments in early childhood education have a high public dollar rate of return will share his research with Dakota County professionals who work with children.

Rob Grunewald, the Reserve Bank’s associate economist who has made similar presentations throughout the country, is the keynote speaker of the New American Services Collaborative session “Early Childhood Education: The Key to Success for New Americans” from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at Dakota County Technical College.

About 50 people have signed up to attend the session, which is free and open to educators, faith leaders, social services and early childhood providers.

Grunewald, a Minneapolis resident, will talk about the results of the 2003 report that he co-authored with former research director at the Reserve Bank, Art Rolnick, that compared investments with early childhood education to construction of a sports stadium as two different kinds of economic development tools.

Early childhood education returns $16 for every dollar invested, Rolnick and Grunewald found.

“Children who arrive prepared to succeed in school are more likely to graduate from high school and be a productive member of society,” Grunewald said.

Those who are unprepared tend to stay behind their peers and earn less money in their careers. They are also more likely to commit crimes and need social assistance.

Grunewald said the early investment means schools spend less as the child ages and in other parts of government, particularly the criminal justice system.

“We were surprised to see the results,” Grunewald said. So were others.

Rolnick and Grunewald captured the attention of business leaders across the nation and in Minnesota. So much so that a group of Minnesota CEOs decided to create the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation after Grunewald and Rolnick wrote a follow-up report outlining how to invest in early learning.

The foundation, comprised of CEOs of some of the state’s largest companies (Cargill, Best Buy, General Mills) funded the 2008-11 early childhood education pilot program in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood.

Through the program, $6 million in scholarships were provided to low-income families to enroll in an approved two-year early childhood education program.

Grunewald said many of the students were new Americans who spoke English in addition to their native language. Many of them were Hmong and African Americans.

Program results have been promising, according to Grunewald.

He said parents were more engaged in their child’s learning and the program was a catalyst to increase the number of high-quality early childhood education openings in the area.

Students showed statistically significant improvements in literacy, math, social skills and attention, according to the study.

Could such an investment in early childhood education happen in Dakota County?

Monica Jensen, community relations director of the Dakota County Attorney’s Office and member of the county’s New American Services Collaborative, says the program isn’t intended to create such a program.

“Our goal is to connect people and resources,” Jensen said.

The collaborative has been doing just that for the past several years offering resource fairs and speaker events like the Sept. 28 workshop. Past topics have been crime prevention, domestic violence prevention and continuing education.

Friday’s workshop will include a panel discussion led by the state director of Head Start, Mary Vanderwert.

The foundation’s full report on its scholarship program is at www.pasrmn.org/MELF/Scholarship_Pilot_Research.

Register for the workshop by contacting Jensen at (651) 438-4440 or monica.jensen@co.dakota.mn.us.

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