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WalletHub: Minnesota has fifth worst early education system in America

The survey ranked states on metrics ranging from share of districts that offer state pre-K programs to quality benchmarks and spending per child.
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ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota has long considered itself an "education state," but a new study ranks it near the bottom in early education offerings. 

The research by personal finance website WalletHub pitted the Gopher state against 49 others and the District of Columbia across 12 key metrics ranging from share of school districts that offer state pre-K programs to quality benchmarks and spending per child.

WalletHub says Minnesota finished 5th-worst in the study. Rounding out the bottom finishers is Massachusetts, Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana. Finishing atop the rankings are Arkansas, Nebraska, District of Columbia, Maryland and Alabama. 

A study by the National Institute for Early Education Research suggests students enrolled in full-day pre-K programs do better on math and literacy tests than their peers who attend only partial day preschool. Additionally, those enrolled in pre-K programs have been shown to have less risk of engaging in future crime than those who do not. 

Unfortunately, data indicates that pre-school enrollment dropped by 12% for 3-year-olds and 17% for 4-year-olds during the COVID-19 pandemic. As in-person programs reopen this fall, though, parents should have a lot of choices.

Here is how Minnesota stacked up against competing states in a few of those metrics. 

  • 41st – Share of 3- and 4-year-olds Enrolled in pre-K, pre-K Special Education and Head Start
  • 29th – Income Requirement for State pre-K Eligibility
  • 23rd – Total Reported Spending per Child Enrolled in Preschool
  • 16th – Monthly Child Care Co-Payment Fees as a Percent of Family Income
  • 37th – Pre-K Program Growth

Minnesota does rank third in highest spending per child for state head start programs.  

There is also a financial component to offering quality pre-K education: Successful programs can generate billions of dollars for local economies over a few decades, due to lessening the need for social services and creating more productive citizens.

WalletHub concludes that while good elementary schools, high schools and colleges are important factors for parents to consider when choosing where to settle down, the availability and quality of pre-K programs is just as crucial.

For more on the study and how states stack up in early education offerings, check out the WalletHub website.