MINNEAPOLIS - Dozens of parents whose children attend the University of Minnesota Child Development Center delivered a petition with nearly 3,000 signatures to President Eric Kaler’s office, pleading with the university administration to reverse a decision to close the center in the summer of 2019.
Children also colored pictures and wrote messages to President Kaler and the Board of Regents, detailing why they love attending the U’s Child Development Center, which has been on campus for 45 years, and currently has 140 children attending the center.
Education Dean Jean Quam notified families of the decision in late January, citing the reason behind the closure was to make room to expand another early childhood education program.
“We are just urging the president to look at the resource the University has, and find a way to expand it, that is what faculty and staff really want, it is such a treasure,” said Colleen Flaherty Manchester, a parent with two children in the center currently, and an associate professor in the Carlson School of Management.
“How can we get more especially female faculty, especially in the STEM fields and those fields where women are underrepresented, if the U of M would understand and showcase the resource it has and even expand it, it could be a leader in attracting female faculty,” Manchester added.
Parents who say the program is a national model and a living lab that trains early childhood teachers quickly organized to fight the closure, citing their research on the high-quality childcare, pointing out the decision could jeopardize the future of the university when it comes to training early childhood teachers, and retaining faculty.
“Certainly, a factor for my wife and I to be here, and stay here, so it’s a negative sign when they announced the closure without any consultation, and that is why we have organized as parents to ask them to reverse the decision,” said Evan Roberts, assistant professor of sociology at the U of M, who has a son that attends the center.
“The U is already at the bottom at the Big Ten in terms of early childhood education, for example we have 140 children at the center here, at Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, more than 400 children are on campus, for early childhood, so this is behind our peers, and will be a very negative signal and environmental change for families, faculty and staff,” Roberts added.
The University of Minnesota released a statement in response to the petitions delivered. President Eric Kaler did not meet with the parents.
“We thank the group for delivering their petition. We understand how important child care is to families and we will work to find the best path forward for them and the University, including working with an advisory group to consider proposals for other child care options,” the statement reads.