Letter: Child care shortage a greater risk to our children

Published 8:30 pm Friday, March 12, 2021

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Greater Minnesota has a child care crisis, says The Center for Rural Policy and Development, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. These organizations are nonpartisan and non-ideological.

Rather than focus on this crisis, in a recent Capitol Comments column Rep. Bennett chose to focus on impugning math teachers, misrepresenting proposed social studies standards and trying to scare parents with fears of a comprehensive sex education proposal without citing any text from a bill.

Rep. Bennett called a town hall meeting on this same subject one year ago. I expected to hear from Rep. Bennett, but instead the meeting was actually conducted by Julie Quist of an organization called Minnesota Child Protection League. Both Ms. Quist and MCPL have views and positions at the far right of the political spectrum. In fact, MCPL was denied booth space by the Minnesota School Board Association during their 2020 annual meeting because it did not fit the mission of the MSBA.

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The presentation was a PowerPoint slide show created by MCPL and curriculum samples from California. The meeting concluded when it was established Albert Lea Area Schools has a curriculum committee made up of community members and educators that approve curriculum used with District 241 students. It was clear that specific curriculum could not be forced upon our district. Further, current proposed legislation would have to pass both the Democratic House and the Republican Senate, which is very unlikely.

So why try to scare district parents in this way?

Albert Lea, Blooming Prairie and Wells are members of the 100 cities in the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. In January they issued a press release identifying a child care shortage as one of the primary issues facing rural Minnesota cities. The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation has also identified that its 20-county region has a shortage of over 8,000 child care slots. Greater Minnesota lost more than 20,000 child care slots between 2000 and 2020, a net loss of 17.4% of capacity. This shortage is a major limiting factor in rural economic growth. It seems our state representative could best serve her constituents by creating policies in partnership with nonpartisan organizations like SMIF and CGMC that would reduce the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota. This would be a more productive and substantial way to protect our children and support working families.

Terry Gjersvik