Gov. Mark Dayton, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and a bevy legislators visited a South St. Paul school Thursday to continue to push for the expansion of pre-Kindergarten. 

Dayton has said for about a year that universal pre-K is a top priority, though the recent decline in the state surplus forced him to scale back plans for every child to attend. 

In his recent budget proposal, he asked for $25 million to fund voluntary pre-K programs, which would add about 3,700 children. 

Dayton's push for universal pre-K was rebuffed by Republicans last year as too costly, burdensome for school districts and of questionable effectiveness. 

After sitting among the children at Kaposia Education Center for about 15 minutes, Dayton, who spent time as a teacher decades ago, was part of a roundtable of teachers, parents, administrators and elected officials who praised pre-K, especially for children who need extra help getting ready for school. 

Evidence supporting the effectiveness of pre-K is still mixed, however. A five year Vanderbilt University study of 1,000 disadvanted children enrolled in pre-K found little or no gains compared to similar children who did not enroll, for instance.

Still, Dayton said he will continue to push for incremental increases in funding until he meets his goal of universal pre-K. 

"I won't rest until we get to universal," he said. 

  

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