Early learning needs bricks and mortar, too

Gov. Mark Dayton has been a national leader on making smart investments into quality early care and education services for poor children. Most significant is his support and priority for Minnesota’s Parent Aware quality rating system and tying public funds to that quality through Early Learning Scholarships, licensed child care rate differential and continued support of known quality programs like Head Start.

However, I was disappointed to see that on the governor’s recent list of bonding projects (“Dayton’s $1B wish list,” Jan. 16), early childhood facilities were not included. As with higher education ($232 million proposed) and prisons ($220 million proposed), bricks and mortar are a part of providing services to young children and ensuring that they have access to a strong start on their educational journey.

Surely, if our state can invest $452 million in higher education and prison facilities, we also can invest upfront in spaces for early learners to help ensure that college and not prison is where more of them end up.



The writer was the founding director of the Minnesota Office of Early Learning.



Sample from one child may have aided another

I hope someone asks my permission before my children’s newborn screening results or the little card with my child’s spots of blood are destroyed (“In battle over newborns’ blood samples, state relents,” Jan. 14). I hope some child’s life has been saved because someone used my children’s blood to develop a new test or improve testing for a specific disease.

Abnormal newborn screens are not rare. I have seen quite a few during the years I have been a practicing physician. I have seen smiling, happy and thriving children who otherwise would not be alive or would have severe handicaps if these tests had not been developed. I hope my children’s blood somehow helped them.

I hope parents know they can “opt in” to having their child’s blood saved, and I hope it can be saved for more than the very short time recommended (71 days for a normal result and two years for an abnormal result).




West Virginia should be a cautionary tale

Pity those 300,000 poor souls in West Virginia who have been without safe water following a chemical leak. Slowly the taps are being turned on again, but no one really knows what will be the long-range consequence to the health of people or the environment.

I am sure that I am not the only Minnesotan who has reflected during the past week on our state’s wealth of clear, pure water and on how much we should protect it and value it. Can we really be considering opening our pristine North Woods and the vast freshwater reservoir of Lake Superior to copper-nickel mining with its toxic runoff in perpetuity? Surely, what we see before our eyes in West Virginia should lead us to question the will or ability of the mining industry to provide safeguards even in the short run.

In addition to Thursday’s public hearing in Duluth (“Divisive copper mine draws full house and strong views,” Jan. 17), hearings are scheduled at Mesabi East High School in Aurora, Minn., on Jan. 22 and at the St. Paul RiverCentre on Jan. 28.



The writer is the author of “Stand Up!: The Story of Minnesota’s Protest Tradition.”



Dare I propose an outright ban?

The surgeon general has released another report linking smoking to a whole host of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and many more. Half a million people will die each year from smoking-related diseases. Each day more than 3,000 youths start this addiction. What do we do as a society? We try gimmicks to try to discourage smoking. How many other products have been taken off the market for just a small fraction of the health risks? I do not know one parent who wants their children ever to smoke.

It is time for our political leaders to stand up to the tobacco industry and remove their product from our store shelves. I realize this cannot be done overnight, so my plan is to make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after Jan. 1, 2000. This would give ample time for farmers and the industry to redirect their efforts toward other agricultural products that we actually need. Let’s have a new generation of people who never have the threat of this addiction.




Never discourage effort, at any level

The question posed by a Jan. 18 letter about the minimum wage — “Is there an optimum difference between the incomes of the wealthiest of us and the poorest?” — brings to mind a Winston Churchill quote:

“You don’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.”

We should never discourage anyone from working hard to improve their position in life, no matter where that position is.

Mike McLean, Richfield



This is just to say …

Dear older man at the carwash,

My car is clean, but my conscience is not; please accept my apology for getting upset.

Sincerely, Sonja

SONJA ELIAS, Minneapolis