Having spent most of my adult life working with infants in many settings, training infant caregivers and directing a child care center, I felt a need to respond to the opinion piece by Martha Njolomole about the cost of infant care in Minnesota ("Minnesota's child care crisis is government-made," Opinion Exchange, Aug. 1). The ratio of four infants to one caregiver is the maximum to allow for quality care. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states this as one of the limits for quality. Higher than that will push infant care back to the days of placing babies in containers for most of their day.
Infant caregivers need to have a complete understanding of infant development and be able to provide an environment in which to allow healthy growth. Without an education in the field, these caregivers will be no more than babysitters. Science has shown that most brain development occurs during the early stages of life. Teachers can facilitate this development if they are properly trained. Minnesota is to be commended for the quality of infant care it insures.
The state can certainly help by providing more financial assistance to both the parents and providers. It can also trim some of the nitpicking requirements that are placed on providers. However, cutting the educational requirements for teachers and increasing the staff/infant ratio will only hurt the babies in care.
Phyllis Porter, Eden Prairie
The writer is a retired early childhood specialist.
I'd challenge Njolomole to try to care for five infants by herself as she makes that ludicrous suggestion in her commentary. How many parents would feel comfortable with that arrangement? Not to mention that, as an economist, she ignores the substantial research on the economic benefits of quality early child-development efforts by Minnesota economists Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald. Their research found that "quality early childhood education" (meaning qualified early childhood teachers and low ratios of children to teachers) resulted in children who enter kindergarten less likely to need special education, less likely to commit crimes, more likely to be literate and graduate from high school with skills to be gainfully employed. They estimate that for every $1 investment we make in quality early childhood education and care, society gets a $12-$16 return.
Pediatric neurologists have proven that the years of 0-5 are the most critical years for brain development. Do we really want to reduce the quality of our Minnesota child care centers when we have so much evidence of the damage it would do to children and society? Njolomole suggests a "penny-wise, pound-foolish" solution not based on the facts. If child care costs are too high, then, as a state we need to push for funding for quality early childhood education for at-risk families rather than place our most vulnerable age groups in substandard child care centers with untrained staff and high ratios. We should be proud of the regulations in Minnesota that foster high-quality child care and education and be willing to reward the hardworking staff who so diligently watch over our kids.
Sondra I. Weinzierl, Plymouth
The writer is a retired child care center director and registered nurse.
FIFTH DISTRICT RACE
Extend Omar's success
Like Antone Melton-Meaux's failed 2020 campaign against Rep. Ilhan Omar, Don Samuels' big-money-fueled challenge to the DFL-endorsed congresswoman revolves around misleading attacks on the incumbent while offering nary a single specific proposal for improving the day-to-day lives of district residents ("The best choice is Samuels," Readers Write, July 29).
In contrast, Rep. Omar is running an optimistic campaign based on her proven record and work for a better future for all of us. As an established member of Congress she makes a difference, not just a point.
Her MEALS Act ensured public-school lunches even as schools closed during the pandemic. Just last week, she and Sen. Tina Smith reintroduced the No Shame at School Act to offer meals to young students burdened with lunch debt. There is no stronger supporter of public schools, students and their teachers than Rep. Omar, who recently spent time on the picket line with striking educators.
Minnesotans value deep community engagement. In 2020, Rep. Omar won the Profile in Courage Award from Town Hall Project recognizing her many in-person town halls all over her district, and she brought $17 million into our district to address community needs: sprinklers for older public housing, the Minneapolis American Indian Center, Sabathani Community Center revitalization, skills training for clean-energy careers and a Brooklyn Center health initiative.
Moreover, the Fifth District has no more vocal and fearless proponent of the right to choose; LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage; Medicare for All; student debt cancellation; gun control; a humanitarian foreign policy; and climate-crisis-mitigation policies — all of which have impacts locally as well as beyond.
For the record, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed the congresswoman, saying she has "advanced policy that centers on the needs and rights of workers and improves the lives of vulnerable individuals living on the margins in her district and across our country."
These efforts and leadership are the exact opposite of "squandered ... opportunity." Rep. Omar is a public servant in touch with and working hard and effectively for her constituents. She doesn't waste time and money attacking her opponents.
The best choice is Omar.
Kate Wittenstein, Minneapolis
The writer is treasurer, Ilhan for Congress.