An Interview with Arthur Rolnick

Arthur Rolnick is a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative; Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. He previously served at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as a senior vice president and director of research and as an associate economist with the Federal Open Market Committee. Rolnick also serves as a member of Jumpstart’s National Early Education Council (NEEC).

Recently, Jumpstart had the opportunity to connect with Mr. Rolnick for an interview.

Can you tell us about a recent project that you’re working on?

In 2006 the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) was founded. Research shows what a difference high-quality early education makes especially with low-income children. The Foundation raised $20 million privately and designed a program to provide scholarships to parents of at-risk children, allowing children to go to a two year high-quality pre-school program. 650 families participated in the first year. The Foundation then received $45 million in Race to the Top funds to bring the scholarship approach model to scale in Minnesota. When you empower parents, they are engaged in choosing where their children go to school.

What excites you most about early education?

The access issue. We aren’t focusing on it enough. The opportunity of a scholarship gets parents living in poverty involved in making a choice about which early learning program to send their child to. If we get kids into high-quality programs, they will succeed.

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

My favorite children’s book is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I also have fond memories of reading Dr. Seuss books to my children. Two of my favorite titles are Horton Hears a Who and Green Eggs and Ham.

What’s your perspective on Jumpstart and its role in the early education field?

Jumpstart has been on the forefront of the school readiness issue for many years. They are a national organization that is making a difference by working toward the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. I also believe that reaching out to college students to serve low-income children is smart because the need to serve this population is the greatest and mentoring is a critical part of the solution.

What do you hope America will achieve for young children in 2014?

I’m hoping that at all levels of government, we start viewing investment in young children as economic development. I’d like to see us using dollars to develop early childhood education for all. It’s a little ambitious – we’d have to increase funding significantly so that every child living in poverty has access to high-quality early education – but it’s our job to help set all children up for success.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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