The Legislature and current administration are conceiving and enacting policies that students move along a continuum of educational growth and opportunity from early childhood through post-secondary schooling, although not necessarily four year college. In hearings and in hallways, legislators and staffers are using words like “readiness,” “systems alignment,” “workforce development,” “seamless transitions,” and “early intervention” when speaking of education.
In addition to the K-12 system, which is acknowledged to be at the center of Minnesota’s children’s education for 13 years, policy action and much of the resources are being directed at edges of the system—early childhood and kindergarten readiness on the one end and transition between high school and postsecondary education and careers at the other.
Where do we stand?
The Governor proposed Early Learning Scholarships and the Legislature allocated $40 million of new dollars to these scholarships bringing the annual appropriation to $23 million. This will provide up to $5,000 for 4,600 children who meet the criteria that they are in families with incomes of less than 185 percent of poverty.
How does that affect you?
MREA mapped the location of these scholarships and based on Free and Reduced Lunch enrollment 50 percent of Minnesota’s districts can expect fewer than 5 scholarship recipients in their school district.
MREA has advocated for “universal access to early childhood and full day everyday kindergarten funding or at least increase early childhood and kindergarten funds for at-risk youth.” MREA recommends these funds flow to the Minnesota’s school districts to find and education the children in poverty in the school district.
Where do we go from here?
- Now that the program is here, with a new Office of Early Learning in MDE, what aspects of Early Learning should MREA focus for the benefit of Greater Minnesota’s young children?
- Ensure there is information and access to the scholarships for school districts and other providers who qualify under the Parent Aware part of the program throughout the state?
- Increase the funding in the program or its formula to provide access to quality early education in rural Minnesota?
- Modify the program for school districts in which the school district is the sole Parent Aware qualified provider to one in which funds flow directly to the school with direction to find and educate eligible children and by-pass this Twin Cities urban market based approach?