The House Education Finance Committee members on Tuesday reviewed the implementation of the voluntary pre-kindergarten pilot program that passed last year.
The 2016 Legislature allocated $25 million to school districts and charter schools to establish their program. The Minnesota Department of Education received applications from over 184 school districts and charter schools, ultimately creating 260 sites, with funding for over 10,000 children.
The current application window for school districts to apply for Fiscal Year 2018 funding is open until Jan. 31.
Funding allocation is determined by the overall percentage of state kindergarten enrollment. School districts located in the rural equity region (43 percent), other districts in the metropolitan equity region (40 percent), Minneapolis and St. Paul public school districts (10 percent) and approved charter schools (7 percent).
Criteria within each group is based on the concentration of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.
Concerns were raised by members over how funds were specifically being spent, and how parents were being made aware of the program.
Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) shared concerns about the Parent Aware rating systems that have been rating public programs very well, but that private ones are struggling to get to 3 and 4 stars. She is afraid private programs are being shut out.
“We will continue to offer training to ensure that programs are high-quality for all children,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “What’s important to note is that we’ve taken a mixed-delivery approach to offer choice for families. The goal is to access high-quality early learning programs.”