Minnesota announced today a $4.7 million federal grant to help improve the early learning landscape for children and families. The preschool development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow Minnesota to address suggestions from a recent report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

The Minnesota Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, along with the Children’s Cabinet, will study and plan for how to best coordinate policies, programs and resources across departments.

Grant funding will be used to conduct a statewide needs assessment with stakeholder and community feedback, take a comprehensive look at multi-agency data systems for early learning programs, and build a strategic plan to better coordinate Minnesota’s early care and education system. The grant will last for one year, after which Minnesota will be eligible to apply for an implementation grant to execute the plan created after a year of planning.

From school-based pre-K to early learning scholarships, Minnesota invested $326 million in the state’s youngest students during Gov. Mark Dayton’s two terms.

“Ensuring every child has a great start to their education and life has been Governor Mark Dayton’s and my goal these past eight years,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “Adding more programs brings more options to families. This new federal grant allows us to continue engaging stakeholders across Minnesota to better align, track and fund programs. The grant will help us streamline and simplify services for easier use, which will help families find programs, help providers administer programs, and ultimately, help kids learn and grow.”

Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Dayton secured nearly $2 billion in new investments in E-12 education. This new funding has made it possible for thousands of kids to attend high-quality early education programs and full-day kindergarten.

Early Education

During Gov.Dayton’s two terms, Minnesota invested $326 million in the state’s youngest students. With those funds, Minnesota has created and expanded early learning programs across the state. More than 29,500 young kids have gained access to early learning programs with early learning scholarships, and 6,100 4-year-olds across Minnesota enrolled in school-based prekindergarten and school readiness plus programs during the 2017-2018 school.

In 2013, only 54 percent of kids were enrolled in full-day kindergarten. At that point, many families were forced to pay $2,500-4,500 out-of-pocket for full-day kindergarten. By 2014 (the first school year statewide funding took effect), 99.6 percent of school districts had chosen to provide free, full-day kindergarten for their students, benefiting 57,000 kids in the first year alone.

To date, 165,000 children have benefited from free, full-day kindergarten.

K-12 Education

When Gov. Dayton took office, Minnesota faced a $6 billion projected budget deficit, and more than $2 billion had been “borrowed” from our school districts. The governor successfully pushed for an additional $2 billion in new education investments, including a historic $134-million investment that made full-day kindergarten a reality across Minnesota.

These new investments have included more funding for special education, school counselors and support staff, funding for facilities improvements, and initiatives to boost math and reading proficiency and close opportunity gaps for students of color and indigenous youth.