Gubernatorial Questionnaire Answers

With only a few short weeks until the 2018 Primary Election and only a few short months from the 2018 General Election, MinneMinds is reaching out to candidates of both parties to keep early childhood care and education as a top issue in their agenda.

We reached out to each of the candidates running for Governor in the August primary and have attached their responses below.

Johnson Questionnaire

Murphy Questionnaire

Pawlenty Questionnaire

Swanson Questionnaire

Walz Questionnaire

Letter to Conferees

May 11, 2018

Dear Supplemental Finance Bill Conferees,

As we approach the end of session, the MinneMinds coalition would like to remind Minnesota lawmakers that today over 35,000 children in our state don’t have access to quality early childhood care and education. With a $329 million surplus, and our state facing one of the worst opportunity gaps in the nation, there is no better return on public dollars than investing in our youngest and most vulnerable children.

Now is the best time to increase access for early childhood scholarships, targeted home visiting programs and to increase reimbursements for the Child Care assistance program (CCAP).

A recent report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor recommended that we need to assess children to determine their school readiness as they enter kindergarten. An important next step would be to support the statewide expansion, implementation and fully funding of a culturally and linguistically relevant Kindergarten Entry Profile via approved assessment tools.

As much of Minnesota faces a child care crisis, and many professionals that work in early childhood care and education are not making a livable wage, we support expanding state grants for retaining and increasing the number of providers.

The following bills and proposals reflect MinneMinds key values and we encourage lawmakers to support them:

  • Kindergarten Assessment: We support language in the Omnibus Education Bill HF 4328 that directs the commissioner of education to implement a kindergarten readiness assessment representative of incoming kindergartners. We would encourage the legislature to fully fund a culturally and linguistically relevant Kindergarten Entry Profile via approved assessment tools.
  • Targeted Home Visiting: We support language in the omnibus health, human services, and transportation policy and finance bill HF 3138. Amending evidence-based Home Visiting language, passed last session, to now include both evidence-based home visiting AND targeted home visiting (evidence-informed and/or promising programs). The language requires at least 75% of funds be spent on evidence-based home visiting programs and up to 25% for targeted programs.
  • Child Care Assistance Program: We support reforms to CCAP that will create greater stability for homeless families, eliminate barriers that disrupt access to child care, and support rate updates for providers who are currently taking CCAP families at a financial loss. These reforms are found in the House, Senate, and Governor’s proposals in different combinations. We encourage lawmakers to build on the Senate language, adopting the House position to temporarily waive activity requirements for homeless families so that vulnerable children can access enriching care while families become stable. We also encourage lawmakers to adopt the House position to improve how funds for the provider reimbursement rate update are allocated to counties. New federal funds are available to enact these needed reforms. To fund them sufficiently we urge lawmakers to include a state investment.
  • DEED Grants to stabilize early childhood care and education workforce: We support child care grants of $750K to help local communities to increase the supply of quality child care providers in order to support economic development (currently included in House language).

We support the following Governor’s recommendations:

  • The Governor recommends expanding access to Early Learning Scholarships to children from low-income families who are 3 years old or younger.
  • The Governor recommends increasing investments in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to support family stability and improve the school readiness of children served in child care settings across the state. It allows families to maintain eligibility for 12-month period, makes child care available to more homeless children and ensures children are cared for in a safe, nurturing environment. ($17 million total by FY 2021)

As we move to the end of session, and important priorities are weighed, let’s make sure that our youngest and most vulnerable children are at the top of the priority list. This is the best way to make sure our state provides the best standard of living for all our residents and that all our children have the chance to succeed.

Sincerely,

Denise Mayotte

Chair, MinneMinds Coalition

Executive Director, Sheltering Arms Foundation

612-871-9210, dmayotte@sheltering-arms.org

Success Stories – YWCA Minneapolis

Vice President of Early Childhood Education – Stephanie Thomas

Located in the heart of Minneapolis and throughout the Twin Cities, YWCA Minneapolis Children’s Centers are immersive, high-quality child care centers that provide a superb education for children, and fully engage parents and families with an array of supportive programming. Four-Star Parent Aware-rated facilities, the Centers use every tool at their disposal to help children succeed. Committed to eliminating racism and empowering women, YWCA is a crucial member of the MinneMinds coalition.

YWCA Minneapolis is eliminating the education gap for all children enrolled in their Children’s Centers. Consistently more than 90% percent of preschoolers met rigorous early learning standards, prepared to succeed in kindergarten; and more than 90% of infants through preschoolers were developmentally on track. Children and families across our community have access to play-based programming that takes a whole child learning approach – covering social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development while promoting self-esteem.

Seventy-two families received state early learning scholarship support, and another 235 families benefited from CCAP (Child Care Assistance Program). In the YWCA community Children’s Centers, 75 percent were children of color, and 65 percent were children living in low-income households, with 59 percent of these children living in households below the federal poverty line.

With a low child to teacher ratio at YWCA Minneapolis Children’s Centers, children receive dedicated and personalized instruction and care. The curriculum follows the YWCA Minneapolis Anti- Bias Curriculum, a child-initiated, play and anti-bias based approach and Early Childhood Education Specialists assist with child assessments, behavior guidance, curriculum, and family resources. Additionally, thanks to a partnership with the Minnesota Reading Corps, preschool literacy tutors are available to help children improve their reading development.

YWCA Minneapolis has robust opportunities for families and children to enhance their physical and emotional health. Each newly enrolled family receives a free one-year Health and Wellness family membership, which is included on-site. Swimming lessons are part of the curriculum and are offered September through May, as are on-site music classes and use of fitness spaces.

Health is also a focus on the menu. All infant formula, baby food and other food (breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack) are prepared fresh each day. The nutrition program focuses on whole grains, whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and ethnically diverse foods while minimizing sodium, sugar, saturated fats, food dyes and artificial ingredients.

Parents are involved daily through communication with teachers and regular conferences, each center builds family events that are unique to their site and the families they serve. Children receive research-based, developmentally appropriate assessments completed at regular intervals. The YWCA Minneapolis Children’s Centers also feature free screenings and the ability to access assessment and therapeutic services (occupational, speech and physical therapy) on-site through a partnership program.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has also listed YWCA Minneapolis Downtown Children’s Center as one of the ten programs on its website that is exemplary in its family engagement practices. These practices are defined as:

  • Programs invite families to participate in decision-making and goal-setting for their child.
  • Teachers and programs engage families in two-way communication.
  • Programs and teachers engage families in ways that are truly reciprocal.
  • Programs provide learning activities for the home and in the community.
  • Programs invite families to participate in program-level decisions and wider advocacy efforts.
  • Programs implement a comprehensive program-level system of family engagement.

YWCA Minneapolis also has an Early Childhood Teacher Development program to help build a skilled and diverse early childhood education workforce. Participants receive education and support to become expert early childhood teachers and earn a Child Development Associate Credential.

Committed to eliminating racism and empowering women, YWCA Minneapolis is a crucial member of the MinneMinds coalition and delivers consistent high-quality early childhood care and education to children and families.

MinneMinds Response to OLA Report on Early Childhood Education

MinneMinds Response to OLA Report on Early Childhood Education

The MinneMinds early childhood coalition is in agreement with many of the findings and recommendations from the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s (OLA) report on Early Childhood Education. The report outlines the strengths of early childhood care and education in Minnesota as well as areas that are in need of improvement, increased transparency, and focused attention.

We support the OLA recommendation to assess children to determine their school readiness as they enter kindergarten. An important next step would be to support the statewide expansion, implementation and funding of a culturally and linguistically relevant Kindergarten Entry Profile via approved assessment tools. This assessment would give teachers a better understanding of the diverse needs of Minnesota’s students, and would provide much needed data on how to adequately and accurately address the different needs of our students across the state.

The OLA report also recommends increased collaboration and data sharing between the agencies overseeing early childhood care in Minnesota to better understand the efficacy of these programs. Further collaboration should be encouraged if we are to have the best understanding of the current landscape of early childhood care and education that we need in Minnesota. We agree with report findings that indicate a lack of available data that makes it difficult to measure outcomes and effectiveness for children in early childhood programs. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge there is also extensive research and data showing the effectiveness and positive outcomes of multiple Minnesota early childhood programs.

High-quality, three and four star Parent Aware rated Programs like Joyce Preschool, Invest Early, The White Earth Child Care Program, PlayHouse Childcare Center, Minneapolis YWCA, Northside Achievement Zone, Promise Neighborhood, People Serving People among others, are making great progress every day in reducing opportunity gaps. These are programs that have  data clearly demonstrating they substantially increased Kindergarten readiness in their communities. Some of those programs are highlighted at http://minneminds.org/category/success-stories/.

Though the report found some overlap between students who receive scholarships and CCAP, it makes clear that even together these streams were not enough to fully cover the cost of early care and education. Additionally, we agree with the need to streamline eligibility criteria to ease the burden on families. Together with the report’s findings on waiting lists, it’s clear that there is a major need for more resources for families and children to access high-quality care and education. Let us not forget that Minnesota still faces some of our nation’s largest opportunity gaps, and 35,000 children in our state still lack access to high-quality, early childhood care and education.

MinneMinds shares the goals of creating a statewide infrastructure of high-quality early childhood care and education opportunities for Minnesota’s children and families. This report provides an overview of where we are and of where improvements may be needed. We hope legislators will urgently focus on positive steps forward, building on our successes, and committing to getting this right. Our children and our state’s future depend on it.

Advocacy for Children Day

Hundreds of advocates to rally in support of early childhood care and education

WHO:
MinneMinds, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minnesota’s Future, early learning advocates, educators, parents, children, legislators, and community members.WHAT:
St. Paul, Minn. – Join hundreds of early childhood learning advocates, parents, and children from across the state on March 29th, as they stand up and encourage legislators to support Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children at Advocacy for Children Day. Advocates will remind lawmakers that high quality early childhood care and education is the best way to close one of the worst in the nation opportunity gaps.

Over 35,000 children in the state of Minnesota still don’t have access to quality early care and education. This day is an opportunity for parents, teachers, early care and education professionals, and others from across the state to stand up and raise their voices for children, and to make sure early childhood care and education is a priority in policy discussions and legislation.

Several legislators from both parties will attend and read books to children at the Rotunda before the rally.

Agenda:
9:00-9:30 am: Children’s Entertainment
9:30-10:00 am: Children “story time” & fun activities
10:00-11:00 am: Rally in the Capitol Rotunda
11:00-4:00 pm: Visit with Legislators

Featured Speakers:
Senator Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids)
Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis)
Representative Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls)
Representative Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley)
Minnesota Children’s Cabinet Executive Director Kelly Monson

Where:
Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda
75 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155

When:
Thursday, March 29
9:30-11:30 am.

About MinneMinds
MinneMinds is a broad coalition of over 100 statewide organizations, foundations, and advocacy groups united in prioritizing Minnesota’s youngest children as the most pressing need and important investment for Minnesota. We are supported by advocates, parents, early-ed and care leaders, teachers, businesses, community members in making this possible for every child in Minnesota regardless of zip code.

We share a vision where all children in Minnesota are ready for kindergarten by providing equitable access to high quality, culturally competent, year-round, all day early childhood programs that support the needs of both families and children from prenatal to age 5. Learn more at www.minneminds.org

About Greater Twin Cities United Way
Ranked as Minnesota’s largest nongovernmental social services funder, United Way connects people and resources within our community to challenge and change systems—like Minnesota’s education and jobs gap—that limit our potential. Our mission is to unite caring people to build pathways out of poverty, thereby improving individual lives and the community. Learn more at https://www.gtcuw.org/ and about our 24-hour, statewide, multilingual information and referral service, United Way 2-1-1 at http://www.211unitedway.org/. Greater Twin Cities United Way serves Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott and western Washington counties. For more information call (612) 340-7400.

Advocacy for Children Day is possible thanks to the partnership with
Minnesota’s Future Allies: 

Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC) & Minnesota School Age Care Alliance (MnSACA)
Minnesota Association for Family and Early Education (MNAFEE)
Minnesota Child Care Association (MCCA)
Think Small
Child Care Aware of Minnesota
Minnesota Coalition for Targeted Home Visiting
Minnesota Community Education Association (MCEA)
Minnesota Head Start Association
Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA)

Contact: Alberto Monserrate, 612-730-2071
Email: alberto@newpublica.com

Success Stories – Invest Early

Executive Director – Jan Reindl

The need for high-quality early childhood care and education is growing, especially in greater Minnesota. Research also shows that investing in early childhood care and education provides a strong return on investment and positive outcomes for Minnesota’s most vulnerable children and families.

One provider that is delivering high-quality early childcare and education in greater Minnesota is the Invest Early Initiative, a comprehensive early childhood collaborative of four school districts and KOOTASCA Head Start in Itasca County, Minnesota, that serves young children and their families. In fact, it is the largest rural early care and education program in Minnesota.

Invest Early provides high-quality early childhood care and education to low-income children and families (the median income for families was $23,982 in 2015-2016), who have an average of 3-4 additional risk factors. Their programs offer a comprehensive, whole family approach, providing children with stable learning environments, and parents with a menu of supports including mental health, family development, and parent education.

As a four-star Parent Aware-rated facility, Invest Early is committed to providing high-quality care by employing licensed instructors and child care providers, providing a safe, stimulating learning environment, supporting a play-based learning environment through hands-on activities, employing developmentally appropriate activities, serving healthy meals and snacks, and creating individualized learning plans.

Currently, 69 children receive support from early learning scholarships, helping to make high-quality care accessible to their families.

The results are clear: students served by Invest Early are succeeding, and do better than many of their peers. Two out of three students from Invest Early are ready for kindergarten, compared with only half of a low-income comparison group.

We know that this early success has long-term positive impacts on children – both 3rd and 5th graders who had been Invest Early students performed better on MCA reading and math tests than other low-income students statewide.  Not only does early childhood care and education improve outcomes for children now, but also in their future schooling.

Invest Early has also committed to a community view for supporting early care and education throughout the region, working with multiple partners like Itasca County Health and Human Services, Public Health, Children’s Mental Health, Itasca Community College, Early Childhood Special Education and other licensed child care providers. Together, they recognize that quality childcare is an asset not just for parents and families, but every member of the community.

The Invest Early Initiative has a track record of positive results for hundreds of families in Northern Minnesota, and provides a model for how rural areas can develop partnerships to implement effective, high-quality early childhood care and education.

Success Stories – Playhouse Childcare Center, Inc.

Center Director Heather Freese

On January 22nd, the MinneMinds campaign hosted a gubernatorial conversation in St. Cloud, Minnesota featuring two candidates for governor, State Representatives Tina Liebling and Erin Murphy. As our first forum in Greater Minnesota, it was an opportunity for candidates to learn more about some of the unique challenges many families and providers face in Greater Minnesota.

The forum was also provided an opportunity to learn more about some of the ways child care providers are innovating, and how they are adapting to challenges, which was on display at Playhouse Child Care Center Inc. This Four-Star Parent Aware-rated facility is delivering high-quality results for children and is meeting the needs of a diverse set of parents and families in St. Cloud.

What makes Playhouse unique is its partnership with Reach-Up Head Start. This partnership provides more high-quality care for local, low-income families to prepare them for kindergarten, including additional staff that can spend more quality one on one time with kids. In the classrooms that have these staff, the ratio for caregiver to child is 1:7 vs 1:10 for other rooms. While this may not seem like much, it can provide strong benefits for children and their development.

It’s also important that children are given the tools to succeed at every level of development. Research shows that 90% of brain development occurs by the age of five – it’s crucial during these years that kids are on track. At Playhouse, each level of a child’s development has age-appropriate programming, from infant, toddler, preschool to school-age. This programming covers everything from what children eat, how much rest they get, to their outdoor play time.

Playhouse is committed to serving the diverse set of families in St. Cloud. Considering its location near St. Cloud Community and Technical College, Playhouse serves many parents who are students at the college – providing multigenerational benefits for students advancing their own education while their children receive high-quality care.

At Playhouse, 33 families receive funding from CCAP and 34 children currently receive state early learning scholarships. Demand for high-quality care is growing, and the center doubled in size in 2016 – and has slots available for 96 families, a number that will continue to grow.

Access to high-quality care and education is crucial to the health and well-being of Minnesota’s families and children. MinneMinds is committed to increasing this access, but also to finding flexible ways to deliver this crucial need. Many early care providers are working to find ways to innovate and deliver results, and the partnership between Playhouse and Head Start is just one way.

Playhouse Child Care Center Inc.’s goal “is for each child to develop a sense of positive self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth providing the foundation for children to prepare them for school readiness.” With their Head Start partnership, funding from early learning scholarships, and Four-Star Parent Aware rating, Playhouse Child Care Center Inc. is an example of high-quality care made possible by state early learning investment.

Success Stories – Joyce Preschool

Executive Director Laura Tompkins

The MinneMinds coalition has partners across the state that embrace key values, provide innovation, and take child-centered approaches that provide meaningful and long-lasting positive benefits for Minnesota’s children and families. These programs are leading the way in providing high-quality early childhood care and education.

MinneMinds knows that high-quality early childhood care and education improves outcomes, and key partners like Joyce Preschool, a Spanish-immersion school, are making this happen for children and families every day. Their high-quality, research-driven and culturally relevant programming have delivered consistent results for children and parents alike. In a city where only 36% of Spanish-speaking students are kindergarten-ready, 100% of Joyce’s graduates in the past six years have been ready for kindergarten.

 

Joyce is a 4-star Parent-Aware rated, bilingual, multicultural preschool that provides culturally relevant programming for its students and is rooted in equity. In Minneapolis, 41% of Hispanic children live in poverty, which can contribute to obesity, food insecurity, and toxic stress — all of which affect a child’s ability to succeed in school. At Joyce, children are in a nurturing environment that meets each of their unique needs and provides necessary support.

Joyce’s takes a multigenerational approach with a simple perspective: “to give children their best opportunities, we don’t just enroll preschoolers, but work in partnership with families. At-home circumstances affect in-school success, so classroom time isn’t enough on its own: we emphasize empowering, educating, and involving our families.” At Joyce, 100% of parents are directly involved in their student’s education.

Access to high-quality early childhood care and education is critical to a child’s life, but too often is out of reach for low-income families. At Joyce, 25% of students receive state early learning scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition, including transportation costs. Thanks to this support, families and parents who may not be able to afford high-quality early education are able to, which can provide much-needed stability. With increased investment in state early learning scholarships, even more families could benefit.

The best outcomes for children and families come when they are given the environment to succeed, and provided the support they need. By increasing access to high-quality early childhood care and education, like the programs offered at Joyce Preschool, Minnesota’s most vulnerable children and families can be given the tools to succeed now and in the future.

Community Conversation on Early Childhood with GOP Gubernatorial Candidates

Minneapolis. – Minnesota has made considerable progress investing in our state’s earliest learners, but much work remains. Looking ahead, a new governor in 2018 will play a pivotal role in deciding the direction and importance of early childhood care and education in Minnesota.

MinneMinds is sponsoring a second community conversation hosted by People Serving People with Republican gubernatorial candidates focused on early childhood issues facing Minnesota. The conversation will focus on ensuring Minnesota’s early childhood care and education opportunities are high-quality, multi-generational, equitable, culturally relevant, and accessible for children and families with the highest needs. Additional discussion will focus on the unique early childcare issues related to workforce and economic development.

Announced GOP Candidates Invited:
State Representative Matt Dean (Confirmed)
Former Chairman of the MN Republican Party Keith Downey
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (Confirmed)
State Senator David Osmek
Former Navy Research Intelligence Officer Phillip Parrish (Confirmed)
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens

Where: 
People Serving People – Center of Excellence
2400 Park Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404

When:
Wednesday, December 6
4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Hosted By:
People Serving People

In Partnership with:
Child Care Aware of Minnesota, Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota, Children’s Minnesota, First Children’s Finance, Generation Next, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Growth & Justice, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Joyce Preschool, Kids at Risk Action, Minnesota Child Care Association, Minnesota Coalition for Targeted Home Visiting, MnAEYC-MnSACA, Northside Achievement Zone, People Serving People, Safe Passage for Children, The Sheltering Arms Foundation, Start Early Funders Coalition, Think Small, YWCA of Minneapolis

About the MinneMinds Coalition
MinneMinds is supported by a broad base of nearly 100 statewide organizations and thought leaders with a common commitment to prioritizing Minnesota’s youngest children as the most pressing need and important investment for Minnesota. For more information visit www.MinneMinds.com.

About People Serving People
People Serving People is the region’s largest and most comprehensive family-focused homeless shelter. People Serving People helps homeless and at-risk children and their families manage crisis situations and build a strong foundation for their long-term success. For more information visit: www.peopleservingpeople.org.

Minnesota’s Future for Early Childhood

DFL gubernatorial candidates to outline their vision for early care and education

Minneapolis. – Minnesota’s next governor will play a pivotal role in determining the future of early childhood care and education in our state. While significant progress has been made in investing in our children, more work must be done to provide access for our highest need children.

MinneMinds is sponsoring a community conversation hosted by People Serving People with DFL candidates for governor to lay out their vision for early childhood care and education in Minnesota. This important conversation will focus on the pressing early childhood issues facing our state and in providing access to high-quality, equitable early childcare and education.

A second gubernatorial forum featuring Republican candidates for governor will be held on Wednesday, November 15.

Announced DFL Candidates Invited:
Mayor Chris Coleman (Confirmed)             State Auditor Rebecca Otto
Representative Tina Liebling                      Representative Paul Thissen
Representative Erin Murphy                       Congressman Tim Walz (Confirmed)

Where: 
People Serving People – Center of Excellence
2400 Park Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404

When:
Thursday, October 19
4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Hosted By:
People Serving People

In Partnership with:
Child Care Aware of Minnesota, Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota, Children’s Hospitals, First Children’s Finance, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Growth & Justice, Indian Women’s Resource Center, Joyce Preschool, Kids at Risk Action, Minnesota Child Care Association, MnAEYC-MnSACA, Northside Achievement Zone, People Serving People, Safe Passage for Children, The Sheltering Arms Foundation, Start Early Funders Coalition, Think Small, YWCA of Minneapolis

About the MinneMinds Coalition
MinneMinds is supported by a broad base of nearly 100 statewide organizations and thought leaders with a common commitment to prioritizing Minnesota’s youngest children as the most pressing need and important investment for Minnesota. For more information visit www.MinneMinds.com.

About People Serving People
People Serving People is the region’s largest and most comprehensive family-focused homeless shelter. People Serving People helps homeless and at-risk children and their families manage crisis situations and build a strong foundation for their long-term success. For more information visit: www.peopleservingpeople.org.