In 2012, over one hundred Minnesota organizations united to help tackle one of the most important issues the state was facing: one of the worst-in-the-nation early childhood opportunity gaps among our youngest children. Nearly 50% of all Minnesota children were not ready for Kindergarten, and over 40,000 children didn’t have access to high-quality early care and education.
These organizations had specific goals when they united in 2012: to elevate awareness, urgency and priority of early childhood at the capitol in a significant way; to bring forward actionable policy solutions; and to create broad, state-wide stakeholder alignment. Their shared goals led to the creation of the statewide coalition known as MinneMinds.
MinneMinds has helped improve the lives of many of Minnesota’s youngest learners through legislative advocacy over the past seven years. Between 2012 and 2019, funding for early childhood learning grew by 250% in Minnesota (from $114 million before the 2013 legislative session to $400 million today)*. Funding for early childhood scholarships grew from $6 million serving approximately 1,000 children to $140 million serving over 15,000 children. MinneMinds was also a key partner in securing $33 million for voluntary targeted home visiting, which now serves over 13,500 families.
In addition to legislative funding increases, MinneMinds also effectively advocated for the state-wide expansion of Parent Aware, Minnesota’s childcare and early education improvement system, to 2,800 providers. MinneMinds’ involvement helped the program gain the resources and tools needed to help even more families and children.
There have been many significant advancements to reduce Minnesota’s opportunity gaps, but there is still much more that needs to be done. Minnesota continues to have one of the largest early childhood care and education opportunity gaps in the United States. Over 33,000 children lack access to high-quality early care and education, and over 16,000 families lack access to voluntary targeted home visiting. It is now time to change our approach to closing the opportunity gap by engaging community voices to lead future policy actions and solutions.
To this end, MinneMinds funders will focus on serving the unmet needs of communities by anchoring on the voices of parents and those with lived experience to set the guideposts and vision for early childhood advocacy. The future of early childhood advocacy must be more grassroots and parent/caretaker directed with equity at the very center to ensure that people most impacted by policy are guiding the decisions. MinneMinds has helped elevate early childhood as a top legislative priority, which fostered the growth and expansion of a strong and robust landscape of advocates, including parents and caretakers. These very same advocates will continue to be strong champions of early childhood and carry the torch forward.
Today, the MinneMinds coalition sunsets. Our coalition members remain committed to creating an equitable future for all Minnesota children through continued support and funding of the Start Early Funders Coalition, and finding new, innovative ways to influence early childhood policy that are more deeply centered in the wisdom and experience of parents and families.
Funders will remain fully committed to serving our youngest and most underserved children through early childhood advocacy. In the coming months, they will support the development of a grassroots parent/caretaker centered legislative agenda, where those with lived experience are at the center of decision making.
MinneMinds wants to thank everyone that has been part of our success over the years: members, partners and funders, legislators, state officials, parents, and children. Because of your initiative and commitment, you have helped improve the lives of thousands of children throughout the state. Special thanks to the tremendous efforts of our community members and non-profit partners who have worked closely with MinneMinds to tirelessly advocate for successful outcomes.
* Figures provided by Minnesota Management and Budget, they include: Voluntary Pre-K, Scholarships, Head Start, ECFE and Home Visiting
Some of the analysis incorporated in this communication was made in collaboration with Close Gaps by 5, the Minnesota Department of Education, The Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Coalition for Targeted Home Visiting, Wilder Research, and Rob Grunewald from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.