Advocacy for Children Day at Capitol & MinneMinds Bill Introduction

ST PAUL, Minn. — A diverse group of over 700 children, parents, childcare providers, community leaders, advocates and lawmakers gathered in the Rotunda at the State Capitol yesterday, for what Sen. Carla Nelson shared with the audience  was “the biggest rally at the Capitol so far this year”.

The event was held to give Minnesota children and advocates an opportunity to meet legislators, to celebrate the introduction of SF-1663 and HF1997, and to serve as a call to action for supporters of the movement to increase access to quality early development and education programs. The event began with a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives reading to the preschoolers in attendance.

Andre Dukes, director of Curriculum and Instruction at Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), opened the event by thanking the organizations and sponsors in attendance, and recognizing the progress made over recent years. Dukes noted “These organizations could have never made such progress without you,” while speaking to the group gathered in the Rotunda. Drawing on his experience at NAZ, Dukes continued by affirming the efficacy of early childhood programming.

Local parent TraNecia Sylvester echoed Dukes’ sentiments by recounting her positive experience with targeted home visiting, the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), and early learning scholarships. Sylvester shared “these programs helped in my children’s early development, and allowed me the opportunity to pursue a career I love.” Sylvester added, “Early childhood investments are the most important investments our state can make.”

Rep. Jenifer Loon spoke of her long-standing support of investments in early childhood, urging the importance of allocating the budget in ways that bring “returns for all of us.” Melvin Carter, Director of the Minnesota Children’s Cabinet, led an invigorating rendition of the ABCs, and encouraged all in attendance to make the most of their visit to the capitol by connecting with legislators in support of a recently-introduced bill.

Sen. Carla Nelson, a former teacher who referred to education as “the great equalizer,” took the stage to give an overview of SF-1663, a bill which will increase access to early education scholarships for zero- to five-year-olds, and funds targeted home visiting for at-risk families from prenatal to age two. Sen. Nelson further stated that the bill empowers families to make the right choices for their children’s education, while aiding them in seeking and maintaining employment. Sen. Nelson shared, “Scholarships provide a two-generational solution, that’s what we’re looking for here. It closes the achievement gap, it reduces the looming workforce shortage, and helps families break the cycle of poverty”

Rep. Peggy Flanagan shared with the audience that it is very important that the grown-ups that work at the Capitol think about the children in attendance when they make decisions, and that they make sure kids’ needs are met. Brief remarks by Rep. Ron Kresha, main author of HF1997, further encouraged attendees to raise their voices and speak to their elected officials. Daniel Yang, organizer for the Voices and Choice Coalition, spoke to the importance of programs for children that appropriately address the full needs of families of color and American Indian families.

Sarah Caruso, president and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way, gave closing remarks, thanking legislators for their bipartisan support of SF-1663 and HF-1997 and encouraging everyone in attendance to remain at the capitol get to know their senators and representatives, and to show their support for early care and education.

Tomorrow: Advocacy for Children Day at Capitol & MinneMinds Bill Introduction

Early learning advocates to rally in Rotunda on behalf of Minnesota’s youngest children & MinneMinds coalition will announce support for a bipartisan early childhood bill

MinneMindsGreater Twin Cities United WayMinnesota’s Futureearly learning advocates, educators, parents, children, legislators, and community members.

Rally in the State Capitol Rotunda to advocate for Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children. With an estimated 10,000 Minnesota children annually born into poverty, they are at risk of not having a strong foundation for lifelong development.

Event organizers say there is growing bipartisan support for more resources for quality early care and education along with voluntary, targeted home visiting. They point to these as proven methods of ensuring a better future for the state’s youth and the state. They further state their goals are to eliminate Minnesota’s education opportunity gap and for increased investments in early childhood development for at-risk children, ages prenatal to 5. The MinneMinds coalition will also announce support for a bipartisan early childhood bill tomorrow.

Among the scheduled speakers are state Sen. Carla Nelson; state Rep.  Ron Kresha; and Greater Twin Cities United Way President and CEO Sarah Caruso. Their remarks, along with other state leaders and advocates, will focus on the need to reach consensus on increasing access to quality early childhood care and education for low-income children. Several legislators from both parties will attend and read books to children at the Rotunda before the rally.

Thursday, March 2, 2017
9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55155

With supports, the impact of high-quality preschool does not fade out

Letters to the Editor February 23

The analysis by Drew Bailey, Greg Duncan and Candice Odgers struggled to thoroughly frame the issue. The writers noted that basic math and reading skills, while easy to test, are not the only measures of current knowledge or future success. Accordingly, we maintain that the long-term effects mentioned in the article, high school graduation, higher earnings, fewer arrests and healthier lifestyles, are related to one skill: executive function.

Executive function helps children persevere through adversity, turn basic skills into advanced comprehension and develop into self-regulating, successful citizens. These skills, which children learn in high-quality preschools, have a significant positive effect on life outcomes.

Further, not all gains fade. The Head Start Impact Study found effects did not fade among groups of children most at risk. In a 2010 research paper, Rucker C. Johnson found that fadeout happens when children move into low-performing K-12 schools, but not when they proceed to high-performing schools. Head Start also focuses on children and their families, addressing those “persistent environmental factors” often found in the home.

Fadeout is a myth based on a narrow methodology and scope. The effects of high-quality early learning, especially those with comprehensive, two-generation supports, last a lifetime.

Read full article

What kind of early-education help do low-income parents want?

By Sondra Samuels and Barb Fabre | 01/30/17

There is strong bipartisan agreement about the need to help young Minnesota children living in low-income families access high-quality early-education programs so that we can close our worst-in-the-nation opportunity gap in education. While there is an amazing amount of consensus about that overall need, policymakers are still discussing the type of help that is needed.

So here’s a radical idea: How about we listen to the people who can benefit the most from getting engaged in early education: low-income parents?

In the fall of 2016, Wilder Foundation researchers did exactly that. Using funding from the nonprofit organization Close Gaps by 5, Wilder conducted phone interviews of 240 low-income parents from all parts of Minnesota. About 46 percent of those interviewed were parents of color. Here is what those parents said.

Parents’ top priorities

When asked “which early education program features sticks in your mind as the single most important for you and your family?” two items rose to the top. The first most important feature parents named was full-day, full-year, multi-year services. The second was quality of care, in terms of a program’s ability to prepare children for kindergarten.

This is encouraging news, because the same features that parents want are, according to the best available research, also the things that children need to get ready for kindergarten.

Fortunately, Minnesota’s 9-year-old Early Learning Scholarship program delivers on both fronts

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MinneMinds coalition responds to Governors budget on early childhood

Yesterday, Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget that included early childhood development as a top priority. MinneMinds applauds the Governor’s continued leadership on behalf of Minnesota’s children. We agree with the governor that: “In addition to our moral responsibility to ensure that every child receives a world-class education, there is another important reason to make these additional investments. Because our future depends upon them.”

In particular we are very encouraged to see that increased investments in home visiting and the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) are in his budget. As mentioned in the Governor’s report, home visiting helps families of at-risk children develop the skills needed to care for their child. Additionally, by increasing CCAP reimbursement rates, our most at-risk families will have increased access to early care and education options. We are also pleased that Governor Dayton expanded that use of scholarships to children aged 0-5, which has been a long-standing goal of our coalition. But we would take the step further and expand the dollars available as well, so that more children can receive the flexible funding that will help them succeed.

We believe this budget is a positive step towards putting our most at-risk children first; MinneMinds is committed to working together with the Governor on advancing these key priorities.

MinneMinds is a broad, statewide coalition, operating on the common goals we share of equitable access to high quality, mixed delivery, accessible and culturally competent early childhood care and education. The needs of Minnesota’s children should be met from pre-natal to age 5 with multi-generational solutions. Home visits, high quality child care and early education provide a pathway to racial, economic and geographic equity. Our coalition supports legislation that fully funds Parent Aware, Minnesota’s quality-rating improvement system, and expands Early Learning Scholarships for children from 0-4. With more than 40,000 children from birth to five still unable to access high quality early childhood development programs, we most move urgently to support children that need our help the most.

Guest Opinion: Early learning scholarships bridge the urban-rural divide

Much has been said and written lately about a rural-urban divide in America. It’s increasingly apparent that sound public policy has to help families in communities of every description—urban, suburban, exurban, and rural. Minnesota’s Early Learning Scholarships is exactly that kind of policy.

Scholarships address an urgent problem that schools and communities are facing in every corner of the state. Nearly half of Minnesota’s children are arriving in kindergarten unprepared. Too many kids never catch up and eventually drop out of school. Dropouts earn less and generate higher taxpayer costs throughout their lifetime. That’s a huge problem for all of us. Minnesota needs an educated workforce to compete in the global economy. An educated workforce makes for healthy, prosperous communities.

High quality early childcare and early education is the way to get kids ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. But for too many Minnesota kids, these programs are out of reach. Tragically, about 40,000 low-income Minnesota children under five years old are unable to access the quality early learning programs they need to get prepared for school and life.

These at-risk children are in every community in Minnesota. About half of sholarship-eligible low-income children are in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, and half are in greater Minnesota.

But how can one policy solution work as well in Minneapolis, Mankato and Motley? After all, some Minnesota communities have many different choices available for childcare and early learning programs, and others have few to choose from.

Read full article..

Here’s how the 2017 session could impact education in Minnesota


Gov. Mark Dayton has spent much of his six years in office building a legacy largely focused on increasing the funding and reach of the public school system, especially for the state’s youngest learners.

To cement that legacy, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor has to work his last two years in office with a House and Senate led by Republicans who often have different ideas on what is best for Minnesota’s public schools. Many of those ideas about education spending and policy have sparked past battles between Dayton and GOP lawmakers.

Among issues on the table this legislative session are which teachers get laid off when budgets get cut, how to license educators, how to keep schools accountable for the progress of their students, and school choice.

Legislators and the governor also need to agree on a budget in which education spending is one of the largest pieces. In the current two-year budget, $17 billion will be spent on education, about 41 percent of the total.

Republicans say they largely agree with Dayton and Democrats’ main objective of closing the state’s persistent achievement gap between students of color and their peers, but they often disagree on the best ways to make progress.

“I anticipate we will focus on what is best for students and what works,” said Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, who will chair the education division of the Senate Finance Committee. She acknowledged that closing academic gaps will be a top priority. “We’ve been talking about it for years; it’s time to do something about it.”

Read the full article..

Child Care Scarcity Has Very Real Consequences For Working Families

January 3, 20177:00 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered


One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, “Who’s going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?”

Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care.

Searching far and wide, finding little

Megan Carpenter, a new mother who lives in Alexandria, Va., knows well the feeling of desperation that can come with the search for safe, quality infant care.

She had a hard deadline — 16 weeks after her baby was born her maternity leave would end and she would have to return to her job at a nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income women. So she and her husband started looking for child care early, only a few months into her pregnancy.

“At our first few interviews we were asking a lot of questions and were really trying to get a feel for the place,” Carpenter recalls. “And by place 10 or 11, our only question was, ‘Do you have a spot?’ ”

The answer to that question, time and again, was “no.” That meant getting on a lot of waitlists — and paying a hefty, nonrefundable waitlist fee each time.

“There were a lot of places that were totally willing to take our $100 or $200 waitlist fee,” Carpenter says. “We spent over $1,000 in waitlist fees — many of which I never heard from again.”

By the time baby Cora arrived, the couple still had no prospects.



Editorial: Coordinating ideas around Minnesota’s early-childhood work

While research confirms the value of early- childhood advocates’ efforts, a hometown lawmaker observed that their work wasn’t necessarily in sync.

When he arrived at the Minnesota Capitol after his election in 2014, Rep. Dave Pinto — long interested in the issue — expected to find clarity about an agenda and direction, based on growing consensus about the value of public investment in early education.

Instead, there were a number of agendas, the St. Paul Democrat told us.

He found that, with varied groups working on such efforts, “often they’re parallel, often they overlap, sometimes they may conflict.”

That makes it hard for legislators, who might agree in general on the matter, Pinto told us, to “cut through the clutter” and figure out “where do we go, where do we focus our efforts, what do we do?”

In an effort that uses what he describes as a lawmaker’s leverage to “convene,” Pinto helped bring them together via a quarterly Prenatal-to-Three Policy Forum series that began last summer. The next such session will be Jan. 6 at the University of St. Thomas.


How Investing In Preschool Beats The Stock Market, Hands Down

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you’d be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

But there’s surprisingly little research on its impact over time. This paper helps change that. Heckman and his co-authors examine the many ways in which these high-quality programs helped participants thrive throughout life.

Read full article..