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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