Dear Education Conference Committee Members:
The MinneMinds Coalition would like to thank members of the House and Senate for advocating for Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children. We also thank Education Finance Committee Chairs Nelson and Loon for their leadership on behalf of children. We know this work has been especially challenging with this year’s budget targets.
We must take action to address Minnesota’s worst-in-the-nation opportunity gap. To close this gap, we need investment in early care and education from birth to 5 years old. This legislative session, we have a unique opportunity for bipartisan compromise to support initiatives that will significantly reduce the opportunity gap, create job growth, and contribute to the economic vitality of our state for years to come.
We would like to highlight a few items that we strongly support from the House and Senate omnibus bills; along with changes that we believe would improve the bills:
● We appreciate the support for continued funding for early childhood scholarships. Increased access to scholarships is essential to closing the opportunity gap. We thank you for expanding eligibility for scholarships to children from birth to 2 with the greatest need. Research shows that early investments are most effective and provide the highest return on investment.
● We appreciate the increase in funding for early childhood scholarships. As you know, close to 40,000 children do not have access to much-needed quality early childhood care and education. We ask you to significantly increase this investment to serve more of our most vulnerable children.
● We also urge the conference committee to increase access to flexible voluntary targeted home visiting. Theseprograms provide community-led solutions that stabilize two generations of Minnesotans. Targeted home visiting empowers at-risk parents with parenting and family support tools to become self-sustaining, healthy families.
● We support the language that prioritizes scholarship applications for children that have experienced homelessness in the past 24 months or are in foster care or in need of protective services, in addition to the children of teen parents. This assures that we are first serving the children with the greatest need.
● We are concerned about the possible elimination of Pathway 2 scholarships. We support making improvements to this program, but believe these scholarships are an important option for eligible children and families. Pathway 2 scholarships enable high-quality rated, mixed delivery programs across the state to provide effective early care and education that meets local needs.
We thank you again for your commitment to our youngest and most vulnerable children, and for working to eliminate Minnesota’s unacceptable opportunity gap. We hope you can find ways to incorporate our concerns so that thousands of Minnesota’s children can have access to quality, year-round, all-day early childhood care and education.
Chair, MinneMinds Coalition
Senior Vice President, Greater Twin Cities United Way