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.
Chair, MinneMinds Coalition
Executive Director, Sheltering Arms Foundation