May 17, 2017
The MinneMinds Coalition thanks you for advocating for Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children. We know this work has been especially challenging with this year’s budget negotiations. As you know, 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 Education omnibus bill, along with changes that we believe would improve the bill. We hope you will consider these elements as you continue negotiating with legislators.
- We appreciate your support 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 need a substantial 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 support language that prioritizes scholarship applications for children that have experienced homelessness, are in foster care or in need of protective services, in addition to the children of teen parents. Nearly 2,300 of our state’s children under age 3 currently live in these circumstances and in need of full day, year round early care and education. This assures that we are first serving the children with the greatest need.
- We share your concern 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 urge you to increase access to flexible voluntary targeted home visiting. These programs 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 your efforts to increase funding for the Child Care Assistance (CCAP) program and support improvements that will allow families to access and maintain affordable, stable childcare, and conform to federal requirements.
- We support a mixed delivery system in early childhood programs building a strong, integrated system that provides flexibility to meet both community and family needs.
Again, we thank you for your commitment to our youngest and most vulnerable children, and for your efforts 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.
Frank Forsberg Chair, MinneMinds Coalition
Senior Vice President, Greater Twin Cities United Way