Last week, Governor Walz released his 2020-2021 budget recommendations that included investments to support early childhood development. MinneMinds applauds the Governor’s leadership on behalf of Minnesota’s children.
As a statewide coalition with over 100 members, MinneMinds is dedicated to equitable access to high quality, mixed delivery, accessible and culturally competent early childhood care and education. With over 90% of brain development occurring by age five, we know the needs of Minnesota’s children should be met from prenatal to age five, with multi-generational solutions.
Eliminating Minnesota’s opportunity gaps must be a top priority this session as they remain among the worst in the nation. Both Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan understand how important early childhood care and education is to Minnesota’s future, and MinneMinds strongly supports Governor Walz’s February 19, 2019 statement: “closing these opportunity gaps isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s an economic necessity as our workforce demands are ever increasing.”
MinneMinds supports many of the important early childhood investments included in the Governor’s budget. We appreciate the increased investment of $44 million in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). By increasing CCAP reimbursement rates, our most at-risk families will have increased access to early care and education options. We support the Governor’s decision to provide $1 million for grants through the Department of Employment and Economic Development for communities to address the childcare shortage. We also support the Governor’s recommendation of transferring scholarship appropriation into a special revenue fund to ensure more early learning scholarships are awarded. This fund would allow unused dollars to be returned and given to those on the waitlist. Currently, funds may go unused if a family’s eligibility changes during the year–this fund would reduce the 1,700 child waitlist.
At least 33,000 children currently do not have access to much-needed quality early childhood care and education and over 16,000 families lack access to voluntary home visiting. We hope that the state’s final budget will increase funding for early childhood scholarships and voluntary home visiting. Scholarships support families with the greatest need and allow parents to choose the best high-quality early childhood program for their children. Home visiting empowers at-risk parents by providing invaluable family support tools that create self-sustaining, healthy families. Significant increases in investment for these programs is a critical solution to eliminating Minnesota’s opportunity gaps.
We also believe that Governor Walz and legislative leaders should further support programs that lead to quality early care and education, including Parent Aware and Kindergarten Entry Profile (KEP). Both Parent Aware and KEP will help Minnesotans understand which programs are the most effective at preparing our youngest learners for success in kindergarten and beyond. The Governor’s budget proposal supports these programs at current levels, but we must ensure these programs are fully funded to fulfill their missions.
Our goal is to ensure that thousands of Minnesotan children have access to high-quality, culturally relevant, year-round, all-day early childhood care, education, and voluntary home visiting. We believe this budget is a positive step towards strengthening our families and the state’s future. MinneMinds is committed to working together with the Governor and Legislators to advancing these key priorities.