Think Small and Minneminds

You’ll notice that our website now includes a button that proudly proclaims our membership in the MinneMinds coalition. I want to be sure everyone at [Insert Organization Name] understands what this means.

Our membership in MinneMinds makes us part of a diverse statewide coalition with nearly 100 members. The coalition spans many geographies, sectors, and organizational structures, but we are all committed to a single goal: ensuring all children in Minnesota are ready for kindergarten by increasing access to high-quality early care and education programs through early learning scholarships.

Currently, 15,000 low-income 3- and 4-year-olds across the state do not have such access. The MinneMinds model targets the most at-risk children by providing scholarships that are parent-directed, follow the child and are tied to quality. The model also incorporates the diverse-delivery model of early education that is already vibrant in Minnesota while pushing all providers toward higher quality through the Parent Aware rating system that will be fully implemented statewide in 2015. This not only deepens parent engagement with teachers, but puts parents in the driver’s seat of their children’s education and empowers them to maximize their ability to work and provide for their family.

MinneMinds chair Frank Forsberg emphasizes the importance of this uniquely Minnesota model. “We’re the largest and most varied coalition of any early childhood coalition in the nation. Our idea for these scholarships emerged from five years of research and study by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation. We realized that grant makers cannot fund our way out of this problem; we simply do not have the necessary scale. Closing the gap in access to high quality early learning opportunities requires a strong partnership with government.”

MinneMinds successfully advocated for scholarships at the state capitol, receiving bi-partisan support, and built the foundation for an infrastructure through which qualifying families have been matched with scholarships. But we still have a long way to go. There is much more work to be done—including ensuring that scholarship funding matches the full scope of the need, meeting the cultural and language needs of all young children, and helping the families who most need these scholarships navigate the system.

Early learning scholarships have a transformative impact on our state’s effort to address the underlying cause of the achievement and opportunity gap.

Childhood only happens once. We can’t wait another year to change the odds.