MinneMinds Response to OLA Report on Early Childhood Education
The MinneMinds early childhood coalition is in agreement with many of the findings and recommendations from the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s (OLA) report on Early Childhood Education. The report outlines the strengths of early childhood care and education in Minnesota as well as areas that are in need of improvement, increased transparency, and focused attention.
We support the OLA recommendation 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 funding of a culturally and linguistically relevant Kindergarten Entry Profile via approved assessment tools. This assessment would give teachers a better understanding of the diverse needs of Minnesota’s students, and would provide much needed data on how to adequately and accurately address the different needs of our students across the state.
The OLA report also recommends increased collaboration and data sharing between the agencies overseeing early childhood care in Minnesota to better understand the efficacy of these programs. Further collaboration should be encouraged if we are to have the best understanding of the current landscape of early childhood care and education that we need in Minnesota. We agree with report findings that indicate a lack of available data that makes it difficult to measure outcomes and effectiveness for children in early childhood programs. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge there is also extensive research and data showing the effectiveness and positive outcomes of multiple Minnesota early childhood programs.
High-quality, three and four star Parent Aware rated Programs like Joyce Preschool, Invest Early, The White Earth Child Care Program, PlayHouse Childcare Center, Minneapolis YWCA, Northside Achievement Zone, Promise Neighborhood, People Serving People among others, are making great progress every day in reducing opportunity gaps. These are programs that have data clearly demonstrating they substantially increased Kindergarten readiness in their communities. Some of those programs are highlighted at http://minneminds.org/category/success-stories/.
Though the report found some overlap between students who receive scholarships and CCAP, it makes clear that even together these streams were not enough to fully cover the cost of early care and education. Additionally, we agree with the need to streamline eligibility criteria to ease the burden on families. Together with the report’s findings on waiting lists, it’s clear that there is a major need for more resources for families and children to access high-quality care and education. Let us not forget that Minnesota still faces some of our nation’s largest opportunity gaps, and 35,000 children in our state still lack access to high-quality, early childhood care and education.
MinneMinds shares the goals of creating a statewide infrastructure of high-quality early childhood care and education opportunities for Minnesota’s children and families. This report provides an overview of where we are and of where improvements may be needed. We hope legislators will urgently focus on positive steps forward, building on our successes, and committing to getting this right. Our children and our state’s future depend on it.