The final Policy Hour of the season was a double dose of early education information! We heard about changes to Parent Aware and received an end of legislative session update.
First, Michelle Lenhart and Nara Topp joined us from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to discuss changes to Parent Aware. Parent Aware is Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Participation is voluntary for child care providers, and it offers tools and resources to help:
Families find quality child care and early education
Programs improve their practices
Children benefit from care and education that will prepare them for school and life
It is great that early learning is a policy priority for the state, and it’s encouraging to hear it continue to be discussed. In a year of $1.6 billion surplus, it would also be great to see large investments in Minnesota’s youngest children.
Early Learning continues to be an important issue that Minnesota legislators are talking about. The House, Senate, and Governor have all proposed additional funds for early education, although they differ widely on how much to spend and in what way. Representatives and senators just finished their work to come up with joint budget bills. These still have to pass out of both bodies and be signed by the Governor to become law.
Two weeks before the end of the regular session, here’s an update on the status of Think Small’s policy priorities.
Increase the number of Parent Aware rated programs and allow programs to maintain or improve their Parent Aware ratings
The Education bill allows all Parent Aware rated program (1-4 Stars) to be eligible to accept Early Learning Scholarships until 2022. After 2022, Early Learning Scholarships will only be able to be used by families at 3 and 4 star Parent Aware rated programs. This could encourage more providers to earn a new rating or improve their current rating. The Department of Human Services will continue to fund statewide implementation of Parent Aware. Continue reading A Legislative Update: Early Learning a Policy Priority for State
Jim Koppel, Assistant Commissioner for Children and Family Services for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, spoke to Policy Hour attendees on March 7th. He talked about the child care landscape generally in addition to providing updates on the status of some legislation this session.
In this current political climate, tensions are running high between parties, and it appears as if there’s nothing we can agree on. Nothing that is, except early care and education.
A recent national poll conducted by the First Five Years Fund found that 90 percent of voters agree that Congress and the next president should work to make quality early education accessible to low and middle-income families. As highlighted in the First Five Years Fund study:
“There is overwhelming support—with little opposition—for a federal plan that helps states and local communities provide better access to quality early childhood education. Nearly three quarters of the electorate support this plan: 73% favor and only 24% oppose. 54% of Republicans, 70% of Independents, 91% of Democrats voice support. A majority of key swing voter groups also favor investing more in early childhood education from birth to age five.”
The Minnesota’s Future June Policy Hour reviewed the 2016 legislative session, combing through a list of proposals that passed, did not pass, and some that still may pass if a special session is called. On hand to explain the information were Ann McCully, Executive Director of Child Care Aware of Minnesota, Valerie Dosland, lobbyist at Ewald Consulting, and Ben Horowitz, Policy Advocate at the Minnesota Budget Project.
A group of high ranking military generals residing in Minnesota sent a letter to legislators encouraging them to invest in Parent Aware, Minnesota’s quality rating system for all early learning programs. Their letter states: