Early Learning Investment – Turn Up the Volume!

By Todd Otis

The early childhood movement has come a long way in the past twenty years, and has a long way to go.

The public now understands the importance of early care and education both for a child’s educational success and to assure a future skilled, prosperous workforce. It now understands that public investment in quality early learning is a valid and important policy priority. A majority of people polled are even willing to pay higher taxes, if the taxes are used to improve early learning.

Todd Otis

Quality early learning is vastly under-resourced; there is far too little money in the system to provide parents the choices they deserve or maintain the quality workforce our children need.  As a result, far too many of our youngest children are being cheated, pure and simple.

At the very time when young families have the least amount of money, they are forced to pay $10-12,000 directly out of their pockets per child, and many families simply do not have that kind of money. Whereas at least 75% of K-12 education (public and private) is paid for by public sources and 25% by families, those numbers are reversed for early care and education. Most families simply cannot afford to pay for the quality early learning their kids deserve. Continue reading Early Learning Investment – Turn Up the Volume!

Legislative Wrap-Up: How did Early Learning Fare?

Minnesota legislators wrapped up the special session last week, and the Governor signed budget bills into law. Read about the new policies and programs that affect early learning throughout the state.

For more details about the provisions, check out the Child Care Aware of Minnesota Legislative Update. Continue to look for more specifics as the administration and departments work on the implementation process.

Education

EARLY LEARNING SCHOLARSHIPS  

  • Increase in funding of $20.6 million over the biennium for Pathway I
  • Adds homeless, foster and child protection to priority list and expands this priority list to serve age 0-5
  • Early learning scholarships can be used at one, two, three and four star Parent Aware-Rated sites until 2020. Starting in 2020, only three and four Star rated programs will be eligible.

Continue reading Legislative Wrap-Up: How did Early Learning Fare?

A Legislative Update: Early Learning a Policy Priority for State

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

Policy Hour: Updates, Challenges and Bright Spots

Jim Koppel presented at March Policy Hour.

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.

MN Legislature Updates

Koppel said that legislation for the following policies has been introduced. Continue reading Policy Hour: Updates, Challenges and Bright Spots

Early Education Spotlight: Little Learners

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

grandma-grandpa-3
Children from Little Learners with the residents, “Grandmas and Grandpas.”

Little Learners in Ada, Minnesota, is set up to be unique. Located in the same building as Benedictine Living Community, which offers independent and assisted living options for adults, the early learning program finds many opportunities to partner with the “Grandmas and Grandpas.” Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Little Learners

Macy’s Story: Early Education at Age 2 Makes the Difference

Macy started her child care program at age two, with no previous early learning experience. Since then, she’s blossomed. She is now the star student of her program and completely ready for kindergarten. An Early Learning Scholarship allowed her to start the program at a young age, since she lives in a Transformation Zone in Minnesota. Her family’s daily life would be completely different without it. It’s allowed her mother to work and go back to school, two things that would not be possible without the scholarship. Watch how her scholarships, combined with a high-quality program, have made all the difference for Macy.

 

Continue reading Macy’s Story: Early Education at Age 2 Makes the Difference

County by County, Here’s What Child Care Looks Like Across Minnesota

preschool-girl-learning-1251296We must close gaps first by supporting early learning programs already in place to reach our most at risk children. Child Care is an essential and large piece of this puzzle, providing quality early learning opportunities across Minnesota that focus on getting the whole child ready to succeed.

Continue reading County by County, Here’s What Child Care Looks Like Across Minnesota

The Wisest Choices Minnesota Can Make for Early Learning

BarbaraYates-HeadshotBy: Barbara Yates, President and CEO of Think Small

We’ve heard it before.

If everything is your priority, then nothing is your priority.

Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.

But, it’s true. Budgets are important. It’s how we know if elected officials are putting their money where their mouth is. It’s how we know what will get done, and what won’t.

Continue reading The Wisest Choices Minnesota Can Make for Early Learning

Think Small Announces 2016 Legislative Agenda

MN capitolThink Small is dedicated to continue improving the early learning landscape across Minnesota, impacting the lives of children and the future of our state and starting with the children who need our help the most.  Children from low-income families face the steepest obstacles to success. Nearly 50 percent of children in Minnesota begin kindergarten not fully prepared with the necessary skills to succeed in school. We know many of these children are from low-income families and often never catch up to their more well off peers.

Continue reading Think Small Announces 2016 Legislative Agenda

New Evaluation Highlights Positive Impact of Early Learning Scholarships

The Minnesota Department of Education delivered an evaluation of Early Learning Scholarships to the Minnesota Legislature this week, which found that children who receive Early Learning Scholarships are making significant gains in the skills they need for school and life. This is the first evaluation of the program.

Continue reading New Evaluation Highlights Positive Impact of Early Learning Scholarships