By Marie Huey, Public Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) presented at the first Policy Hour of the season. June Reineke and Amanda Varley shared updates on changes to early education policy and funding from the 2017 legislative session.
Early Learning Scholarships Early Learning Scholarships are funds used to increase access to high-quality early childhood programs for three to five year olds and zero to two year olds in some circumstances. They aim to support kindergarten readiness for children with the highest needs.
Pathway I Scholarships are awarded to eligible children through an Area Administrator. Parents choose the program where they would like to use the scholarship. Pathway II Scholarships are awarded to children through a Four Star Parent Aware rated early childhood site. Programs apply to receive the Pathway II funds.
Varley noted the impressive expansion of scholarship funding, which started out as $2 million for select areas in 2013 and is now a $70.2 million statewide program. They will serve an estimated 16,000 children in the current fiscal year (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018).
Legislative Task Force on Child Care Access and Affordability
Senator Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington, was one of the presenters at the February Policy Hour organized by Minnesota’s Future and hosted by Think Small. Sen. Wiklund talked about a report by the Legislative Task Force on Child Care Access and Affordability.
New federal policy changes will affect the Minnesota early learning field. November Policy Hour featured staff from the state departments of Education and Human Services sharing updates about the changes.
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.