St. Paul, Minn. (Jan. 10, 2014) — MinneMinds, a statewide coalition of more than 70 organizations, announced Friday that its support for critical legislation that takes aim at the state’s academic achievement gap by expanding the early learning scholarship program and increasing flexibility for parents of scholarship students.
The bill, which was filed today by Representative Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley), would add an additional $20 million for early learning scholarships in the 2015 fiscal year and call for the base funding appropriation to be doubled in each fiscal year until the need of all at-risk children is met.
“The legislation that we are introducing today will deliver real results for Minnesota’s kids,” said Representative Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley). “With a budget surplus and a growing economy, now is the time to invest for a better future. Early education should be our first priority because it will help all kids succeed in school and prepare Minnesota for another generation of economic success. The time is now to fund scholarships that will enable all kids to fulfill their promise.”
In addition to increasing funding for scholarships, the bill would also change the existing $5,000 cap on scholarships to a target of a $6,000 statewide average, ensuring that families can afford the early learning opportunities that fit the needs of their child.
“The legislature took a good step forward last session by dedicating funding to pre-k scholarships. But there is still so much work yet to be done. At our Rice Street Center alone, we have 12 kids who have access to scholarships but 56 kids who are eligible for them,” said Becky Strauch, director of New Horizons Academy. “The legislature must continue to make this a priority until all kids have access to these crucial scholarships.”
Early learning scholarships allow families to choose a quality early learning program in their community, helping providers improve and expand quality early learning programs throughout Minnesota, and ultimately, dramatically improve kindergarten readiness.
“The MinneMinds coalition is thrilled that Minnesota’s legislators are continuing their commitment to pre-kindergarten scholarships,” said Frank Forsberg, executive chair of MinneMinds. “Our coalition will continue its advocacy work until every child in Minnesota, regardless of their background, can access quality learning options and have the chance at a prosperous future.”
Quality early learning has proven time and time again to help adequately prepare kids for school. Under current funding levels, 91 percent of eligible children remain unable to access quality learning opportunities in Minnesota. Members of the MinneMinds coalition firmly believe that increased flexibility of early learning scholarships and increased funding for the program are the best advances our state can make to help improve the lives of Minnesota kids and reduce the opportunities gap.
MinneMinds is supported by a broad base of over 70 statewide organizations and thought leaders with a common commitment to prioritizing Minnesota’s youngest children as the most pressing need and important investment for Minnesota. Supporting organizations include representatives of the education community from early childhood to K-12, the state’s leading philanthropic organizations, local chapters of national nonprofits and business.
Collectively and independently, these supporting organizations have advocated for and helped to advance a number of successful state policy changes and endeavors over the past several years. For more information and a complete list of MinneMinds supporters, visit www.MinneMinds.com.