Boost in Early Education Funding Reaches 8,000 Minnesota Students – what about the other 30,000?

Posted in Vibrant Rural

Recently, both federal and state governments have taken bold steps to improve early childhood education.

In May, the state education budget increased by $485 million after being signed into law by Governor Dayton. More than $170 million of that increase will go towards early education programs like all-day kindergarten and preschool.

Similarly, in President Obama’s February state-of-the-union address, he proposed a $75 billion increase over 10 years that would provide preschool for a million more low- and middle- income children.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stopped by a Minnesota preschool to garner support for Obama’s “Preschool for All” initiative.

In a Pioneer Press article, Duncan stated:

“As I look across the country, Republican and Democratic governors, in tough economic times, are investing in early learning,” Duncan said. “I think it’s important Washington pays attention to the real world.”

While states are investing in early learning, the funding boost isn’t satisfying the existing need. The article continues,

“In Minnesota, lawmakers’ latest $40 million in additional funding means 8,000 more students will receive scholarships, but that’s nowhere near satisfying the needs of nearly 30,000 more children whose parents want them to attend programs, but they can’t.”

In 2011, Itasca County, our home community, was selected as a Transformation Zone for the Minnesota’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant, an effort to improve early learning and development opportunities for children. Through this infusion of available resources, 148 additional children have been served in high-quality early education programs (Head Start, school-based, center-based and licensed family child care).

Courtesy of KOOTASCA. See their full report at www.kootasca.org.

“We are thrilled that so many children have benefited from these dollars, but we would be even happier to erase the waiting list which is currently at 369 children,” says Blandin Foundation Program Officer Mary Kosak. “Our goal is to provide the best possible start for all children, so we will continue to advocate for adequate investment in our youngest citizens!”

With commitments from both federal and state government, the early education needle is moving in the right direction. Many of our littlest learners will enter into preschool this year thanks to additional state funding. Now, for the other 30,000…