Pledge of at least $300 million!
I am excited to share that the State of Minnesota is making a significant investment in our children with its recent pledge of at least $300 million in new spending toward early childhood initiatives. Included with this funding will be early learning scholarships for low-income families, a grow-your-own educator grant program, and a new state agency dedicated to youth and families.
Currently, early education funding and programming is overseen and funded through two different agencies: the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). During this session, lawmakers took action to coordinate these programs with a new agency that will oversee programs related to childcare, food assistance, youth opportunity, and child protection.
This new department will be called the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and will go into effect in July 2024. With this bill, the current Department of Human Services (DHSD) administered Childcare Assistance Program and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) early learning scholarships will be combined and administered through an entirely new program known as the Great Start Scholarships. This move also combines Minnesota’s current daycare licensing process with Minnesota’s Parent Aware system which ranks early educational providers on school-readiness activities, developmental tracking, cultural responsiveness, and special needs accommodations.
I continue to be impressed with the professional development resources that have been made available to our staff through the Parent Aware program.
As Leo Augusta Children’s Academy works toward its accreditation with Parent Aware we continue to enrich the quality of our early educational programming and the lives of our children and their families. The Academy has been closely working with our Parent Quality and CLASS Coach, Autumn Larson, for the past five months and these are program benefits that we have realized through our affiliation with Parent Aware.
- Consultations with early childhood professionals
- Free coaching sessions
- Quality Improvement Support dollars
- Access to Early Learning Scholarships for families
- Increased childcare assistance rates
- Free and low-cost training seminars
- Professional development goals
- Preparing for school education and resources
- Marketing tools and support
As the Academy continues to review the appropriations from this last session, we are excited and pleased with the emphasis and priority that was provided to early education and childcare.
Some of the largest appropriations include:
- $5 million to establish a Grow Your Own early childhood educator grant program;
- $4.27 million for a new Great Start Scholarship Program that will work to ensure affordable access to high quality care and learning for children from birth to kindergarten entry;
- $1.8 million for a grant to the Parent Child+ Program for a literacy and school readiness for children ages 16 months to age four; and
- $1.1 million for a grant to Reach Out and Read Minnesota to establish a statewide plan to encourage early childhood development through health care clinics.
The Academy is excited and eager to begin our second year of operation and we have greatly appreciated the support and encouragement from our communities, our legislators, our families, and our staff. Most importantly, we will continue to be diligent about providing quality childcare and education to our children. The work is hard, and the days are long but I cannot think of anything more rewarding than this.
~ Doug Anderson, Director