SAINT PAUL, Minn.— The Minnesota House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division, chaired by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL – St. Paul), approved two division reports yesterday evening, completing its regular work for the session. The bills (HF 1801, as amended, and HF 2610, as amended) will be sent to the Health and Human Services Finance and Education Finance Divisions, respectively.
“All children deserve a great start to life,” said Rep. Pinto. “We all benefit when that happens. I’m excited to move forward with an ambitious agenda on behalf of the youngest Minnesotans.”
Provisions in the bills parallel House File 1, the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act, a top priority for the House DFL. As with the Great Start Act, the bills would expand home visiting, a voluntary service that helps to stabilize families at risk. They would expand access to early care and learning for an estimated 8,000 young children through increased investment in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), early learning scholarships, and voluntary pre-kindergarten. And they would provide grants to address Minnesota’s child care shortage.
Other measures in the bills would ensure program integrity, enhancing the ability of investigators to identify and prove any misuse of funds and at the same time helping to prevent such misuse from happening in the first place.
“Especially as a prosecutor, I’m appalled by any diversion of funds from children and families who need them,” said Pinto. “Our bills address such wrongdoing while continuing to invest in this critical program.”
Specific provisions in the Education Finance division report include the following:
- Making permanent the School Readiness Plus program - set to expire this year - preserving access to preschool for 4,000 children
- Increased investment in and flexibility for early learning scholarships, with a focus on birth to age three, providing new access to over 2,000 children
- Support for a program in St. Paul, with possible expansion statewide, to create college savings accounts at birth
- A bar on the suspension or expulsion of children from preschool programs
- A requirement for teacher licensure for preschool instructors in districts and charter schools
Specific provisions in the Health & Human Services division report relating to CCAP include the following:
- Increased funding to move nearly 2,000 families off of the waiting list
- An increase in the reimbursement rate for providers, currently set at the 25% percentile of an eight-year-old survey
- Enhanced and clarified requirements for attendance, billing, and recordkeeping
- Greater transparency in funding to individual providers
- Streamlined evidence collection and proof when wrongdoing is suspected
Other highlights in the Health & Human Services division report include:
- Loans through First Children’s Finance to expand child care facilities
- Grants through Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now (REETAIN) to provide incentives for child care professionals - among the lowest-paid workers - to remain in the industry