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RELEASE: House Committees Hold Joint Hearing on Early Care and Learning Crisis

Friday, October 4, 2019

St. Paul, Minn. — As part of the Mini-Session in Southeastern Minnesota, the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division and Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division held a joint hearing yesterday to discuss the child care shortage and affordability crisis in Minnesota.

“We’re facing a crisis in Minnesota in early care and education,” said Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division Chair Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul). “Parents can’t find or afford care, providers aren’t paid a living wage, and children aren’t receiving the high-quality early learning that they need. The economic model is broken, with consequences for families and communities throughout the state, now and in the future. It’s time to invest in giving every Minnesota child a great start in life.”

Katie Tibbs, a Winona mother of four told lawmakers she felt like she had “won the lottery” when she was able to get her child into an early childhood program, despite having to take out more student loans to cover the cost.

According to the American Community Survey, nearly 75% of Minnesota parents with children under the age of six are in the labor force and are in need of some type of early child care and education. Committee members heard testimony from representatives of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), business leaders, and a broad coalition of experts in the early childcare and education field. Angie Bissen, who works in Human Resources with Hormel Foods, shared concerns with the growing problem around employee retention, as many parents are opting to leave the workforce in order to save money and ensure quality, reliable childcare.

“When businesses make decisions about operations in our region- if child care is not available- the ultimate loss is the main streets of our region,” said Tim Penny, former Congressman and CEO of the Southern MN Initiative Foundation. “Families are making real decisions about where they live and work based on all of these factors. It leaves a larger and sometimes irreversible impact on the small towns and communities that they are leaving.”

Committee members discussed potential solutions to consider for the 2020 legislative session. Some of these included: increased investments in early care and education programming to ensure a great start and greater accessibility; reforming the structure of the Child Care Assistance Program; improving Parent Aware standards; and developing additional grant opportunities to help new and existing programs adopt kindergarten readiness.

The Minnesota House of Representatives’ mini-session, which took place in Austin, Rochester, Winona and surrounding areas concluded today. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the 1989 mini-session in Winona.

The Minnesota Legislature will convene the 2020 regular session on February 11.