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Big picture for small children

Published (3/18/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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Members of the School Readiness Funders Coalition, a nonpartisan group of grant-makers, told the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division March 11 they are willing to back legislative efforts to boost early childhood learning and care with private funding.

“We care deeply about helping our state to build a system that delivers successful results and outcomes for all children in the state of Minnesota,” said Sandy Vargas, president and chief executive officer of the Minneapolis Foundation. She said coalition members reviewed “extensive research” and interviewed 175 stakeholders to determine its early childhood funding priorities: to develop statewide leadership, system accountability and track and improve outcomes.

The division held over several bills aligned with these goals for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) sponsors HF3471, which would direct the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care to make recommendations about what to measure on a statewide early childhood report card about progress toward children’s school readiness. Its companion, SF3131, is sponsored by Sen. Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud).

HF3470, sponsored by Division Chairwoman Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood), would direct the council to recommend the best process for widespread children’s health and developmental screening and assessment, with a goal of screening 50 percent of all eligible children by 2015. Sen. Sandy Rummel (DFL-White Bear Lake) sponsors a companion, SF3119.

The companion bills await action by the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Sandra Peterson (DFL-New Hope) sponsors HF3510, which would create an Office of Early Childhood Care and Education, which she called “one of the most necessary components of our vision for the future.” It would coordinate the divergent early childhood programs and services in human services, health and education departments.

The coalition also recommends continuing a child care quality rating system modeled on the Parent Aware pilot. Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) sponsors HF3432, which would require that quality rating expansion be approved by the Legislature and governor. Neither bill has a Senate companion.

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