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Early childhood omnibus bill passes

Published (5/13/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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The State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care would appoint a task force to study and make recommendations on creating an Office of Early Learning, through a bill on its way to the governor’s desk.

The omnibus early childhood bill, HF2760/ SF2505*, sponsored by Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood) and Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), would add the commissioner of health or a designated representative to the council. The bill lists who would serve on the task force, including representatives of state agencies serving young children, nonprofit organizers in the early childhood area, members of the council and representatives from the early childhood caucus.

The task force would consider a series of objectives related to delivering, measuring and improving quality of early childhood services. If established, an office could streamline oversight of education and child care services now administered by three departments: education, health and human services.

The council would also make recommendations on creating a statewide school readiness report card, and developing a plan to screen and assess 3 year olds and entering kindergarteners for school-readiness.

Slawik said the bill was crafted with bipartisan support and is backed by the commitment of private foundations and community funders to support most of its proposals.

It would also direct $500,000 in federal funds toward helping child care providers get training and improve the quality of their facilities in preparation for a statewide quality rating system.

Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) urged a no vote, saying while he supports some of its objectives, it would be “unwise to embark on a study that’s looking to expand the role of government” when the legislative focus is on “reducing the size and scope of state government.”

The state has established a goal that all eligible children will be ready for kindergarten by 2020. Task force recommendations would consider best ways to screen children for developmental characteristics that could indicate readiness or the need for interventions in the case of developmental delays.

The conference committee report, adopted 103-30 by the House and 57-10 by the Senate on May 10, moved proposed screening and assessment plans to 2012.

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