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Parent Aware

Published (1/28/2011)
By Kris Berggren
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The Minnesota Early Learning Foundation recommended to the House Education Finance Committee Jan. 25 a statewide rollout of its Parent Aware child care rating system as a means to get more children ready for kindergarten learning and beyond.

The foundation, a public-private partnership due to sunset at the end of the year, has invested $20 million of private funds to operate a pilot child care rating system, Parent Aware, since 2007 in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Wayzata plus Blue Earth and Nicollet counties.

Parent Aware rates child care providers on their quality and funded quality improvements and training for providers, plus provides scholarships for some families who can’t afford market rate care.

Laurie Davis, MELF policy director, said the pilots have empowered parents; maintained consistency of care; and prepared children for kindergarten, as measured by their pre-literacy, pre-numeracy skills and social and emotional development.

MELF recommends a “train and retain” tax credit for providers to take classes in child development and a “hero tax credit” for donors to Parent Aware scholarship or program improvement funds.

“Wouldn’t it be more efficient just to fund sliding fee child care?” Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) said. She supports the quality ratings, but said tax credits don’t help many poor families.

Davis said Child Care Assistance Program funds, for which some families qualify, are not required to be linked to quality rated programs, nor do they reimburse providers at their market rate. She said reforming the system to link funding with quality is a long-term goal.

MELF Executive Director Duane Benson called the credit an incentive that could drive investment and be used for scholarships.

Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) said the pilot may be a model for how to deliver services with value, adding that the rigorous pilot study produced sound data and is “absolutely a basis for making good policy decisions.”

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