Event Recap

 Use this for short write-ups about events and to share photos, highlights, etc from the event

What the Education Bill Promises the State’s Earliest Learners

What the Education Bill Promises the State’s Earliest Learners 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

After much debate, Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature have passed the Education Bill with hopes of narrowing Minnesota’s achievement gap and ensuring all children receive the best education possible. The bill includes enacting free all-day Kindergarten, expanding access to early learning opportunities, and increasing funding for K-12 schools.

Though the final bill does not include universal pre-k, Governor Dayton and the Legislature agreed to invest an additional $100 million in early learning initiatives as well as an additional $48 million in early learning scholarships. The total funding for early learning scholarships for the FY 16-17 biennium is $104 million, nearly doubling to allow more children to access high quality early education and care.

The additional funding for early learning scholarships will provide an estimated 20,000 children four-years-old and younger the opportunity to attend high quality early learning programs. Furthermore, the Legislature will continue to invest in the Parent Aware initiative, which will allow the Quality Rating System to continue to add providers.

Art Rolnick, former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and a current senior fellow at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, writes, “The current scholarship-based approach targets limited state funding to low-income children, because they are the most likely to start kindergarten behind and fall into the K-12 achievement gap. Research I and others have conducted clearly shows that investing in helping low-income children access high-quality early education delivers by far the highest return-on-investment.”

For more details on the Education Bill, check out the 2015 Budget for a Better Minnesota | A State of Educational Excellence Fact Sheet.

Cradle to K Cabinet Releases Final Plan to Address Early Learning Disparities in Minneapolis

Cradle to K Cabinet Releases Final Plan to Address Early Learning Disparities in Minneapolis 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Mayor Hodges and the Cradle to K Cabinet released the final Cradle to K report outlining policy, legislative and collaborative recommendations for 2015 and beyond.

“As much as possible, these recommendations are based on research and the prevailing best practices in the field and in our community.  We want to focus on what works.”
-Mayor Betsy Hodges

The Cabinet, focused on eliminating disparities for children in the City of Minneapolis from prenatal to age three, released the draft report earlier this year.  “I want to thank the community for the serious and heartfelt response we received to the draft report.  I think you will find we took many comments to heart and incorporated your feedback into the final report,” says Mayor Betsy Hodges, “These recommendations are grounded in our three goals and have been labored on not just by our 28 Cabinet members but also by our subcommittees and additional community members.”

The Cabinet is recommending systems alignment, leveraging existing resources, and increased investments in children in the areas of targeted home visiting, housing for very-low income families, child care assistance and early learning scholarships, and service funding for our most vulnerable children such as homeless children and children with special needs.  “The Cabinet’s work is not done,” states Cabinet Co-Chair, Peggy Flanagan, calling Cradle to K a labor of love. “We are ready to get to work.”

Carolyn Smallwood, Cabinet Co-Chair and Executive Director of Way to Grow, adds that the Cabinet is now putting together its implementation plan.  Carolyn outlined a few of the things the Cabinet will be working on right away:

  • Improving the mental health services for children zero to three
  • Combining efforts with Generation Next and others to continue to increase early childhood screening efforts
  • Working on ways to increase the availability of housing for the most low-income families
  • Looking at ways to increase early learning scholarship opportunities for families in Minneapolis and
  • Trying to connect with family, friend and neighbor care providers who provide the majority of care to very young children.

Of these, Carolyn highlights, “It is critical for family, friend and neighbor care providers to have the correct information on getting kids ready for school.”  The Cabinet’s vision for the future, as told by Mayor Hodges, is for every parent and child to have the same access to resources beginning with prenatal care, continuing to empower parents to create a nurturing environment for their children, having stable housing that can provide a safe place to learn, and not having that access be determined or affected by income or race.

The Mayor has said Cradle to K is one of her main priorities this year.  The full report is available on the Mayor’s website.

Check out Way to Grow’s feature on KARE 11.

2015 Children and Youth Issues Briefing Recap

2015 Children and Youth Issues Briefing Recap 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

This morning, nearly 1,000 influential advocates gathered at the 2015 Children & Youth Issues Briefing in Saint Paul.

The event kicked off with an address from Governor Mark Dayton who announced that his upcoming budget proposal (reviewed next Tuesday) will allocate $372 million to “children and education.”  Acknowledging that many Minnesota families have critical unmet needs, Gov. Dayton noted that often times, what 4-5 year olds have already endured is what is truly driving inequality.

Recognizing and emphasizing the holistic approach necessary to improve education outcomes, topics of discussion included:

  • Prenatal care and health education
  • Access to quality early education
  • Homelessness and socio-economic challenges
  • Stabilizing Minnesota families
  • Improving and ensuring the quality of our teachers
  • Increasing support for targeted home visiting
  • Equality in after-school programming
  • Affordability of higher education

Today is a day to be reminded that we all have the power to be the agents of change in our community.  The issues affecting the lives of our youth are not only being heard, but are being discussed and we invite you to join the conversation! Write, call, tweet or post to your legislator today and let them know that the issues above affecting Minnesota’s youngest citizens, matter to you!

Cooking Matters Class Comes to a Delicious End

Cooking Matters Class Comes to a Delicious End 541 271 Way to Grow

In week five of Way to Grow’s six week Cooking Matters class, the group took a trip to Cub Foods. But this was unlike any ordinary trip to the grocery store. The group was posed with a challenge: using $10 or less, buy ingredients for a meal that incorporates all five food groups and feeds four.

Cherise rose to the challenge, choosing ground turkey, a tomato, whole wheat tortillas, cheese and romaine lettuce. While she normally grabs iceberg lettuce, instructor Erin informed her that the darker color of the romaine means it’s packed with more good-for-you nutrition, so Cherise decided to branch out. The mini lesson is just one small example of the knowledge Cooking Matters participants learn during any given class.

The mixture of staying under the $10 budget, branching out to try new foods and adding a dash of creativity sent Cherise home with a brand new cooking pan! Her children and sister enjoyed the meal, she said; though, the romaine lettuce wasn’t a hit with her toddler, who thought it was a toy leaf.

The final Cooking Matters class went out on a zesty note today, as participants made and consumed a fabulous meal of homemade corn tortilla chips, mango salsa and a refreshing apple-lime fizz drink.

The class wrapped up with a graduation. Each participant received a certificate of completion, a reusable grocery bag filled with healthy foods and a cookbook with affordable meal and snack ideas. Participants thanked the instructors, citing that they now know how to better understand nutrition labels, purchase healthier foods and stick to a grocery budget.

Cooking Matters’ mission is to help families shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. Huge thanks to Cargill for providing the class funds, the University of Minnesota Extension for teaching the class and the Center for Families for hosting.

Check out our Facebook page for a gallery of photos from today’s final class.

A Very Special Delivery

A Very Special Delivery 150 150 Way to Grow

Yesterday, we received a very special delivery: a collection of bilingual board books in Spanish and Somali! The books were purchased with funds raised through our yearly Santa Claus appearance at Magers and Quinn Booksellers in Uptown, Minneapolis.

Pictured above: Gary Mazzone, ‎Outreach & Sales Director at Magers and Quinn Booksellers; Elizabeth Fields; Jenny Donovan; Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow; Carrie Johnson, Director of Early Education at Way to Grow; Melissa Meyer, Annual Fund & Communications Manager.

Thanks to Magers and Quinn and the United Educators Credit Union for their continued support of Way to Grow!

Valentine Fun at WTG

Valentine Fun at WTG 150 150 Way to Grow

We sure had fun getting crafty for Valentine’s Day. Our Family Educators were especially good at coming up with fun and creative ideas using scraps from around the office. We hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day and a restful weekend.

Words to Grow

Words to Grow 150 150 Way to Grow

This week, a group of our Family Educators (and a special little helper who had a free day from school due to the cold!) assembled word kits for families of third grade students.These kits are designed to help parents get their children ready for the MCA tests.

This is just one of many ways that Way to Grow brings literacy into the homes of our families. To learn more about our Elementary Education programming, please click here. Stay tuned to the Great by Eight blog for a list of our favorite books that meet state standards for reading comprehension.

Family-focused Education: from Finances to Games

Family-focused Education: from Finances to Games 150 150 Way to Grow

Family Game Night  

Part of our ongoing work with families is stressing the importance of reading, activities and family togetherness. On April 2nd and 5th, we partnered with Hosmer and North Regional Libraries to introduce over 20 families to the game Set.  Thanks to the families and volunteers who participated!

Finance Class

In partnership with the FATHER Project and Lutheran Social Services, we recently presented three financial literacy classes to our Way to Grow families. Over 40 families took part. We provide day care for their children, so while parents are learning about savings and financial stability, the children are making piggy banks and working with play money.

Jim Davnie, who helped facilitate the class, is a financial educator with Lutheran Social Service Financial Counseling in Minneapolis. In that role Jim speaks each year to many community groups, business gatherings, church congregations, high school classes and others about personal finance and consumer protection.

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