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.