By Tim Penny, President, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Owatonna
The Minnesota Legislature is currently advancing legislation that will greatly affect the quality of early childhood offerings in Minnesota. Last week, the House quietly dealt a huge blow to early childhood education in Minnesota. Given that roughly 20 percent of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation programming and grants are tied to early childhood, we are anxiously watching developments at the Capitol on this issue.
Why is quality early childhood education important? Currently, 50 percent of children arriving at kindergarten are unprepared and many never catch up. Research shows that students from high-quality pre-K programs score significantly better in reading and math, are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, or need special education and are more likely to enroll in college. Our economic future depends on the early academic success of our children.
It appears that the Legislature may be removing the Parent Aware ratings system from the early childhood bill. That is unfortunate. The rating helps parents find child care providers using the evidence-based best practices that prepare children for kindergarten. Legislative provisions that tie public investment in early education to quality and provide rewards for providers based on quality are also in jeopardy.
We need these provisions included in the law before it goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature. Parents need to have access to the best available information to help them find the best places for preparing children for kindergarten.