Letter: Bill not paying enough attention to early childhood

Published 1:25 pm Saturday, March 25, 2017

Creating an Early Childhood Access Fund to bring together funding streams like Head Start, school-based PreK and Early Learning Scholarships in theory could create a one-size funding model for young children 0-5. Children are different. Referring to varied programs as a “hodgepodge” minimizes the importance of having a mixed set of options.  These options provide a deeper and broader safety net for parents/families that are most at-risk. The current bill is far from a fair deal for poor children and children of color who make up Minnesota’s achievement gap.

Inequities will result from bill provisions that:

•Create a new layer of government in the Department of Administration (a state agency caring for buildings not children) to oversee some funds but not all of the critical early learning services many young children need like Screening, Special Education and English-Language Learning.

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•Reduce or eliminate access to state Child Care Assistance or Early Learning Scholarship funds for children participating in Head Start.

•Provide different levels of aid for income-eligible children based on their county of residence (as much as 50 percent less if you live in some rural counties).

•Use Parent Aware as a single standard for quality and service. While this is good for many, education experts acknowledge that culturally diverse children and those from extreme poverty need additional support such as comprehensive services and parent engagement offered through Head Start.

While the legislative intent is to close Minnesota’s “worst-in-the-nation achievement gaps”, the current bill will not be “getting early education right.”

Beth Stanford,

Director of Semcac Head Start