Minnesota awarded federal grant to coordinate early learning systems

Published 8:26 am Friday, January 4, 2019

Minnesota announced that the state received a $4.7 million federal grant to help build and improve the early learning landscape for families statewide on Wednesday.

With increased funding under Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, about $326 million was invested into the youngest students during the governor’s two terms, including school-based pre-kindergarten to early learning scholarships.

“Ensuring every child has a great start to their education and life has been Gov. Mark Dayton’s and my goal these past eight years,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “Adding more programs brings more options to families. This new federal grant allows us to continue engaging stakeholders across Minnesota to better align, track and fund programs. The grant will help us streamline and simplify services for easier use, which will help families find programs, help providers administer programs, and ultimately, help kids learn and grow.”

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The $4.7 million preschool development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allows Minnesota to address suggestions from a recent report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor. The Minnesota Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, along with the Children’s Cabinet, will analyze how to best coordinate policies, programs and resources across departments.

Grant funding will be used to create a statewide needs assessment with stakeholder and community feedback, and takes a look at multi-agency data systems for early learning programs, and build a strategic plan to better coordinate the state’s early care and education.

The duration of the grant will last for a year, after which Minnesota can be eligible to apply for an implementation grant to execute the plan created after a year of planning. Sara McJames, program director at Room for Growing Child Care Center in Forest Lake, acknowledges the complications from using multiple programs, and anticipates seeing improvements to early learning funding.

“We’re a small child care center, so it’s just me navigating the paperwork, forms, dates and requirements for our families who get support,” said McJames. “Each year, figuring out funding gets easier, but I know we could be working together even better for our students. I am glad that we’ll be able to come together over the next year to help make improvements and bring our experience to decisions.”