Minnesota House DFLers unveiled their “Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act” last week, a nearly $500 million investment in early childhood education.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said the money would be siphoned from the state’s projected $1.3 billion budget surplus, which some Republicans would like to return to taxpayers in the form of rebates.
“Our children are only young once so if we take some of the one-time budget surplus and invest now, we’ll have an impact on the rest of their lives,” Hortman said during a press conference. “When we have a one-time non-recurring surplus is the time to think about investing in our littlest learners.”
The proposal calls for $190 million for early learning scholarships for children between “birth and age three,” plus another $190 million in child care assistance funds. Democrats said they would also like to see $22 million in one-time provider support, which “would provide 2,000 children with access to high-quality affordable childcare while keeping providers in business.”
“The Minnesota House DFL believes all of our children deserve a great start in life,” Hortman added. “This year, House DFLers are proposing that the state make a significant investment in children from birth to age three. We know this is the most critical period for brain development, and we know that high quality early education can help close the opportunity gap.”
The bill calls for an additional $60 million in funding for the next biennium to “permanently secure pre-K opportunities for the next generation of four-year-olds.”
“Investments in child care and early child education are a proven way we can close the education opportunity gap and ensure our children have the chance to succeed,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley). “What we’re proposing today is a down payment on a bigger commitment to our youngest Minnesotans. These children are the future of our state. Getting them off to a great start doesn’t just help our state in the short run — it’s a critical investment in our state’s future success.”
A final section of the bill calls for investments in home visiting, a “voluntary service that helps stabilize families at risk.”
“It’s unconscionable that Minnesota’s children of color face such a persistent opportunity gap which prevents them from reaching their full potential both in the classroom and later on in life,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul). “All of us have a responsibility to push bold solutions to transform the way we educate, nurture, and care for our earliest learners. I’m committed to solutions like the Great Start Act and its investments to help ensure all children can have a bright future.”
The bill currently has 35 DFL and zero Republican cosponsors.
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