Business leaders tackle the kindergarten readiness gap

Little kids have influential allies at the State Capitol this year. The business-led Minnesota Early Learning Foundation’s legislative agenda and Governor Dayton’s seven-point “Better Schools for a Better Minnesota” plan both raise the profile of early childhood education and focus on narrowing the achievement gap.  MELF is supporting system changes that it says promise better early learning outcomes for little kids through market-based reforms.MELF’s bill, Senate File 331, calls for policy reforms that would expand Parent Aware, a program quality rating system they piloted, coupled with $4,000/year scholarships for low income families to choose high-rated programs in four pilot areas of the state. Recognizing the state’s challenging deficit, MELF is asking for no new funding, proposing instead to shift funds from current programs. MELF’s bill would also create tax credits for early childhood teachers who improve their training and remain in their jobs and for businesses or individuals who donate to the early childhood scholarships or for program improvements linked to higher quality. Read MELF’s summary of the bill here.The provision for shifting the School Readiness funding stream away from existing school district programs and into scholarships for low-income children is meeting predictably strong resistance from school districts and their allies. Continue Reading