Millions requested for early childhood facilities


A pair of proposals would provide millions of dollars to help some of the state’s youngest residents. 

Sponsored by Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood), HF2458 would provide $1 million to the Human Services Department to provide grants to construct and rehabilitate early childhood learning and child protections facilities. Local matches would be required. Although there is no specific Senate companion bill, Slawik said the Senate is seeking $5 million for the program.

Slawik said similar proposals have been passed the past two sessions, but each was line-item vetoed by the governor. In 2005 and 2006, the grant program was awarded $500,000 each year. It received $2 million in 2000, $5 million in 1998, $3.5 million in 1996 and $2 million in both 1992 and 1994.

Four testifiers told the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division about the importance of these grants, especially to smaller towns. For example, the St. James School District would like to move and remodel a school for an early childhood facility, and the Faribault Public Schools would like money to add on to an elementary school to create a centralized location for early childhood programs. (Watch the meeting.)

Because the Legislature is not in session, the division took no action on the bill, or HF2482, sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia).

It seeks $4.02 million for an addition to the Parkview Learning Center to serve as a community-wide early childhood education center. Supporters said it would help expand early childhood and Head Start programs in the area by creating a hub for such programs, and allow for a year-round offering of services and for longer hours. The programs are currently in separate buildings, some of which are inadequate to effectively meet the community needs.

It has no Senate companion.

– Mike Cook