Parent-child home program grant approved


A plan to fund a parent-child home program using money meant for early childhood education scholarships turned controversial in the House Education Finance Committee.

Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) sponsors HF2729 that would allocate $250,000 for a parent-child home program grant. In these programs, instructors visit families at home to help parents teach and interact with their children, especially in areas that build literacy skills for school readiness. The grant that would fund this program is intended for low-income families with children ages 3 to 4.

Committee members approved the bill for the House Ways and Means Committee. Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) sponsors the companion, SF2107, which awaits action by the full Senate.

Loon explained that programs like this assist children in need and help families facing poverty improve their economic status. Judy Halper, CEO of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis, testified that in-home training with parents also increases children’s graduation rates and brain development.

The Department of Education criticized the bill, which would draw funding from a $4 million scholarship program established by the Legislature last year. Kevin McHenry, government relations director, said that lawmakers instructed the department to develop a plan to allocate the money. He opposed the bill because it would reduce the already limited budget for the program, which is undergoing development.

Committee chairman Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) objected to protests from the department.

“I stand up for the legislative branch as a coequal partner in government. If the department is of the opinion that they can get out the truck and drive over us on this issue, they are sadly mistaken and in a bad place to be,” Garofalo said.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) agreed with the department, saying that the bill robs one program to fund another. She said that she hopes to see new funding for this program instead.

“I just violently oppose taking this tactic. Violently. … My whole stomach churns to think about us taking this sort of a tactic,” she said.