Statewide group needs advice re Mn early education programs


Advice needed regarding Minnesota’s early education/care programs

headstartHere’s a chance to have an impact on Minnesota’s early childhood and early care systems. The Governor’s Advisory Committee on these issues is preparing proposals for more than $1 million in federal funds – and we are eager to hear from parents, teachers, directors – anyone with insights into how these systems work, and how they could be improved.

One of the first things that the (volunteer members) of the Advisory Committee agreed on, when it began meeting earlier this year, was that we wanted to reach out, using the Internet, to Minnesotans.

Head Start programs are very successful throughout Minnesota. Here’s two happy examples of this popular program at the Child Care Resource and Referral Head Start in Rochester. (Photo, courtesy of Julie Buresh)


So the Advisory Committee (of which I am a member), worked with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Minnesota Department of Education to create a Web site. You can find it at

The Web site has sections discussing issues like access and finance, accountability, standards and professional development. Whether you are a parent whose youngster is attending a program like Head Start or Early Childhood/Family Education, or being cared for in someone’s home while you work during the day, we are eager to know what you think is working well, and what needs to be improved.

For parents: Do you have information that you need to find and choose among different programs? Have you been given helpful information about how you can help your child/children grow? What else would you like to know about helping your children? Would you prefer it to be “hard copy” or online?

The same is true of people working in an early education or early care programs. How can the state and counties help improve program quality? Do you need information about the standards your program is expected to meet? Does information about professional development reach you? What are the most important areas for further training?

The Advisory Committee includes parents and professionals from all over the state. Members include legislators from both parties, and people from universities, school district and Head Start programs. State agency staff have provided detailed, helpful support.

The committee has been free of any turf protection. I’m deeply impressed with fellow committee members, whose focus has been: “How can we improve things?” rather than “What can be done to obtain more money for my, and similar programs?” The chair, Sarah Caruso, has directed the Children’s Museum of Minnesota, and has just been named director of United Way in Minneapolis. She has pushed skillfully for us to produce clear, specific, practical and timely decisions and recommendations.

The Committee also has broken up into sub-groups focusing on different issues. You see the range of topics, mentioned above, when you go to the Web site.

Unquestionably, this group won’t solve all the problems of early education and care in Minnesota. But I think we can help move things forward. Hearing from experienced people, whether parents or providers, will help improve what we do. So I hope you will check out the Web site, and respond.

Joe Nathan, a former public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .