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Rep. Murphy to introduce comprehensive early childhood education package, establishing “MinneK” pre-K program

Monday, March 21, 2016

SAINT PAUL, MN — Today, Deputy Minority Leader Erin Murphy (DFL-Saint Paul) will introduce “MinneK” a high-quality, voluntary prekindergarten program. MinneK would allow schools to offer half-day, developmentally-appropriate PreK to 4-year olds across the state. The bill provides funds for schools to expand space to meet the needs of accommodating PreK programs, as well as loan forgiveness for teachers and a program to encourage current non-licensed district staff to obtain licensure.

“We know the research,” said Rep. Murphy. “Study after study shows the effect high-quality PreK has on a child, including higher graduation rates and reducing the need for special education. Add to that the positive impact on state and local economic growth and a reduction in social services costs, and MinneK becomes a strategic investment in our future.”

With MinneK, districts and parents could choose to participate. Participating districts would receive general education, per-pupil funding at 0.6 ADM, which was roughly the same amount districts were funded for half-day kindergarten. Participating districts would also continue receiving school readiness aid in order to provide supportive services for kids in need of additional services. MinneK would be taught by licensed teachers using play-based instruction.

“In order to better understand the challenges communities face in providing PreK to families, I spent much of the past year traveling the state, meeting with those on the frontlines of delivering early learning opportunities to families. This bill is reflective of the many voices I heard, from each corner of the state. Parents want affordable, high-quality options for their kids. Districts want to offer PreK but need help with space and transportation. Teachers implored me to develop a developmentally appropriate model so kids can develop socially and learn through play. Communities are leading by doing, and they are ahead of us. They seek flexibility and I offer that in this MinneK proposal.”

In addition to establishing the MinneK prekindergarten program, this legislation will also expand the pool of quality teachers through a “grow your own” grant program for early childhood educators, encouraging current non-licensed district employees to gain a PreK license, as well as providing support for teachers licensed in a different content area. In order to retain teachers, the bill also includes a loan forgiveness program. Lastly, it meets the needs of local schools through funding for transportation costs and school improvements to accommodate these new learners.

“Minnesota is rich with quality early childhood programs. In schools, in churches, and in daycare settings all across our state, children who have access are being lovingly cared for,” said Katy Smith, a parent, educator, and the 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year from Winona. “It’s time for us to take the next important steps in making quality early childhood programs accessible to all Minnesota families. The next step is to expand the scope of preschool and parent support to all four year olds in our state. The research is clear, the best investment we can make in the future of our state is in the minds and hearts of our youngest learners. We compound any investment we make in children when we include and engage their parents and caregivers as partners in caring for the children we share.”

The MinneK legislation also expands the qualifying age for early learning scholarships, eliminates the current Head Start waiting list, provides funding for home-visiting, and established a digital home-visiting program.

Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-Saint Paul) is the Deputy Minority Leader and the former Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.



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