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Minnesota Legislature

Omnibus early childhood education bill includes more scholarship funding

The House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division receives a walkthrough of the education finance division and health and human services finance division reports March 26. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Increasing funding for early learning scholarships is one of the big-ticket items in the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division’s omnibus education bill.

The division began hearings on HF2610, as amended, Tuesday morning with a walkthrough by nonpartisan House Research Department staff. Public testimony is scheduled Tuesday evening. Amendments are expected to be offered and action taken on the bill Thursday.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul), the division chair, would increase funding for early learning scholarships by $12 million in the upcoming biennium, for a total appropriation of $153 million. Reflecting a recommendation of Gov. Tim Walz, the bill would also maintain 4,000 voluntary pre-K seats that are set to expire this year, with a $47 million appropriation in the 2020-21 biennium. A policy change would also make the seats permanent.

The proposal includes the following appropriations:

  • up to $950,000 annually to the Department of Education for costs associated with administering and monitoring the early learning scholarship program;
  • $500,000 for the St. Paul college savings account program;
  • $205,000 to Reach Out and Read Minnesota; and
  • $200,000 to the Metro Deaf Charter School.

Other notable policy provisions would:

  • modify the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act, prohibiting a school district from suspending or expelling a child participating in a pre-Kindergarten program;
  • require all preschool instructors to meet the teacher licensure requirements that apply to K-12 teachers;
  • modify eligibility for early learning scholarships;
  • establish a special revenue fund for the early learning scholarship program;
  • authorize tribal organizations and Head Start programs to work with the Department of Human Services to conduct background studies on individuals affiliated with a child care program; and
  • require the Education and Human Services departments to jointly submit a legislative report focused on enhancing coordination of the child care assistance programs and the early learning scholarship program.

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the division report:

 


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