SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Today, Minnesota House DFL leaders and legislators unveiled HF 1, the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act, a new plan to close the opportunity gap and invest in early care and learning. This legislation is part of the 2020 Minnesota Values Plan and a priority for House DFLers.
“The Minnesota House DFL believes all of our children deserve a great start in life,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “This year, House DFLers are proposing that the state make a significant investment in children from birth to age 3. We know this is the most critical period for brain development, and we know that high quality early education can help close the opportunity gap. Our children are only young once. Investments now — like the ones we’re proposing — will positively impact them for the rest of their lives.”
House DFLers are focusing on our youngest Minnesotans because research shows that the biggest payoff comes in the earliest weeks and months of a child’s life. The Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act provides $190 million for early learning scholarships that are targeted to kids between birth and age three. This investment would positively impact approximately 25,000 Minnesota children for the rest of their lives.
“Investments in child care and early child education are a proven way we can close the education opportunity gap and ensure our children have the chance to succeed,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “What we’re proposing today is a down payment on a bigger commitment to our youngest Minnesotans. These children are the future of our state. Getting them off to a great start doesn’t just help our state in the short run — it’s a critical investment in our state’s future success.”
The Minnesota House DFL is committed to supporting Minnesotans who are struggling with the high cost of child care and our dedicated child care providers. The Great Start Act invests $190 million in child care assistance and nearly $22 million in one-time provider support. These investments would provide 2,000 children with access to high-quality affordable childcare while keeping providers in business and able to continue accepting children from low-income families. Minnesota has one of the largest opportunity gaps and most significant racial disparities in the country. These investments would begin to address this opportunity gap, and our state’s child care shortage.
“I’m excited to move forward with an ambitious agenda on behalf of the youngest Minnesotans,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL – St. Paul), Chair of the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division. “We all benefit when Minnesota children get a great start in life. The investments we’re proposing ensure that parents can work, businesses can hire, and communities can thrive, both now and long into the future.”
House DFLers preserved access to voluntary pre-kindergarten for thousands of young Minnesotans last year. This year’s proposal would permanently secure pre-K opportunities for the next generation of four-year-olds with $60 million for the next biennium. This funding would ensure that 4,000 children can continue receiving school-based preschool.
“If we’re serious about closing our state’s achievement gap, we need to start by passing legislation that invests in our youngest Minnesotans long before they set foot in a kindergarten classroom,” said Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL - Eden Prairie), author of the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act. “The bill we’re bringing to the table not only supports our pre-K students, but also extends a helping hand to the families who are struggling to build up the economic security their children deserve.”
The Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act also invests in home visiting, a voluntary service that helps stabilize families at risk. Funding in the bill would provide this critical support for nearly 4,000 families. The legislation provides funding for evaluations and regulatory reforms.
“It’s unconscionable that Minnesota’s children of color face such a persistent opportunity gap which prevents them from reaching their full potential both in the classroom and later on in life,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL - St. Paul). “All of us have a responsibility to push bold solutions to transform the way we educate, nurture, and care for our earliest learners. I’m committed to solutions like the Great Start Act and its investments to help ensure all children can have a bright future.”
Child care providers and early childhood advocates from across the state joined House DFLers to share their experiences and show support for the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act. Karen Devos, Allison Petri, and Karin Swenson spoke at the press conference.