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A new education office proposed

Published (2/22/2008)
By Thomas Hammell
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An Office of Early Childhood Education may be established.

HF2983, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Peterson (DFL-New Hope), would require the governor to appoint a director of the office, with the goal of providing high quality early childhood programs to address challenges families face affecting school readiness and academic success. There is no companion bill in the Senate.

Approved Feb. 18 by the House E-12 Education Committee, it was sent to the House Finance Committee.

This director would coordinate the administration of the early childhood programs and child care programs administered by the Education and Human Services departments, create effective early childhood programs and create a transition between early childhood education and kindergarten.

Art Rolnick, senior vice president and director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said this is an issue of economic development, and it is the best investment the state can make.

“I think this would be a watershed for the state of Minnesota,” he said, adding that businesses in the state support the measure.

No fiscal note was provided.

Karen Cadigan, director of outreach and public policy for the Center for Early Education and Development at the University of Minnesota, said significantly less time and money are spent on early learners as opposed to K-12 education.

Rep. Lynn Wardlow (R-Eagan) asked if anybody in the Department of Education currently performs these tasks, and if families would be forced to participate.

“I’m concerned with large government, more bureaucracy,” Wardlow said.

Peterson said that as both parents work in more households, more children are being cared for by relatives or in day care. Participation in early childhood programs would remain voluntary, she said.

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