Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed an omnibus early childhood education law that includes authorization of a task force to study and makes recommendations about creating an Office of Early Learning.
The task force will consider objectives related to how state agencies and other providers deliver early childhood services and measure their impact, and how quality can be improved. If established, the office could streamline oversight of education and child care services now administered by three departments: education, health and human services.
The new law directs the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care, sometimes referred to as the governor’s early childhood advisory council, to appoint the task force, which is to include representatives of state agencies serving young children, nonprofit organizers in the early childhood area, members of the council and representatives from the early childhood legislative caucus.
Sponsored by Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood) and Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), the law also adds the commissioner of health or a designated representative to the council. Other members include state agency representatives, parents, Head Start and early childhood educators, representatives of school districts and higher education and legislators.
Already in statute is a goal that all eligible children will be ready for kindergarten by 2020. By March 1, 2011, the council will make recommendations on creating a statewide school readiness report card to monitor progress toward that goal.
Beginning in fiscal year 2012, the council will study and make recommendations on a plan to screen and assess 3 year olds and entering kindergarteners for school-readiness, and report to the Legislature by 2013. Screening children is meant to assess developmental characteristics that could indicate being on track for school-readiness or the need for interventions in the case of developmental delays.
Slawik said the law is backed by the commitment of private foundations and community funders to support most of its proposals.
It directs $500,000 in federal funds to help child care providers receive training and improve the quality of their facilities in preparation for a statewide quality rating system. Providers may apply for grants through regional offices of the Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
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