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Multimedia Release: Town Hall Forum Highlights Investments in Minnesota’s Youngest Learners

July 16, 2013

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Governor Mark Dayton Discuss Importance of Early Learning
ST. PAUL, MN – Governor Mark Dayton joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Bloomington today for a town hall forum focused on the importance of investing in early learning. The discussion highlighted new investments in early childhood education that were made by Minnesota this year, as well as tens of millions of dollars in new federal funding the state would receive under an early learning proposal put forward by President Barack Obama.
This year, Governor Dayton signed a new state budget into law that invested an additional $600 million in E-12 education, including $40 million for early learning scholarships that will help more than 8,000 Minnesota children attend high quality childcare and preschool programs, and an additional $24 million to improve the quality and accessibility of that childcare. The state’s new budget also invested $134 million to help all Minnesota school districts provide free all-day Kindergarten to every student beginning in September 2014. Only 54 percent of Minnesota school districts currently offer all-day Kindergarten; districts that do offer such options often charge as much as $3,500 per student.
“Minnesota’s future success depends upon our giving every child the chance to succeed,” said Governor Dayton. “By starting early, we will help ensure that every learner can excel in the classroom, in the community, and in life.”
Today’s event was part of a series of events that Secretary Duncan has hosted across the country to draw attention to President Barack Obama’s proposal to dramatically expand funding for early learning programs. Under the President’s proposal, Minnesota would receive $38.7 million in the first year it participates in the Preschool for All program. This funding, combined with a state match, would serve about 4,736 children in the first year of the program alone.
“President Obama has put forward a bold plan to make high-quality preschool affordable for all children – a vital step in putting young people on a path to a thriving middle class,” said Secretary Duncan. “As today’s visit and discussions proved, that federal effort builds on the leadership of states like Minnesota. Your state is doing that work in earnest; and your children are better for it.”


PHOTO: Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan [LINK]
PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Governor Mark Dayton, Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, and town hall panelists [LINK]
GOV. DAYTON AUDIO: “Back, in 1968-69 my senior year of college, I volunteered at a head start program in New Haven. And it was known back then that the Head Start boosted the opportunities for early learning, especially for kids of disadvantaged backgrounds. And Art Rolnick, and Mayor Don Fraser, of Minneapolis, about the same time, were saying, this is crucial – we have to start earlier – in terms of educational opportunities. We adults are slow learners, I guess, because it has taken us all this time now to really catch on, and to begin to catch up. I’m glad that it’s happened under my watch with the support of the legislators, and to get the first state funding for early childhood scholarships.” [LINK]
SEC. DUNCAN AUDIO: “So, the stakes have never been higher, and we've moved as a country far too slow in this area. So, what we want to do at the federal level is to simply partner with fantastic states like Minnesota, to try and cut back on that waiting list of 30,000 kids as fast as we can.” [LINK]


New Investments in Our Youngest Learners
Since 2005, state investments in early childhood education have been essentially flat, and in recent years Minnesota has ranked 39th in access to preschool for 4-year-olds. But Governor Dayton’s historic investment in early learning, combined with a $45 million federal Race to the Top Early Learning Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, have dramatically expanded access to quality, affordable early learning opportunities in Minnesota. Those new investments will pay off, delivering results for Minnesota’s children and our economy.
Preparing Children for Success in School. Recent studies show that half of all Kindergarteners in Minnesota are entering the K-12 system unprepared to learn. But those who enter Kindergarten prepared to learn are more likely to meet or exceed standards in reading and math by third grade, and less likely to require special education or remediation.
Addressing Minnesota’s Achievement Gap. Minnesota has one of the nations’ most glaring achievement gaps, ranking 49th among the 50 states. Numerous studies show that the best way to close this gap and adequately prepare all children for success in school and life is through strategic investments in high quality learning that prepare children for success in school.
A 16:1 Return on Investment. Children’s school readiness is a predictor of later outcomes – even lifelong outcomes. In fact, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis have found that every $1 invested in high-quality early learning can yield as much as a $16 return on our investment. Most of that cost savings is in education, human services, and justice system savings, as well as increased tax revenue.
Other Key Early Learning Initiatives in Minnesota
Under Governor Dayton’s leadership, and with the support of the Obama Administration, Minnesota is making important progress toward preparing our earliest learners for success in school and life. Key early learning initiatives spearheaded by Governor Dayton since 2011 include the following:
Race to the Top – Early Learning Grants. Working collaboratively with partners from the non-profit and business community, as well as the Early Learning Council, Minnesota won a federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Grant for $45 million. This grant has fueled the Minnesota Department of Education’s efforts to develop a better aligned system of effective early childhood education.
Children’s Cabinet.  Governor Dayton created a first-of-its-kind Children’s Cabinet consisting of the Commissioners of Education, Human Services, and Health. The purpose of the Cabinet is to better-coordinate policies, programs, and resources across agencies and communities to support improved outcomes for Minnesota’s children. The Cabinet is focused on ensuring all Minnesota kids are healthy, safe, supported, and prepared to achieve their full potential.
Early Learning Council. The Early Learning Council (ELC) makes recommendations to the Governor, Children’s Cabinet, and Legislature, including proposed legislation on how to effectively create a high-quality early childhood system in Minnesota, to ensure all children arrive at Kindergarten school-ready.  The Council was created by Governor Dayton’s Executive Order 11-05.
Office of Early Learning. In 2011, Governor Dayton directed the Minnesota Department of Education to establish the Office of Early Learning – a collaborative effort of the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services that focuses solely on supporting Minnesota’s youngest learners.
Literacy Incentive Aid. In 2012, Governor Dayton enacted important legislation to ensure all children are reading well by third grade. This initiative invested $60 million to ensure every Minnesota school district has developed, published and implemented a statewide literacy plan, which includes support for professional development and financial incentives to schools that meet growth targets.
For more information about new investments made in early learning this year in Minnesota, visit Governor Dayton’s website at and follow the conversation on Twitter at #BetterMN.