U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will visit classrooms in Minneapolis and North St. Paul Tuesday to support early education funding.
He’ll be with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges at an 8:50 a.m. roundtable discussion with leaders of the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis. Organizers say he’ll hear about projects underway to improve education, housing, health care and workforce development.
Joining Duncan later at Richardson Elementary School in North St. Paul will be Gov. Mark Dayton, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and others, who will talk about their belief in the benefits of early learning.
Dayton is pushing state legislators for more money for early learning, including free, voluntary pre-kindergarten programs for all four-year-olds, continued funding and expansion eligibility for early learning scholarships and elimination of the waiting list for Head Start programs.
The governor’s plans, as outlined by his office:
- Universal Pre-Kindergarten – Dayton has proposed investing $343 million in universal pre-kindergarten in Minnesota. If passed, the proposal would allow an estimated 47,300 students to attend preschool in the program’s first year of operation. Within just a few years, the Minnesota Department of Education predicts that number would grow to roughly 57,000 four-year-olds statewide. Right now, Minnesota ranks 50th in the nation for access to all-day, pre-kindergarten learning.
- Early Learning Scholarships – Dayton and the Legislature have invested over $56 million of ongoing funding in early learning scholarships. Over the last several years, those scholarships have helped more than 12,500 young learners attend high-quality preschool programs. The Governor’s budget proposal would continue that investment, and expand eligibility for the scholarships to include children ages 0-5.
- Eliminating the Head Start Waiting List – The Head Start program promotes school readiness for low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional developments, and by providing their families health, educational, nutritional, and other services. Right now, more than 2,400 children are stuck on the waiting list, hoping to get into Head Start programming. Dayton’s budget proposal would eliminate the waiting list.