This has been called one of the most productive legislative sessions we’ve seen in many years. As you know with the tremendous work of members and staff we were successful in passing increases for transportation, education and nursing home workers. We balanced a $1 billion budget deficit, and passed property tax relief, as well as two bonding bills.
I wanted to update you on a few of the early childhood accomplishments, as well as some unfortunate cuts that took place this session.
1: Attached to the education bill was language to include legislators and parents on the federally mandated early Childhood Advisory Council. This will enable the Advisory Council to look at how to create an early childhood system so all children will be ready for kindergarten by 2020. A note of thanks goes to Rep. Sandy Peterson for her work as co-chair of the Early Childhood Caucus.
2: One million dollars was included to reimburse school districts for early childhood developmental screening. Rep. Erin Murphy carried this legislation as well as legislation to create a childcare task force that will look at ways to create efficiencies in the childcare system to better serve families.
3: I worked on passing the ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) license bill that will provide relief to Greater Minnesota communities that are unable to find licensed early childhood educators.
Unfortunately, there were several areas where we went backwards this session. The Governor vetoed $2 million in early childhood bonding, which would have provided communities with the opportunity to improve their early childhood facilities, as well as co-locate those facilities to provide easy access to families. In addition $9 million was cut from federal money meant for the basic sliding fee waiting list. There are 4,000 families waiting for childcare services, the highest we’ve seen in years. Sadly, $250,000 was cut from the pre-kindergarten allowance program that we passed last session. This will result in fewer children receiving quality early childhood experiences, icluding literacy and a possibility to learn to type. I am disappointed we were unable to hold early childhood learning harmless this session. Since Early Childhood Learning and Care is a top priority with me, I will continue to fight for more funding so the future stars of our state will be fully prepared for school.