When a first grader arrives at school for the first time, is handed a book, and opens it with the binding on the right, chances are she’s never seen a book before. And it’s quite likely that she — along with half of her peers in Minnesota — is already behind the learning curve and will have difficulty catching up.
That’s just one example of early childhood needs that punctuated strong calls to action at Tuesday’s 2013 Children & Youth Issues Briefing, sponsored by the Start Early Funders Coalition, The Sheltering Arms Foundation, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MCF.
Event organizers packed the stage with children’s advocates from every sector: executive branch officials from the Minnesota Children’s Cabinet and the Office of Early Learning, state legislators from both sides of the aisle, and nonprofit leaders and philanthropists intently focused on children and youth. Plus, student Kevin Nguyen of the Minnesota Youth Council joined his Youthprise colleague to ably represent the views of his peers.
Calls to Action
While praise was expressed for recent accomplishments (such as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, the Parent Aware quality child-care rating tool, the Office of Early Learning and others), speakers cried out for continued bold action:
- Obtaining a $150 million state allocation to increase access for low-income, 3- and 4-year-olds to quality early childhood education.
- Focusing on greater accountability and more alignment among all parties — including measurable outcomes, more evidence-based best practices, less fragmentation and more efficiency across government agencies, and more private/public partnerships.
- Eliminating outrageous disparities that have led to abysmal educational outcomes for American Indians, Hispanics, Blacks, and poor children and youth in Minnesota.
- Adopting a holistic approach to children’s well-being — not addressing one dimension of child or parent needs, but encompassing all needs (e.g., housing, health, nutrition, education, etc.) of child and parent.
MinneMinds Consortium Launched
The afternoon’s presentations were capped by the unofficial launch of MinneMinds by representatives from Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. MinneMinds is a statewide campaign to increase public funding for access to high quality early care and education programs that will prepare children for success in school and life.
Calling for a “stadium-size effort for Minnesota’s youngest learners,” Ann Mulholland of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners reemphasized the MinneMinds consortium’s goals: to create a single, coordinated agenda that will ensure all kids — from age 0 to grade 3 and regardless of circumstance — have access to quality early childhood care and education.
— Wendy Wehr, MCF vice president of communications and information services