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Kids Count Data Book: Tipping Scales in Early Childhood

Studies say early-childhood education has a long-lasting effect on children. (USDA)
Studies say early-childhood education has a long-lasting effect on children. (USDA)
November 15, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS – Six thousand families in Minnesota are on the waiting list to get child-care assistance, and 84 percent of the kids in the state that qualify for the program are not enrolled. The 2016 Minnesota Kids Count Data Book has been released, and it calls for more funding and a two-generational approach to early-childhood education, which means supporting the parents as well as the children.

Stephanie Hogenson, Research and Policy Director for Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, said there has been bipartisan support by state lawmakers in recognizing the need for early education programs, and some funding has been allocated, but not enough.

"It's really across the aisle that there's agreement that we need to do something about this, but what's lacking is the significant investment that is necessary for these programs and the understanding that that investment will pay off long term," she said.

Hogenson said research has shown that such investments can generate returns of up to $16 for every dollar spent on prevention and intervention.

She said despite recent investments made by the state and calls from the governor and legislature to expand the Child Care Assistance Program, Early Learning Scholarships and School Readiness, more than half of all Minnesota's three- and four-year-olds are not in preschool, and that's especially true for children of color. She said support for children and their families provides a lifelong benefit.

"The benefit leaks over into all areas of their development, so just because they're in early childhood education doesn't just mean that they're going to have better test scores in third grade, they're also going to have better health outcomes," she explained.

In response to the research and data outlined in the Data Book, Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota suggests creating a statewide paid family and medical-leave program, providing more funding for the child-care assistance program, and increasing the Minnesota Family Investment Program Cash Grants, which have remained the same for three decades.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN