On Thursday, March 21, several parents and early childhood advocates urged Minnesota lawmakers to prioritize early childhood funding and address Minnesota’s early childhood care and education crisis at New Horizon Academy. Located in Brooklyn Park, New Horizon Academy is a four-star Parent Aware institution committed to providing high-quality care.
Advocates at the event noted that Minnesota has one of the worst opportunity gaps in the nation. “More than 33,000 children lack access to quality early childhood education and over 16,000 families lack access to voluntary home visiting” said Ann Mulholland, executive vice president of the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundations and co-chair of the MinneMinds coalition. The early childhood crisis is even more apparent in Greater Minnesota, as there has been a net loss of over 15,000 child care spaces on top of the already astronomical number of children lacking access.
Besides New Horizon Academy, Minnesota has other high-quality early childhood programs actively working towards bridging opportunity gaps, such Way to Grow. For nearly 30 years, Way to Grow has brought different communities together to support early childhood care and education in Minnesota. In 2018, they served over 2,400 clients, conducted over 11,600 home visits, and made over 2,300 resource referrals to families. But they’re not done yet: according to Carolyn Smallwood, CEO of Way to Grow, their newest learning center in Brooklyn Center aims to provide “extra support to parents through opportunities like home visiting and parent-child classes”.
For many parents, programs such as early learning scholarships are one of the few resources they have to help send their child to a quality education program due to high costs, but they are well worth it. New Horizon Academy parent Marie expressed how her child benefited from an early learning scholarship, stating: “without that scholarship…I’d constantly be worried if he’s on track or if he’s going to be behind in school. [Since] being in New Horizon, I’ve seen him at so many milestones.” Early learning scholarships have also helped Marie by enabling her to save money for nursing school and start her career.
Many early childhood advocates, including MinneMinds co-chair Acooa Ellis, are dedicated to making a difference not only for children but for Minnesota as a whole. “We all lose when our community fails to support the growth of a child into their brilliance. “ says Ellis, who is also senior vice president of Community Impact for Greater Twin Cities United Way. “If we want to close these gaps, we must continue to prioritize investing in quality early childhood programs and make sure all of our children have access to them. This must be a bipartisan priority.”
MinneMinds, a broad coalition of over 100 statewide organizations including foundations, nonprofits and advocacy groups, all united in prioritizing Minnesota’s youngest children as the most important investment for a stronger Minnesota. The MinneMinds agenda is supported by parents, early childhood care and education leaders, teachers, business leaders and community members united in making access to high-quality early care and education possible for every child in Minnesota.