Vallay Varro was a founding state executive director. She now serves as the president of 50CAN.

It always feels good to have a blindfold lifted off your eyes so you can see. As an early educator and mom of two children in a four-star program, I can tell you it feels even better to clearly see and choose the best program for my daughters.

Yesterday Governor Dayton announced that he is going to remove the blindfold from Minnesota families like mine. Using his powers as governor, he will do what the legislature failed to do:

  • Expand the Parent Aware system statewide. The pilot Parent Aware rating system, an online, voluntary system that rates childcare providers, will expand to the whole state so that all Minnesotan parents can have the information they need to make the best decision for their children.

  • Tie state funding for pre-K to quality. The education budget passed last month sets aside $4 million to help low-income families send their kids to preschool. Through administrative action, the governor will require that those dollars only be used towards high-quality programs.

  • Strengthen Minnesota’s Race to the Top application. The Governor’s public commitment to ensuring that Minnesota keeps quality at the center of every conversation will further enhance Minnesota’s application for Race to the Top funding.

Removing the blindfold wasn’t easy. Even though the quality rating system was cut for the education omnibus bill, we didn’t give up on it, and neither did you. When we told you that the governor had the power to enact pre-K reforms administratively, you sent letters urging him to do right by Minnesota’s youngest constituents. He listened to you, and because of it more kids will have access to quality early learning opportunities and start their academic career with the strongest footing. Furthermore, Minnesota will be ready to compete for federal dollars in the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

This victory rounds off a great first campaign. In January we declared Minnesota School Emergency in Effect, setting out to pass three commonsense reforms. With your support, we achieved all three: a law passed in the winter that opens alternate paths to getting talented teachers certified and in our classrooms through programs like Teach For America. The new teacher evaluation system included in the budget deal will help us better identify where Minnesota’s great teachers are teaching and what they’re successful at. And now, a statewide quality rating system for pre-K—combined with $4 million in scholarships for low-income families and a firm commitment to quality—will help ensure that every one of our kids enters kindergarten fully prepared for success.

Today, we are three steps closer to closing Minnesota’s achievement gap, and we couldn’t have done it without you. I want to personally thank you for helping us prove that by putting the ‘public’ back in public schools, Minnesota really can provide great schools for all.


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