Fifty percent of Minnesota kids enter kindergarten not fully prepared to succeed.
So, that’s old news for many of you. BUT it’s exactly why team MinnCAN hit the ground running immediately following the legislative session, bringing the news of pre-K scholarships to parents.
This all started with our work on Race to the Top, then MinneMinds, and most recently forging really collaborative relationships with our friends at Think Small, Way to Grow and The Theater of Public Policy (Think Small and Way to Grow are both MinneMinds coalition partners with us). So this month we helped share Minnesota’s historical $40 million investment in quality pre-K at two parent forums where folks from communities of color–primarily Hmong, Latino and Somali–learned about why Minnesota is increasing access to quality early ed programs AND how they can help inform the future of pre-K scholarships.
We were thrilled that nearly 60 parents showed up…
They arrived with playful children, eager to learn more about quality early ed and enjoyed a sit-down meal together before children filed off to play games in a nearby gym. MinnCAN's Nicholas Banovetz and Think Small's Kat Kempe presented on the funding for early education that Gov. Dayton had just signed into law–as well as the shift Minnesota has taken to ensure quality in early ed programs.
We also heard ample feedback from these parents on how we can A) improve access to quality pre-K and B) bring scholarship opportunities to their communities at an even larger scale. Following the overview, parents broke up into small groups and shared what quality early education has meant for them and their families.
Several parents reported that they noted a large learning difference between their children enrolled in quality pre-k and older siblings who hadn’t had the opportunity to access pre-K. Parents also spoke about the education system overall and the challenges and barriers they face as minorities in accessing quality education. For instance, the common barriers to quality education that parents related were language, culture and transportation. They highlighted that removing these barriers is key to improving access; parents also expressed concern and shock over Minnesota's achievement gap—many did not know it existed—and how it stands to threaten their children’s future opportunities.
The Theatre of Public Policy then wowed parents with their comedic improvisation of themes that had emerged from the parent groups. With Somali, Hmong and Latino translators helping, we were pleasantly surprised how well humor translated.
To cap off the evening, parents wrote letters to Gov. Dayton to thank him for his investment in quality pre-K.
The demand for quality pre-K couldn’t be any stronger. Now it’s up to our state to realize the potential of a system really rooted in quality and to fully invest in MinneMinds.
A big thanks goes to all of the parents who attended our forums, and our partners for their collaboration. Finally, thanks also to the venues—Adelante College Prep and Farview Recreation Center—that hosted our events.
Check out more images from these forums on our Facebook page!