The McKnight Foundation released a new report this week, “Into the Fray: How a Funders Coalition Restored Momentum for Early Learning in Minnesota.” Early learning was a big priority for MinnCAN in 2011, from expanding Parent Aware statewide to helping unearth community support for Minnesota’s successful Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant. We’re anxious to continue to advance high-quality early education for Minnesota’s youngest learners, and are finding “Into the Fray” full of useful insights.
The report identifies, for example, a shift in recent decades in our state’s investments in young children. Including the recession of 2001-2002, which contributed to Minnesota’s $2 billion deficit and resulted in major cuts to early childhood programs. By 2008 “…overall state funding for early childhood programs had fallen by nearly 20 percent in real terms, even as the number of Minnesota children living in poverty had nearly doubled,” the report reads.
The report also summarizes our state’s stronger grasp on high-quality education ROIs. For instance, in 2003 the Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald team calculated that “$1 spent on targeted, high-quality early childhood services yielded a return to the public of 18 percent or more…”
Most recently, the funder's coalition then created a successful campaign – with limited resources – to advance high-quality early learning in Minnesota by:
- Leveraging empirical research, scalability, and “tightly focused” priorities that held “appeal on both compassionate and pragmatic grounds.”
- Increasing credibility, from thought leaders to research – especially that which is grounded in social science.
- Prioritizing strategic communications to create a sense of urgency and build leadership through briefing papers, research retreats for policymakers and op-eds.
Sometimes the smallest of efforts can have big, lasting returns for Minnesota.