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BLOOMINGTON – Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson visited the Valley View Family Center at Valley View Elementary School in Bloomington Friday to advocate for funding that will bolster access to high quality early education.
The state Early Childhood Learning Facilities grant program, administered by Minnesota Department of Human Services, expands access to high quality programs for young children and their families by partnering with local entities to renovate or construct new early learning facilities. Gov. Mark Dayton included $3 million for the program in his capital budget recommendation.
“This administration has made significant investments to improve access to high quality early education to Minnesota families with low incomes through scholarships and higher child care subsidies tied to quality ratings,” Jesson said. “As more young learners enter preschool and early learning facilities, we must ensure we have the infrastructure to serve them. By investing in early childhood through facility improvement, we help create jobs and meet the growing demand for high quality learning experiences.”
The Valley View Family Center at Valley View Elementary School opened in spring 2013 with funding from a previous Early Childhood Learning Facilities grant and matching dollars from Bloomington Public Schools. The $1.4 million flexible classroom space is used for multiple early childhood programs including school readiness and early childhood intervention, child care, early kindergarten assessments and parent involvement programs.
Jesson met with Bloomington Public Schools Superintendent Les Fujitake, Bloomington/Richfield Community Services leaders and participated in a small group learning activity with preschoolers in Kinderprep, a free half-day early literacy program for children who are English language learners or from low income families in Bloomington and Richfield. According to Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, additional space means more children receive quality early education which is important to preparing them for success in kindergarten and years to come.
“A critical part of a child’s education is having access to early learning opportunities. This means we need to invest in not only strengthening the quality of early learning programs, but also ensuring each preschool and early childhood facility is conducive for learning,” said Cassellius. “Supporting Early Childhood Learning Facilities grants is another way to ensure Minnesota’s youngest learners have great places to learn and thrive.”
The current version of the bonding bill in the House provides $10 million for Early Childhood Learning Facilities, of which $5 million is designated for grants statewide, and $5 million is designated for an early childhood center at the YWCA of Minneapolis. The Senate bonding bill has not yet been released.Editor’s note: Department of Education Chief of Staff Christine Briner attended the event on behalf of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, who had a family conflict.