As the last of the leftovers are eaten from Labor Day picnics, families across the state are gearing up for the first few weeks of school. Most families will already have the pens and pencils, notebooks and folders all ready and prepared for that first day back. What some people may not be aware of are new changes being implemented for the first time during the 2014-2015 school year.
One of the biggest changes this year is the addition of all-day kindergarten at schools across the state. During the 2013 Legislative Session we invested $485 million into E-12 public education and much of that was dedicated to offering all-day kindergarten. Prior to implementation this fall just over half of school districts in the state offered the all-day option. Many families had to pay to send their kindergarteners to school all day or simply had no all-day options at all. While I am proud to have been a part of seeing this historic legislation get passed, I concede there will be growing pains for some school districts as additional classroom space is found and teachers are hired. But to young families in my district – you have more educational options now for your little ones and for that I’m thankful.
Kindergarteners will also benefit in other ways from legislation passed more recently in 2014. This year we made investments to school lunch and breakfast programs that will provide universal and nutritious breakfasts to all Minnesota kindergarten students. Our investment of $3.5 million to these programs will also allow students who qualify for reduced-price lunch to have free lunch. While it seems simple, access to healthy and nutritious meals is a precursor to getting a good education. More children getting access to these meals will equate directly to more successes in the classroom. If you think your children may qualify, call your school district’s main office to ask more questions.
If you have children who haven’t entered kindergarten yet, we also have some changes that may affect you. This year we invested more than $11 million into three early education programs to ensure that every child is ready for kindergarten. This means more money dedicated to early learning scholarships, school readiness aid and the Early Childhood Family Education Program (ECFE). Studies have clearly showed that early childhood education is effective in preparing students for elementary school and beyond. Again, if you have questions about any of these programs, contact your local school district or my office for further assistance.
Minnesota has always been on the forefront of change when it comes to investing in our public education systems. We value education, and as a state, we put our money where our mouths are. I wish all of my constituents and their families a wonderful 2014-2015 school year.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16. I can be reached by email at email@example.com and by phone at 651-296-6820.