ST. PAUL, Minn. – Beginning in the fall of 2016, Minnesota parents of 4-year-olds will have more options to send their kids to early learning programs. The Senate passed its E-12 Finance and Policy bills on Wednesday, which contained a significant investment of $65 million into the Great Start School Readiness program, a flexible and proven early learning program that allows schools to choose when they will offer programming. Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin, Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids) was a vocal supporter of expanding early learning programming, and also authored several other bills contained in the E-12 Finance Bill.
“I’ve seen firsthand in the Anoka-Hennepin School District how effective school readiness programs are at helping to close the achievement gap. Research has proven that making sure kids are ready for kindergarten is the key to academic success. We’ve done this in our district, and I’m proud to say we’re expanding these offerings to be available to all Minnesota 4-year-olds,” said Hoffman.
The E-12 Finance Bill also included $10 million to expand the Compensatory Funding Revenue program. This program gives money to school districts based on their percentage of students on the free or reduced lunch program. The bill also makes the funding program permanent, currently it requires reauthorization every two years. The additional revenue is used by districts to help increase students achievement and test scores. Hoffman argued for inclusion of this program in the final bill, and says it’s a proven program.
“This compensatory funding has helped Anoka-Hennepin work on narrowing the achievement gap – because it allows districts to target money to those who need an extra boost. This money helps school districts by giving them resources to invest in direct service to struggling students. I’m really happy to see this pilot program expand to other school districts, it provides equity and helps students find academic success,” said Hoffman.
Sen. Hoffman also had several provisions in the E-12 Policy Bill that address improving special education services in the E-12 system. One of those provisions will help ensure para professionals will be better trained, and more educated on the specific disability and behavioral needs of those in their care. Another measure calls on school districts to implement new policies to help reduce student suspensions of young children.
“It’s the responsibility of E-12 school systems across the state to ensure they are providing the best education possible to ALL students, including those with disabilities. These bills just ensure that all students are being cared for by the most trained personnel out there, and that schools aren’t suspending children for the wrong reasons,” said Hoffman.