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March 25, 2008

Spring Ahead! New Bills Introduced!

I was excited to open my inbox today to see a Ready 4 K “Updates from the Capital” email waiting for me! Ready 4 K is a non-profit organization in Minnesota advocating for our youngest citizens and their families. Over the past several years I have worked with Ready 4 K as a key contact. As a grassroots community, we are aiming to support families, improve quality of early care and education, increase access to such opportunities and connect to our greater community.

This recent email is very exciting! Representative Nora Slawick, who chairs the Early Childhood Learning Finance Division for the Minnesota House of Representatives, has authored some bills that would help the early childhood scene here in Minnesota. These bills include standards for School Readiness programming, an at-risk Pre-Kindergarten program, universal preschool for four year olds, and a grant program for collaborative Pre-K to Grade 3 programs.

Ready 4 K has asked its community to review the language in these bills and provide feedback. I quickly noticed that a major piece of the pie was missing. Only one of these bills (the At-Risk Pre-Kindergarten program) contains specific language about pre-k teacher qualifications needed. Quality educators and access to professional development are two of the foundational pillars of successful early childhood programming. It should be expected that individuals working with families have the training, support and licensure or certificate to do so. In addition, for retention, those that are working in these positions with such training should be compensated fairly for their work.

Early care and education is a broad genre that includes many agencies, schools, families and communities. I would hope that many, if not all, in this field would like access to the kind of professional development and training that will make their students and families the most successful.

I replied to Ready 4 K’s Director of Policy and Civic Engagement with an email describing the revisions I feel are necessary to make Early Education and Care the best it can be in Minnesota.  Ready 4 K is compiling this feedback in hopes that these bills will be proposed and funded during the 2009 legislative session.

Comments

Karissa: I couldn't agree with you more. It is crucial that those educating young children be certified and qualified. I feel very strongly that all pre-k teachers, public, private, or otherwise need to hold at least a 4 year degree if we are going to raise the standards in early childhood education. If pre-k teachers must be degreed and certified then they must also be paid on par with their K-12 peers.

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