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Recent Projects:

Great Start for All Minnesota Children Task Force

From November 2021 to February 2023, in partnership with the Children’s Funding Project, Afton led the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Task Force. With early care and education stakeholders from around the state, we facilitated the development of a plan and implementation timeline to accomplish the statewide vision for “all families to have access to affordable, high-quality early care and education that enriches, nurtures, and supports children and their families.” The Task Force was established by bipartisan legislation and within the legislative charge, there were three key goals:

  1. Creating a system in which family costs for early care and education are affordable;
  2. Ensuring that a child’s access to high-quality early care and education is not determined by the child’s race, family income, or zip code; and
  3. Ensuring that Minnesota’s early childhood educators are qualified, diverse, supported, and equitably compensated regardless of setting.

The Task Force included 15 voting members including parents of children under five; center directors; family child care providers; school-, center-, and Head Start-based educators; state legislators; and a member of a federally recognized tribe. There were also 22 nonvoting members including representatives of advocacy organizations, subject matter experts, and state agency employees.

The final report and implementation timeline can be found here. Some of the key recommendations in our final report and timeline include:

  • Create a family benefits system that provides affordable access for all families, with no family paying more than 7% of income for servicesThis includes a new “Great Start Minnesota Program” that would existing federal and state funding streams along with additional funding. Under this program, all families would be eligible to participate and no family will pay more than 7% of income for early care and education. 
  • Provide early childhood programs with adequate funding to deliver effective services for children and families. Early care and education programs need to be funded fairly for the critical services they offer. The Task Force recommends that programs are paid based on the true cost of services, determined through cost modeling. Current rates are limited by the prices families are able to pay, rather than a rate that would cover the full cost of care and allow for fair workforce compensation.
  • Pay the early care and education workforce a living wage. The poor compensation and benefits for early care and education workers are leading to workforce shortages. The Task Force recommends a compensation framework that pays early care educators at least a living wage and increases wages aligned with experience and education. The task force also recommends increased benefits including time off and health insurance.

These recommendations and many more are outlined in the Task Force’s plan and implementation timeline with specific roles that legislators, state agencies, local government, and community-based organizations can play.

Our Insights

Establishing intentional, equitable Task Force facilitation processes helped to create strong, thoughtful recommendations. Early on, the Task Force created several guiding processes including:

  • Centering children and families from historically disenfranchised communities,
  • Working across diverse stakeholder perspectives, and
  • Building on previous work and successes in Minnesota’s early care and education system.

Additionally, the Task Force established voting protocols, guiding principles and meeting norms and expectations which allowed all Task Force voices to be heard. While recommendations were accepted through a majority of voting members, The Task Force worked towards consensus of voting and non-voting members. All of these guiding processes led to productive discussions and a final report which a diverse group of Task Force members support.

Stats & Impact

These recommendations would set Minnesota on a stable and sustainable path where all families have access to affordable, high-quality early care and education that enriches, nurtures, and supports children and their families. The recommendations would:

  • Dramatically expand access to family benefits
  • Dramatically increase workforce compensation and supports
  • Support quality improvements across the early care and education system
  • Increase families’ access to early care and education options
  • Make the system more navigable for current and new ECE programs

We are already seeing progress in implementation of these recommendations. In Governor Walz’s 2023 budget proposals, there there are points of alignment across each of the areas of our recommendations, notably including:

  • Family Affordability:
    • Expansion of existing family benefits programs, CCAP and Early Learning Scholarships
    • Establishing a child and dependent care tax credit and child tax credit
    • Adding more slots for lower income children and children who face barriers to success for the mixed delivery prekindergarten
  • Program Funding:
    • Increasing CCAP rates to 75th percentile of market rate study
  • Workforce Compensation and Supports:
    • A retention package with payments for child care programs to increase compensation
    • Expanding benefits for early childhood educators including paid family and medical leave, earned sick time and healthcare coverage
    • Expanding the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program
  • Accessibility:
    • Establishing Community Resource Centers with physical and virtual access points for families, supporting relationship-based culturally appropriate programs, service navigation, and case management.
    • Funding for child care economic development
    • Additional resources for family navigation
  • Effectiveness:
    • Streamlining the licensing application and renewal process for family child care providers
    • Establishing a new agency that includes consolidation of early childhood programs (Department of Children, Youth, and Families)