Investing in early childhood care and learning pays big dividends for communities and businesses. Scientific research confirms that children’s earliest experiences, starting even before birth, dramatically affect their ability to succeed. Unfortunately, every year about half of Minnesota’s children enter kindergarten not fully prepared to succeed, according to recent studies by the Minnesota Department of Education.
The Northwest Minnesota Foundation, along with the other five Minnesota Initiative Foundations, and generous support from the McKnight Foundation, has made an ambitious commitment to the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative. Our purpose is to promote high-quality early care and education for children from birth to age five throughout the state, while supporting parents in their important work. Local early childhood coalitions design strategic action plans to improve outcomes for their youngest children. Eighty-six community coalitions are now meeting and working statewide.
Grassroots advocacy for early childhood helps direct our state’s future public policy decisions. If we are concerned about the future economic vitality of our communities, then we need to make long term investments in our future neighbors, co-workers and community leaders by nurturing them right from the beginning. Our investments pay off in lower crime rates, less need for public assistance, better public schools and better lives for families. We all benefit when our youngest citizens thrive.
The issue involves more than just parents and schools. Early childhood education and care is an economic issue. Supporting our children’s development pays real dividends. Economists Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald, of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, published a study showing every dollar spent on quality early childhood programs saves $7 in negative outcomes, including school failure, juvenile delinquency, special education, out of home placements, teen pregnancy, and welfare dependency. Funded by grants from The McKnight Foundation and five other Minnesota foundations, the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative is directed by the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs). Each MIF is seeking additional program funding. Local funding partners bring additional resources for programs.