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Offering a Great Start, One Child at a Time

Published: March 5, 2014

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of investing in early education opportunities. Last session Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature passed bills that allow every district in the state to implement all-day Kindergarten and allocated $40 million for early education scholarships, ensuring every child has access to a great start to their education.

During those conversations, focus was often placed on experts who could present data and research about the return on investment and other long term benefits. Last week, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was able to visit a preschool program in Winona and see firsthand the impact the Governor and Legislature’s investments are having on children and families throughout Minnesota.

Commissioner Cassellius visit with Winona preschool students.

Cassellius stopped by the Community Kids Preschool, which is run through collaboration between Winona Community Education and the Winona Area Public Schools special education department. Around 100 children, ages 3 to 5 years old, are enrolled in the program. Currently, 10 students in the program were able to enroll thanks to an early education scholarship.

Jessie Palubicki, whose son Conor is a scholarship recipient, met with Commissioner Cassellius to share how excited she was for Conor to receive a scholarship and how much he has grown since enrolling in the program.

Commissioner Cassellius speaks with Jessie Palubicki, whose son Conor is a scholarship recipient.

So why is enrolling in an early education program important?

Well, children who attend a high-quality preschool program enter kindergarten with better reading skills, larger vocabularies and stronger math skills than those who do not. They also receive a head start in developing important socialization skills – such as learning to compromise, respect others and problem-solve. These skills help kids gain a sense of self, play with peers and build confidence – important components for future success in college and career.

While word about the early education scholarships is spreading throughout the state, more scholarships are still available for qualifying families.

To date, more than 75% of available scholarships have been distributed, but with more funds being made available during the next biennium, interested families should contact their local school district or regional scholarship administrator, Child Care Resource and Referral, at 1-888-450-2773. To locate a Parent Aware rated program in your area, visit the Parent Aware website. For more information on MDE’s early learning scholarship program on the Minnesota Department of Education website, visit http://education.state.mn.us and select Early Learning under the Just for Parents section.

You can read more about Commissioner Cassellius’ visit to Winona in this article from the Winona Daily News.