Advocates for children revealed their top legislative priority at an annual children and youth issues briefing Tuesday.
Calling it "the 'stadium ask' for Minnesota's youngest kids," Ann Mulholland of the new consortium called "MinneMinds" called for more investment in early childhood education for low-income 3- and 4-year-old children.
"The reality is that half of our 5-year-olds aren't fully prepared when they reach kindergarten, dramatically impacting their likelihood in succeeding in school and in life," Mulholland said.
MinneMinds wants to expand the number of poor families receiving scholarships to send their children to high-quality preschool programs. The request to the Legislature for $150 million would build on pilot efforts currently serving fewer than a thousand children in the state.
The group points to research showing school readiness has a payoff of $56,000 per child in reduced public spending and increased earning opportunities.
"investing in access to high-quality early childhood programs and services can do much to close the [acheivement] gap and yield an extraordinary return for our state," said Barb Yates, a member of the council and executive director of "Think Small."
About a thousand poor families are currently receiving scholarships for their pre-schoolers.