Report: Minnesota's early childhood programs are complex, fragmented

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Minnesota's early childhood programs need better coordination and data to track outcomes, according to a legislative audit out Thursday.

The audit found that early childhood options' differing eligibility requirements for things like age and family income can be confusing for families and providers. Complex requirements even discourage some providers from offering certain programs.

The report also notes a lack of information to assess program effectiveness. For example, the state education department does not analyze outcomes for several kinds of early education. State agencies don't coordinate to identify whether multiple programs are serving the same family.

The audit says lawmakers should consider standardizing program funding and eligibility requirements and should improve data collection.

The report evaluated nine of Minnesota's numerous education and child care programs. Those evaluated include the school-based preschool Governor Mark Dayton has advocated, scholarships targeted at low-income families, programs for family education and home visiting and Head Start.