Education

Push for more Minnesota child care funding falls short as legislative session winds down

Children sit in a circle and sing a song at a child care center
Monique Stumon watches as children at School-Readiness Learning Academy in Minneapolis sing a good morning song on Sept. 19, 2023.
Kyra Miles | MPR News

DFLers seeking a $500 million spending deal to help limit child care costs to no more than 7 percent of family income conceded that won’t happen this session.

Instead, they’re focusing now on securing $36 million for kids and families in a supplemental budget following last year’s banner $300 million child care spending package.

“While we didn’t get the funding for it this year, it’s definitely not something that has fallen by the wayside,” said Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie. “We’re going to continue the advocacy. We’re going to continue pushing for this funding to really make sure that we can help those middle income households who we know are still struggling with this.”

Kotyza-Witthuhn said she and Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, expect to reintroduce the larger proposal next year to boost the Great Start Affordability Program. They plan to direct funds available this year to expand access to the existing Early Learning Scholarship Program to lay the groundwork for the next legislative session.

Leaders of the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee are backing $36 million in supplemental funding with most of that allocated to expanding child welfare and protection and food assistance, including a summer program that lets low-income families buy healthy food for their children while school is out.

“I think a big thing, next year will be a new day where there will be a new agency in place with hopefully committees in the House and Senate that oversee the agency kind of in a unified way,” said the committee chair, Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul.

Funding will also go to establishing the Department of Children, Youth and Families, a new agency that will oversee programs currently in several departments.

“We’re really trying to give it a very solid foundation,” Pinto said of the new department. “That’s a lot of the focus here.”

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