Close Gaps By 5 works with partners and empowered parents to champion the use of high quality early education programs at very early ages to prevent the most at-risk low-income children from falling into achievement gaps.
To be effective, we believe Minnesota’s early education policy must embody these core values...
Help Low-Income Children First. With limited state funding and many worthy causes vying for funding, we must prioritize resources to help the 35,000 low-income children all around the state who are a) most likely to fall into achievement gaps and b) unable to afford high quality programs.
Help Low-Income Children Early. With achievement gaps opening as early as age one, we must help the most at-risk low-income children access quality early learning programs as early as their parents see the need.
Give Parents Flexibility. We must offer parents options, so they can find a quality program that fits their location, work schedule, culture, and family preferences. We also need to ensure assistance is “portable,” so children don’t get cut off from early education whenever their location or income changes.
Require Best Practices. Because low quality programs can set kids back, we must guarantee that at-risk children are benefiting from the use of kindergarten-readiness best practices, as measured by the Parent Aware Ratings.
While Close Gaps By 5 is open to any approach that embodies these values, the reality is that Minnesota’s ten-year old Early Learning Scholarship program is the only existing approach that does so. We also strongly support home-based parent coaching, and other approaches that empower parents. Finally, we want to reform existing policies to stretch existing early education investments and better support children and families.
Early Learning Scholarships have many important advantages for the children who are most likely to fall into achievement gaps. Scholarships were piloted from 2006-2011 and were expanded statewide, with the support of a bipartisan group of legislators and Governor Mark Dayton.
Scholarships also tap into thousands of existing early care and education programs operating in centers, churches, schools, homes and nonprofit organizations. This approach gives parents options and taxpayers more bang-for-the-buck.