Sen. Hoffman’s Back to School Capitol Corner

It’s that time of year again, when the air starts to cool, the leaves begin to turn and school buses are back in your neighborhood. Most schools in our corner of the metro begin the day after Labor Day, on Sept. 8.  As thousands of children pour back into schools, it’s an important time to remember to slow down and keep a lookout for all the little ones as they wait for their bus.

This school year also brings other changes some parents might notice. This session we made significant investments in early childhood education. We invested $30.75 million in the School Readiness program, which offers pre-k programming for Minnesota 3 and 4-year-olds to help prepare them for kindergarten. We also appropriated $48.25 million for Early Learning Scholarships. According to the Minnesota Department of Education this money equals about 5,700 scholarships per year will be awarded throughout the state. This figure represents about 12 percent of the eligible children in Minnesota. You can find more information about the scholarships and how to apply by visiting the department’s website.

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All of these new investments for our youngsters mean parents of young children have more affordable options to prepare their children for their academic careers. Studies have shown that early learning programs are directly correlated to helping close the achievement gap. I’ve stopped by several pre-k classrooms over the last year and I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve found. Teachers have so many success stories about kids coming in and how much the pre-k programming has prepared them to tackle the challenges of elementary school. We did a lot for early education at the legislature this year, but I promise to continue working to ensure all Minnesota children have access to a quality pre-k program.

This school year also means extra money will arrive for the Anoka-Hennepin and Osseo School Districts in the form of compensatory pilot grants. These districts will share the $10 million in grant money with five other districts across the state. The money is given to school districts based on their percentage of free or reduced lunch program, and targets high-risk kids in need of extra academic support. I can personally attest that in the past this grant money has helped the Anoka-Hennepin school district increase student achievement and raise test scores. I authored the bill that appropriated the money to these school districts, and it was an uphill battle to make sure it finally passed.

I hope all of my constituents enjoyed a fun and relaxing summer, and are looking forward to their kids starting school. This past session we made sure schools received a 2 percent funding formula increase to cut down on the need for districts to make difficult cuts. I hope you find your kids’ class is being taught by a teacher who creates an inspiring learning environment. I’d like to wish all parents and kids a happy, safe and academically challenging school year. 

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John Hoffman

Education Initiatives

This session’s $525 million E-12 bill is the third largest investment in state history. The largest investments include 2 percent per pupil funding formula increases for FY2016 and FY2017. The most high profile investments came in the early childhood education category.

Compensatory Pilot grants: $10 million

These grants target money to districts with a high concentration of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunches. In Anoka-Hennepin, this money has helped close the achievement gap by leaps and bounds. This money will help our district continue to narrow that gap and ensure all of our students are becoming college or career ready when they graduate.

School Readiness: $30.75 million

This two decade old program is a proven method to preparing our youngest learners for Kindergarten and setting them up for success.

Early Learning Scholarships: $48.25 million

Scholarships are targeted to those Minnesotans who are most in need, ensuring thousands more Minnesota 4-year-olds will have access to quality early childhood education.

Head Start Waiting List: $10 million

There is currently a long waiting list for low-income Minnesota families to get their children into Head Start programs. This money will eliminate that waiting list, meaning no more kids will fall through the cracks and be forced to wait to begin their education.

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call my office at 651-296-4154 or by e-mail at jhoffman@senate.mn