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$40 million now available in early learning scholarships

As the new school year swings into full gear, more of the state’s youngest learners will now have access to high-quality early education.

Thanks to Governor Dayton and the Legislature’s $40 million investment over the next biennium in early education scholarships, more than 8,000 students will be given a better start.

Starting October 1, low income families were able to apply for a scholarship. The funds are available for students ages 3-5 with the highest needs in order to improve school readiness for all young children. Up to $5,000 per scholarship will be awarded.

Scholarships may be used at any early childhood program participating in the Parent Aware Quality Rating System. The Parent Aware programs a family may choose include Head Start, school-based prekindergarten and preschool programs, and child care programs.

“The research is clear. The best economic investment the state of Minnesota can make is to provide its most vulnerable children with access to high-quality early childhood programs. The early childhood scholarships being made available to Minnesota’s children do just that,” said Art Rolnick, senior fellow and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

To ensure balanced distribution of the scholarships, the Minnesota Department of Education spread out the money based on need to the state’s 13 economic development regions.

For Becker, Douglas and Otter Tail counties, $1,488,484 for scholarships will be made available during the biennium, providing more than 370 children with access to early learning opportunities.

To see if a child is eligible for an early learning scholarship, contact your local school district or regional scholarship administrator, Lakes and Prairies Community Action Council, at (218) 299-7065.

For information on MDE’s early learning scholarship program, visit and select “Early Learning” under the “Just for Parents” section.