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WCI applauds Dayton and Legislature for investing in pre-K scholarships

FERGUS FALLS, MINN -- Minnesota took a meaningful step toward addressing the state's daunting achievement gap when Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature approved an investment of $46 million in quality pre-kindergarten early learning scholarships for Minnesota's most vulnerable children, according to the West Central Initiative (WCI).

The incremental increase in investment is part of an innovative approach to prepare more children for success in school by helping Minnesota's youngest children access high quality early learning programs proven to improve school readiness outcomes.

WCI, as part of MinneMinds--a statewide coalition of more than 55 education, philanthropic, nonprofit and business organizations--has advocated for investment in pre-kindergarten scholarships for the past year and supports this investment as an important starting point for a statewide commitment to adequately prepare kids for school.

"There are many good reasons to invest in our youngest children, and we are pleased that Minnesota has taken this important step. This funding helps even more children get the best possible start toward a successful life," said WCI President Nancy Straw.

Straw said the legislation is a critical first step toward the goal of ensuring every child in Minnesota, regardless of family income or geographic location, has the opportunity to attend a quality early learning program that meets their needs and prepares them for lifelong success in school and beyond.

The scholarships will be available to 3- and 4-year-olds as well as their younger siblings and prioritizes the children of teen parents. The new legislation will help families of nearly 9,000 children send their children to a Parent Aware-rated quality early learning program of their choice in their community. It will also help providers improve and expand quality early learning programs throughout the state.

WCI is a part of the statewide Early Childhood Initiative (ECI), which works with 90 coalitions that serve 170 communities and 52 counties in Greater Minnesota to create safe, nurturing environments where our youngest children can thrive.

"The increase in investment fits perfectly into the ECI mission of WCI," said WCI's Early Childhood Coordinator Nancy Jost. "We believe all young children need a healthy start to grow into strong, productive adults. Our ECI coalitions work hard to help our region strengthen early care and education for young children and their families."

WCI is a regional community foundation serving the nine west central Minnesota counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin. Learn more at