MN Biz Leaders Call for Better Early Ed. Programs

The Minnesota Early Learning Foundation is asking the Minnesota Legislature to implement a voluntary rating system designed to inform parents about the quality of child care providers.

An organization headed by a long roster of leaders from Minnesota's largest companies is calling on the State Legislature to focus on preparing children for school.

The Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF) said Wednesday that it has spent roughly $20 million of non-government funds during the past five years to study the state's child care system and to seek out alternative methods for readying kids for kindergarten.

“About half of Minnesota's children aren't getting ready for kindergarten, and too many never catch up,” Michael Fiterman, CEO of Liberty Diversified International and a member of the MELF board, said in a statement. “We have to do a much better job in those first five years, when up to 90 percent of brain development occurs.”

The MELF said that at the core of its recommendations is a voluntary rating system-dubbed Parent Aware Ratings-designed to rate child care providers and to inform parents about how well each provider helps prepare children for their education.

The MELF recommends the formation of a private-sector “parent aware promotion board” to oversee the statewide rollout of the rating system.

Bradbury Anderson, former vice chairman of Best Buy Company, Inc., and chair of the MELF board, said in a news release that the rating system will “empower parents shopping for child care to demand school-readiness quality.”

Among other recommendations, the MELF has called for incentives that reward parents and quality child care providers-including scholarships to grant low-income families access to highly rated childcare providers and tax credits to aid early childhood professionals and encourage private donations.

Michael Ciresi, a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi and MELF board member, said that the organization promotes a “reward model,” rather than a “regulatory model.”

In addition to Anderson, Fiterman, and Ciresi, the MELF board of directors comprises the following business leaders:

  • Jean Taylor, former president and CEO, Taylor Corporation
  • Douglas Baker, Jr., chairman, CEO, and president, Ecolab, Inc.
  • Peg Birk, president and CEO, Interim Solutions
  • Robert Bruininks, president, University of Minnesota
  • Kenneth A. Burdick, former CEO, UnitedHealthcare
  • Patrick J. Geraghty, president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
  • Robbin Johnson, president, Cargill Foundation
  • Kendall Powell, CEO and chairman, General Mills, Inc.
  • Art Rolnick, senior fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Warren Staley, former chairman and CEO, Cargill, Inc.
  • Ted Staryk, partner, CNote Management
  • Charlie Weaver, executive director, Minnesota Business Partnership