ST. PAUL (AP) -- A panel that spent two years studying early childhood needs recommended Tuesday that lawmakers spend $480 million more per year on pre-kindergarten education, child care, parental leave and other programs.
The request coincides with the release of a Minnesota Early Care and Education Finance Commission report, which concludes that the state is not doing enough for the 322,000 children under age 5.
The study said that many children entering kindergarten lack basic skills needed to learn, most parents are denied paid leaves by their employers, and Head Start and other similar programs are reaching less than half of eligible families.
"We are committing an act of omission that I would equate with child neglect," University of Minnesota professor Marti Erickson said.
Erickson spoke at a news conference complete with fidgety toddlers and sleepy infants. Also present were civic leaders of varying political philosophies.
"There is convergence between social conservatives and liberals," said Steven Young, a conservative attorney and commission official. This "is bigger than any plan Jesse Ventura can come up with and nominate as a 'Big Plan."'
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