Legislation was filed today that seeks to increase state funding for early education by an additional $20 million.

Filed by Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, the legislation seeks to double the base funding for early education scholarships and add an additional $20 million for fiscal year 2015. It also would raise the cap on the scholarships from $5,000 to $6,000.

"With a budget surplus and a growing economy, now is the time to invest for a better future," Winkler said."Early education should be our first priority because it will help all kids succeed in school and prepare Minnesota for another generation of economic success. The time is now to fund scholarships that will enable all kids to fulfill their promise.”

Last year, the legislators approved $44 million for early learning scholarships estimated to benefit about 4,000 middle to low income families each year. The scholarships were first established in 2011 with a $4 million appropriation.

While early education advocates applauded that move, they said more was needed to meet the needs of the state's youngest learners as state officials estimate the scholarships will currently only reach about  nine percent of all eligible families.

"At our Rice Street Center alone, we have 12 kids who have access to scholarships but 56 kids who are eligible for them,” said Becky Strauch, director of New Horizons Academy. “The legislature must continue to make this a priority until all kids have access to these crucial scholarships.”

MinneMinds, a coalition of 70 statewide organizations pushing to improve early education in Minnesota, announced their support of Winkler's legislation.The 2014 legislative session is scheduled to begin Feb. 25