As it does on one day every year, the state Capitol was crawling with Minnesotans too young to lobby, much less vote on Thursday morning.
It was the annual Children Advocacy Day, when kids, their parents and advocates buttonhole state officials to push for early childhood programs. And for the first time, organizers said, a governor welcomed them to the Capitol rotunda.
Gov. Mark Dayton used his appearance to announce that he had just signed an executive order that reauthorizes a group charged with helping prepare young children for school.
Renamed the Early Learning Council, the group is an outgrowth of the 2007 Improving Head Start federal law and was first established in 2008.
The council, with an expanded membership to be named through the state's open appointments process, will be charged with ensuring that all Minnesota children are ready for school by 2020. Council members will make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature, including what Dayton's office called "a legislative proposal that will effectively create a high-quality early childhood system in Minnesota that will help improve educational outcomes for all children."
At the same time, a bipartisan group of legislators announced that they, too, want to increase the emphasis on early childhood education programs. They planned to introduce bills in both legislative chambers that would, they said, "enhance leadership" in assisting young children.
It wasn't immediately clear whether that would conflict with the council, but Dayton welcomed the endorsement of early childhood programs -- and renewed his pledge to increase funding for K-12 education, saying that any new spending on early childhood programs "can't come from taking away money from kindergarteners, third-graders or sixth-graders ... We're not going to pit three-year-olds against third-graders."