A rating system of Minnesota's child care providers that nearly expired will continue at the behest of Gov. Mark Dayton, the governor announced Wednesday.

Dayton said the Parent Aware pilot program, which uses a four-point system to rate child care in the Twin Cities and other target areas, would continue "under current statutory authority." The program was slated to end because the Legislature did not provide funding in last month's final budget.

The pilot program was funded substantially with private dollars raised by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, which will sunset at the end of the year. Several education leaders urged the governor to continue and expand the program statewide, a step that would require public dollars.

"The Parent Aware Ratings use a one- to four-star scale, and today the Governor has made a four-star decision," said Duane Benson, executive director of MELF. He argued that evidence shows the program has been effective.

Another key motivator for state officials was the latest federal Race to the Top offering, which requires interested states have such a program.

Erin Sullivan Sutton, Assistant Commissioner for Children and Family Services with the Department of Human Services, said the public cost to expand the program in the short-term will be just over $2 million -- primarily federal dollars. They expect there will also be a private funding component.

Though the program received bipartisan support at the Legislature, conservative groups such as Education Liberty Watch fiercly opposed the move to expand it.

In an e-mail last month, Education Liberty Watch president Karen Effrem wrote that Dayton extending the program would be a "usurpation of legislative authority" and create "a new statewide bureaucracy" to obtain "one-time federal funds."

"Like the monster in a bad horror movie, this idea will not die," Effrem wrote. She did not immediately return a request for comment.

Dayton also indicated at the press conference that the ratings would be tied to new early childhood scholarships, though the details of that remain unclear.

“Parent Aware is a common-sense proposal that encourages greater quality in child care,” said DFL Rep. Nora Slawik. “Governor Dayton’s executive action will continue this innovative program and put Minnesota in the best position to receive these grants. If we’re serious about improving our education system, closing the achievement gap and seeking long-term economic growth, we cannot miss this opportunity.”