Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has finalized her plan to improve health, child care and housing for very young children — and will now figure out how much the wide-reaching recommendations could cost the city, the state and private organizations.
Monday, nearly a year after she announced the formation of her Cradle to K Cabinet, Hodges and some of the group's leaders said they'd wrapped up the first stage of the effort. It included months of planning by the cabinet of educators, health experts, professors and parents, a series of public meetings and consideration of comments submitted at events and online.
The plan calls for improvements to a range of services, from affordable housing to mental health screening and treatment for children under age 3 to job counseling for young parents. It divides the recommendations into categories and suggests programs that should be supported, but it does not provide any estimates for how much the changes would cost or which entity would be responsible for footing the bill.
Hodges and her cabinet said it is too soon to estimate how long it will take to provide specifics on funding or pick out specific policies that should be proposed or altered.
"The cabinet's work is not done," said Peggy Flanagan, the cabinet's co-chairwoman and executive director of the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota. "Putting together the plan and recommendation was the easy part. Now it will be actually moving and implementing this plan, and we need everyone's help to be able to do this."
The plan unveiled Monday, which is available on the mayor's website, is similar to a draft proposal released in late January. Hodges' office made some changes after gathering feedback at parent groups and in two community meetings, which each drew more than 100 people.
The top three recommendations submitted at the two public events called for expanding home-visiting services for new parents, improving mental health services for babies and young children and increasing the number of high-quality child care slots available in the city.
Hodges said the cabinet also took note of issues raised in conversations with parents, including a concern that the recommendations would make little difference if the city didn't first tackle broader problems of disparities in wealth, housing and employment among the city's residents.
Still, the group concluded that the work should proceed.
"We cannot ignore the fact that poverty, employment, criminal justice and other societal issues plague the development of our very young children," the report says. "Yet we still must act now."
The announcement came as the state's government neared a standstill on a related issue: funding for universal preschool. Hodges said she supported Gov. Mark Dayton's efforts to expand funding for early education, but didn't offer specifics on how state funding could affect the city's efforts.
The governor's effort stalled in the closing days of the 2015 legislative session, which ended at midnight Monday. Dayton has insisted on more state money for universal preschool, but legislators passed a measure that provided far less money for the initiative than the governor wanted. Dayton has vowed to veto the bill.
"I am deeply grateful to the governor for his complete commitment to early learning, which is evident in everything he's done," she said. "And we're interested to see what's in the final package so we can assess."