On January 11, United Front hosted the 2012 Children and Youth Issues Briefing in St. Paul, which was described as an event to "celebrate recent successes, identify issues of importance for the 2012 legislative session and learn more about innovative initiatives making a difference in our communities." The briefing began with an overview of the state's budget from Christina Wessel with the Minnesota Budget Project. Wessel informed the audience that while Minnesota's budget currently has an $876 million surplus, those dollars have been filtered into the state's reserve accounts, and a $1.3 billion deficit is predicted in the next cycle. Additionally, Minnesota's changing demographics mean less economic productivity due to the increasing number of retirees.
Even though the financial climate in Minnesota looks grim, Wessel used this information to set the context of the briefing as an opportunity. Because the state is facing many challenges in the future, it is necessary to invest in children and youth (their care, education, and an infrastructure to track and evaluate programming) today, as they will eventually be Minnesota's workforce.
In order to get a sense of how this investment is taking shape at the State and local levels, we heard from Dayton's Children's Cabinet, a panel of Collective Impact models, and a panel of Youth Issues advocacy groups.
The Children's Cabinet is made up of Commissioners from the Departments of Education, Human Services, and Health, with a goal of bringing together leaders with a common agenda in order to better serve children and families. They, along with the Early Learning Council, will be focusing on administering the Race To The Top Grant, from which the state hopes to scale up Parent Aware, develop a statewide data system, invest in the early childhood workforce, and develop coordinated measurement tools. Race To The Top funding will also go to four collaborative programs for children and families around the state: the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), Itasca County, the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood , and White Earth Nation.
The briefing featured two of these collaborative programs as Collective Impact models, NAZ and the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, along with the Twin Cities STRIVE Initiative. The panel described their programming and goals going forward to support children and families through interdisciplinary expertise and multisector funding and infrastructure.
The briefing concluded with a panel of Youth Issues advocacy groups, Minnesota Futures Coalition, Youthprise, the Minnesota Children's Defense Fund, and MinnCAN. The following is a listing of each group's legislative agenda for 2012:
Minnesota Futures Coalition will be advocating for:
- Systematic home visiting & parent education
- High quality early learning
- A statewide quality rating information system
- Cabinet level leadership
- Authorization of the Minnesota Youth Council
- Amending the Minnesota Data Privacy Act so data collection can be coordinated statewide
- Children's Cabinet leadership
- Child care
- Economic security
- Early childhood issues
- Recruit and incentivize top rated school Principals and Teachers
- Launch the Achievement Power Play campaign