Minnesota Management and Budget released Minnesota’s economic forecast this morning, and the state’s surplus has decreased slightly to $900 million for the next budget cycle.

The November economic forecast expected a $1.2 billion surplus. The slight downturn is attributed to lowered predictions for state income, sales and corporate tax revenues in 2016 and 2017 by $466 million, according to the Star Tribune.

Overall, a $900 million surplus is a great opportunity for the Minnesota Legislature to continue prioritizing quality early learning across the state, especially for the children who need it the most.

The Star Tribune released an editorial this week echoing that priority, writing:

The Legislature made some progress on this front in 2015 when it increased funding for need-based preschool scholarships. Though that was a step in the right direction, it did not cover all eligible children. The 2016 Legislature should provide more targeted early-education funding.

We completely agree. Consider these facts:

  • Minnesota has some of the worst achievement and opportunity gaps in the country.
  • Nearly 50 percent of children in Minnesota begin kindergarten not fully prepared with the necessary skills to succeed in school. We know many of these children are from low-income families and often never catch up to their more well off peers.
  • Children who enter kindergarten unprepared are less likely to achieve third grade reading standards, less likely to graduate high school, and less likely to ever attend college.

Quality early learning programs for the children who need them the most is a key investment for the future of our state. We can’t afford to continue leaving children behind before they even start kindergarten.

Accessing high quality early learning programs helps lower the opportunity gap, giving children from all backgrounds a fair
shot at success.