Minnesota Department of Education awards SMIF Grant for Pre-K to Grade 3 Alignment Initiative

OWATONNA, Minn., February 29, 2016 – Minnesota’s Department of Education (MDE) has awarded the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations a total of $180,000 to carry out a Pre-K to Grade 3 Alignment initiative. Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) will use its $30,000 allocation to work with a minimum of 10 school districts providing outreach, technical assistance, training and financial incentives for districts to expand their Pre-K to Grade 3 alignment efforts.

The Pre-K to Grade 3 Alignment Initiative arose from observations by The McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations, and the MDE that school districts have been making progress in Pre-K to Grade 3 alignment work; however, lack of funding streams make it challenging for them to make it a priority. “With SMIF’s strong relationships within the region and some additional dollars to support Pre-K to Grade 3 alignment work, we hope to provide strategies, resources and tools to help our Greater Minnesota school districts enhance their Pre-K to Grade 3 alignment work,” said Teri Steckelberg, SMIF’s Early Childhood Director. “The goal of this initiative is to bridge the communication gap so that our pre-k work is truly a foundation that can be successfully built upon in the early elementary years.”

The Minnesota Initiative Foundations were selected to administer these funds given their years of experience helping communities bolster their early childhood efforts through their Early Childcare Initiatives (ECI). Collectively, over 90 Greater Minnesota communities have been through the ECI process, which brings together a cross-sector of early child care professionals to strengthen the communities early childhood resource network and work collaboratively to solve identified areas of concern.

“Since 2003, SMIF alone has led 21 Early Childhood Initiatives in our region,” said SMIF Vice President of Early Childhood, Rae Jean Hansen. “We just launched our 22nd ECI in New Prague last month. These community-led groups have tackled issues from lack of pre-k transportation to better integrating new immigrant families into the pre-k system. We’re happy that the Pre-K to Grade 3 Alignment Initiative will build upon our ECI work and other early childhood development investments for long-term success of our region’s kids.”

SMIF will administer its funds through small scholarships to school districts in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota for Pre-K to Grade 3 alignment projects. SMIF also plans to host a training conference to help communities address their own communication gaps and align their Pre-K to Grade 3 programs. All scholarships and trainings are partially funded through the Minnesota Department of Education using federal funding, CFDA 84.412A, Race to the Top.

To learn more about the Minnesota Initiative Foundations, visit www.greaterminnesota.net. For more information on SMIF’s role in the Pre-K to Grade 3 Alignment Initiative, contact Rae Jean Hansen at raejeanh@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

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