For Minnesota's littlest learners, a new push to close achievement gap

For Minnesota's littlest learners, a new push to close achievement gap

Star Tribune | May 31, 2014

Demarco Campbell flips through magazines in hot pursuit of the letter “E.” It doesn’t take the 5-year-old long to find the letter, cut it out and glue it on a sheet of paper where he’s spelling out his name. For good measure, he also adds a photo of an iguana. Spelling his name, sounding out letters and simple math come easy for Demarco, a bubbly ­little boy who’s enrolled in the Bloomington school district’s KinderPrep program.

Many of Minnesota’s top educators believe such early-education opportunities hold the key to eliminating the state’s achievement gap between white students and students of color.

The push to expand early education both nationally and in Minnesota is picking up momentum after years of debate about the level of ­dividends paid by preschool. Gov. Mark Dayton — a former teacher — said in his annual State of the State address in April that he wants to make high-quality early education affordable for every 3- and 4-year-old by 2018.

Demarco’s mom, Hannah Campbell, says that without Bloomington’s KinderPrep Plus program, which also provides free before- and after-school care for Demarco, he probably would have to stay home with her because she can’t afford day care. “It’s a blessing,” she said. “I’m not sure what we’d do without it.” [Read More]

Our View: Austin begins transformational projects

Rochester Post-Bulletin | May 30, 2014

This wasn't an ordinary groundbreaking. More than 350 people gathered Wednesday to mark the beginning of an expansion project that will nearly double the size of the Hormel Institute in Austin.

The ceremony at the world-renowned cancer-research facility drew dignitaries such as Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Tim Walz and state Sen. Dave Senjem, who was the Senate Majority Leader in 2012 when the Minnesota Legislature approved $13.5 million in bonding for the expansion.

Institute officials are looking to build on the expansion by seeking an additional $3 million in funding for a new, 250-seat lecture hall to bring scientists from throughout the world for symposiums.

Creation of the new, 13,500-square-foot museum will bring more people downtown and generate foot traffic for other businesses. Groundbreaking is planned this fall with a scheduled opening in spring 2016 for the 125th anniversary of Hormel's founding.

It's not much of an exaggeration to suggest that the combination of these two projects are Austin's equivalent of Rochester's Destination Medical Center. For now, construction jobs and the resulting economic boost will come to Austin, to be followed by permanent, high-paying jobs that will result in a stronger housing market, a better retail environment and increased tax revenues for Mower County. [Read More]

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Construction Underway for New Affordable-Housing Community for Homeless Military Veterans and Their Families

Wall Street Journal | May 29, 2014

Military veterans and their families struggling with homelessness will have access to new housing and resources to help end the cycle of homelessness, as construction is now underway for a new, 58-unit affordable-housing community at historic Fort Snelling.

Veterans groups, project partners and various community leaders heralded CommonBond's Veterans Housing at Fort Snelling as vital in helping reach a goal of ending homelessness among military veterans in Minnesota. According to Heading Home Minnesota, a public-private partnership to end homeless in the state, more than 10,000 Minnesotans are homeless on any given night, including more than 350 veterans.

"Minnesota's heroes should never be homeless," said Governor Mark Dayton. "Our veterans risked their lives to protect our state, our country and our freedoms. They have more than earned safe and affordable places to live. I thank UnitedHealth Group, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and the other partners who have come together to build this wonderful new community." [Read More]

Northern Stacks Groundbreaking

Work begins on $100 million-plus redevelopment project in Fridley

Star Tribune | May 29, 2014

Thursday’s blue skies reflected the sunny mood shared by public officials, including Gov. Mark Dayton, who attended the official kickoff of the Northern Stacks industrial redevelopment project in Fridley. The $100 million-plus venture, ultimately expected to create 3,000 jobs, involves erecting 10 to 12 office/industrial buildings on the 122-acre site, once the home of Northern Pump Co.

The pump company, which opened at the East River Road location during World War II, enjoys a rich history of producing gun turrets and barrels for the U.S. Navy, and employing more than 12,000 in its heyday. But the manufacturing operations there used large amounts of solvents and chemicals in production, many of which were disposed of on-site, causing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to later declare it a Superfund site.

“Maybe it could be just like what was there in its heyday in the Second World War and after,” as a prime employer, Hyde said. “I’m really excited about bringing it back, and doing it in a way where there will be a stable group of different companies.”

Hyde was able to put together a financing package that mixed public and private sources. The public piece includes $1.3 million in grants from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, $4.5 million in tax-increment financing from Fridley’s Housing Redevelopment Authority and a $547,000 brownfield cleanup grant from the Metropolitan Council.

Dayton lauded the cooperation between the public and private sectors on the project: “You could say it’s astonishing, unbelievable, unprecedented, it’s terrific. A great accomplishment.” [Read More]

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