For Such a Time as This

A Collaborative Work of Molly Rieke-Hofschulte, Family Provider and Elizabeth Bangert, Center Provider

The story begins with a study at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank by Arthur J. Rolnick, who served as the Senior Vice President and Director of Research from 1985-2010 and Rob Grunewald, an Economist. The study, entitled “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return”, argued that dollars invested in Early Childhood Development yield extraordinary public returns. According to their report, published in 2003, the question they sought to address was whether the current funding of ECDPs (Early Childhood Development Programs) was high enough. They set out to make their case that it is not, and that the benefits achieved from ECDPs far exceed their costs. Their study, according to them, found that the return on ECDPs far exceeds the return on most projects that are currently funded as economic development – for example, Sports Stadiums.

They go on to make their case, writing that many of the initial studies of ECDPs found little improvement; in particular, they found only short-term improvements in cognitive test scores. Often children in early childhood programs would post improvements in IQ relative to nonparticipants, only to see the IQs of nonparticipants catch up within a few years. They then conclude however, that later studies found more long-term effects of ECDPs and go on to reference a number of programs including the High/Scope study of the Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti, Michigan., which demonstrates that the returns available to an investment in a high-quality ECDP are significant.

So already we have conflicting information. Here’s where it starts to get interesting.

Following their study, Rolnick and Gronwald then propose that the Minnesota state government create the Minnesota Foundation for Early Childhood Development to fill the gap between the funds currently available for ECFE, School Readiness and Head Start and the amount necessary to fully fund a high-quality program for all 3- and 4-year-old children living in poverty in Minnesota.

They share in their report, that all they need to do this is “a one-time $1.5 billion outlay that would create an endowment that could support ECDPs on an annual basis. The foundation would receive donations from government, private foundations, individuals and businesses. With the foundation’s funds invested in corporate AAA bonds, earning about 7 percent per year, they estimated that the $105 million in annual earnings would cover the yearly costs required to fully fund comprehensive, high-quality ECDPs for all children from low-income families in Minnesota.”

Having thrown out the number of $1.5 billion, they go on to admit “that in the tight fiscal environment, $1.5 billion is a particularly large sum, which may mean they couldn’t fully fund the program immediately. But that they should be able to fully fund the endowment over the next five years.” And so, it began; the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation was born.

According to the “Early Education Reform Blueprint”, published by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, “In 2005, Minnesota business and non-profit leaders formed the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation and raised $20 million in private funding to learn more about how to improve early education quality. MELF’s leaders weren’t players in the child care sector, so they had no prejudices on the subject, and no vested interest to protect. They also turned down government funding to remain independent of political influences.” The Blueprint goes on to share, “the Parent Aware pilot represented the most market-based approach ever used in the nation. This is a reward model, not a regulatory model.  Market forces, not government mandates, drive quality improvements.”

Enter the concept of Early Learning Scholarships, aka, a voucher program. The Blueprint shares, “another central reform that proved especially promising in the MELF-funded pilots was a scholarship model tested in Saint Paul.  Scholarships were designed to help low-income children access high quality early care and education. But the scholarships were different than traditional government child care programs in fundamental ways.

• The scholarships were streamlined, involving less paperwork for parents and providers.

• They were portable. Families could take the scholarship from provider to provider without losing eligibility. 

• They were empowering.  Families viewed the funds as a scholarship for early learning, not a welfare program. 

• Finally, they were focused on high quality early learning.  Unlike traditional government programs, the scholarships could only be used with providers who had strong Parent Aware Ratings.”

That all sounds good – in theory. Who wouldn’t love the concept of market forces without government mandates, combined with parental choice and flexibility in where to use the scholarships, and a rating system helps parents choose what environment is best for their family? The MELF utilized an investment of $20 million dollars, by private businesses, to run a pilot program. In 2011, armed with the results of their program, they allowed the MELF to voluntarily sunset.

Here’s a quick recap of what has occurred thus far:

  • 2003 – The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank publish a study by Arthur Rolnick and Rob Grunewald entitled “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return”. They make the claim that investing public resources into Early Childhood Development Programs, is one of the best returns on investment a society can make and they suggest creating an endowment fund from public and private sources to be invested in corporate AAA bonds of which they could utilize the annual earnings to fund high quality early learning programs each year.
  • 2005-2011 –Minnesota business leaders hire former Senate Republican leader Duane Benson to lead a $20 million pilot program to test the return on investment referenced in the study out of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.

Before we continue, we should probably mention the board members of the MELF:

Brad Anderson, Vice Chairman (retired), Best Buy Co., Inc

Kendall J. Powell, CEO and Chairman of the Board, General Mills

Jean Taylor, CEO (former), Taylor Corporation

Duane Benson, Executive Director, Minnesota Early Learning Foundation

Michael Fiterman, CEO, Liberty Diversified International

Robbin S. Johnson, President, Cargill Foundation

Mike Ciresi, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.

Art Rolnick, Senior Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Douglas M. Baker, CEO and President, Ecolab, Inc

Warren Staley, Chairman and CEO (retired), Cargill Inc.

Peg Birk, President and CEO, Interim Solutions

Ted Staryk, Partner, CNote Management

Robert H. Bruininks, President, University of Minnesota

Charlie Weaver, Executive Director, MN Business Partnership

You’ll begin to notice a pattern of names that appear throughout various pieces of this “puzzle”.

In December of 2011, Minnesota was one of nine states awarded a federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. The grant ran from 2012-2015. During the same time frame, Parent Aware for School Readiness was founded; the non-profit focused on ensuring successful implementation of the reforms that were proposed from MELF by using the funds from the grant. In addition, several former MELF leaders were involved in Parent Aware for School Readiness. But the $45 million dollar grant that Minnesota had been awarded, from the federal Race to the Top Learning – Early Learning Challenge Grant, ran out in 2015 and the Parent Aware for School Readiness Non-Profit was allowed to sunset. All of the aforementioned information can be found on the “Close Gaps by 5” website, which we have also conveniently saved as a PDF (just in case it magically disappears).  

Speaking of things that are interesting, it turns out the “Parent Aware for School Readiness” didn’t actually sunset, it simply switched names. The Business Registration on the Secretary of State Website confirms that in 2017, an amendment was made to change the name to… “Close Gaps by 5”.

You may recognize some of these names on the Donor List of “Close Gaps by 5” – just in case, we made some notes:

  • Advance Consulting, LLC
  • Albright Foundation
  • Anonymous fund of the Minneapolis Foundation
  • Julie and Doug Baker Jr. Foundation
  • Terri Barreiro
  • Frank Bennett
  • The Michael V. and Ann Ciresi Foundation – Served on the MELF Board
  • The Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children – Affiliated with Michael Ciresi
  • The Cargill Foundation – Served on the MELF Board
  • Kathy Cooney and Bob LaBombard
  • Ecolab Foundation – Served on the MELF Board
  • Brett and Heather Edelson
  • General Mills Foundation – Served on the MELF Board
  • Lucinda Jesson
  • Scott and Anne Jones
  • Dan and Karen Kinsella
  • The Krisbin Foundation
  • Jan Kruchoski
  • LRE Foundation
  • Mardag Foundation
  • The Minneapolis Foundation
  • Tim and Sandra Penny – Tim Penny is currently the Executive Director of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
  • Art and Cheri Rolnick – Arthur Rolnick, author of the study out of the Federal Reserve Bank
  • The Saint Paul Foundation
  • Fred Senn
  • Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation
  • Soran Family Fund
  • Staley Family Foundation
  • WEM Foundation

Close Gaps by 5 would also like you to note, according to their website, that “Partnership and in-kind support from Fallon Worldwide is enabling them to meet their mission.” – Translation: Advertising.

In the midst of the Federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant cycle from 2012 -2 2015, another major piece of legislation began taking front and center at the Federal level. In Minnesota we see it manifested as the program many know because of fraud, CCAP, the Child Care Assistance Program, but it has Federal Roots in a piece of Legislation known as the Federal Child Care Development Block Grant, often referred to as the CCDBG, or the Child Care Development Fund, the CCDF. The CCDBG was voted into law in 2014, but the rulemaking process ended in 2016, after which it began to be referred to as the CCDF. (There are Federal Campaign Finance ties here including Tom Emmer, Erik Paulsen, and John Kline – but we’re focusing on Minnesota for this particular piece).

While all of these moving pieces were going on, a war was brewing between private and public sectors. You see, during this time, Governor Dayton – DFL- saw an opportunity for how he could use the Early Learning Scholarships – in Public Programs. Even with concerns raised by members of his own Early Learning Council (on which Family Providers and my research partner Molly Rieke-Hoffschulte served), he began pushing for Universal Preschool. In 2015, despite people like Molly raising concerns of accountability and tax payer waste, along with the destruction of the private child care market, Dayton went ahead and moved forward. And so it began – Union Programs vs. Non-Union.

We recognize that is a lot of information to follow, so let’s pause for a brief re-cap:

  • 2003 – The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank publishes a study by Arthur Rolnick and Rob Grunewald entitled “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return”.
  • 2005-2011 –Minnesota business leaders hire former Senate Republican leader Duane Benson to lead a $20 million pilot program to test the return on investment referenced in the study out of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. They call their group, the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation.
  • 2011-2016 – Parent Aware for School Readiness, a non-profit, is formed as a result of Minnesota receiving a Federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant.
  • January 2017 – Parent Aware for School Readiness becomes Close Gaps by 5

Buckle up, because it’s about to get real. Quickly abandoning their decision to “remain independent of political influences”, Governor Dayton’s push for Universal Preschool sparked a flurry of cash flow – on both sides of the aisle.

First, we need to set the stage politically. In 2015, the Republicans controled the House and the Democrats controled the Senate and the Governorship. A lot of money was on the line and nearly 15 years of work had turned into a classic turf-war with Democrats supporting public programs and Republicans supporting private programs. It was a good smoke and mirrors game – we’ll give them that.

In 2015 there was much work to be done, because the $45 million grant from The Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge was set to expire and every tax payer knows what that means, we get to pony up – get out your wallets.

But a key player in child care was emerging within the halls of St. Paul at the Capitol – a franchised center who has roots right here in Minnesota – New Horizon Academy. Founded in 1971 by Sue Dunkley, her sons Chad and Troy had now taken over the business. Notice that there are two brothers. This is important and something that is extremely relevant, because the Dunkley Family owns not only New Horizon Academy, which you often hear of and of which Chad Dunkley is the CEO, but they also own Kids Quest, which is operated by Troy Dunkley. Kids Quest child care facilities have their niche partnering with Casinos, often as a benefit for employees, across America.

In 2015, the HRCC (the current affiliate of the GOP Party of Minnesota), began receiving large campaign contributions from affiliates of New Horizons. In 2015 alone, $26,100 was contributed. Looking back, this makes sense, as the House had a Republican majority and programs such as Early Learning Scholarships, are typically more in line with the Democratic approach to government funding so no funding was needed on that side of the aisle. The only problem was that in order for the Parent Aware Program to continue, the funding needed to shift to the state and that meant that the House needed to get on board – hence the $4,000 donation to then Speaker of the House, Kurt Daudt. At the same time in 2015, the Democrats held the majority in the Senate, which explains the $500 donation to Chuck Wiger (DFL) who was serving as chair of the Senate Education Committee. Donations to the Democratic Party weren’t really needed as passing this legislation gave them the win they were looking for in funding the Public School and Head Start Programs – because Unions…

Meanwhile, a new non-profit advocacy group emerged, the Minnesota Child Care Association, founded by – you guessed it – New Horizons Owner, Chad Dunkley, who still serves as the President of the organization as I type this. In the midst of all of this, New Horizon’s lobbyist, Cissa Keller, “abandoned” her post which she’d held from 2009 until 2015, and magically transitions into a Lobbyist for “Think Small”, yet another non-profit who not only advocates for higher CCAP Rates but also increased funding for Early Learning Scholarships. New Horizons then hired a new lobbyist in 2015, Claire Sanford, who also serves on the non-profit, Minnesota Child Care Association. Oh, what a tangled web some weave…

As I’m sure you can guess, the 2016 Legislative Session came to a close and the legislature appropriated $104 million for Early Learning Scholarships for the years 2016-2017. The affiliates of New Horizons promptly dumped another $28,500 into the coffers of the HRCC just in time for the election cycle as a little “Thank-you” present on behalf of the tax payers – oh wait. Additionally in 2016, in what at first glance appeared to be a random campaign donation, a $250 donation was made to DFL Senator Melisa Franzen, however further digging produced SF3510, which was a bill for a Capitol complex child care facility bond issue and appropriation; a bill that then Senator Lourey (now DHS Commissioner) and then Representative Flannigan (now Lt. Governor), also authored. Classic.

Fast forward to 2017 and another $30,000 was dumped into the coffers of the HRCC, followed by another $30,500 in 2018, all from – you guessed it – affiliates of New Horizon Academy. It’s almost as though they had a slush fund of tax payer money driving their business – feel free to let the moths out of your wallet now.

Here’s where Molly and I entered the picture. In 2017, a child fell from a 47-inch slide on the playground of the small, independent center that I own and operate. To make an incredibly long story short, DHS came after me. I had been a squeaky wheel for some time and they seized the opportunity. We were ultimately cleared, but something happened. It’s no secret that I am a Christian; I do not hide that and I don’t intend to start now. Look no further then the entire first portion of this document for a taste of a modern-day miracle – because there is no way I would have pieced all of that together without some divine intervention. After the state railed on me for no reason, God called me to compile data – public DHS data – so I oblige. I asked a colleague to help me and we started in mid-December 2017 and ended our first release, which was about 15% of the Child Care Center Data, right before the session began in February 2018. The data is very damning. It shows that small, independent center child care providers are being targeted and they have been since 2015. At the time, I did not yet know or understand the Campaign Finance ties, but I do now. The data shows many things but I will highlight the most damning:

  1. New Horizon Academy locations were not being inspected at the same rate of other providers.
  2. New Horizon Academy had maltreatment convictions, yet retained their Parent Aware 4 Star Rating, which is a direct violation of DHS Parent Aware Policy.
  3. Because New Horizon Academy did not lose their rating, they continued to receive higher CCAP Payments and Early Learning Scholarships.

Because Family Provider data was not publicly posted yet, I was unable to compile that data, as it is held at the county level. I took my over 3,000 pages of data to the Republican led House to Representative Franson and I faced resistance. I have email documentation of DHS communicating with a Committee Administrator about me and my data and how to ensure that if I was allowed to testify, I wouldn’t reference the past aka “the data file”. I ended up testifying and I turned my documentation regarding DHS and a Committee Admin over to Representative Franson, the chair of the Subcommittee on Child Care Access and Affordability. No sooner did I press “send” on the email and she called me on the phone to “talk me down” aka try and convince me that there was no collusion but she promised to give me 5 minutes….5…minutes at the next meeting to share our data. I had 3,000 pages of data validating what child care providers had been saying about DHS, in the midst of a child care crisis, and I was given 5 minutes? State agencies however, had cart blanche to speak and present entire meaningless power point presentations with skewed numbers. I ended up spending over 30 days at the Capitol trying to share my data with anyone who would listen – including staging a walkout into Senator Abelor’s Committee – and still they drafted no meaningful legislation.

At this point we were now nearing the end of session 2018. Enter Whistleblower, Scott Stillman. I will never forget sitting in that room. As he was speaking about CCAP Fraud, my colleague who had helped me compile data, leaned over and said to me, “Oh good, our data is minor compared to this; this will for sure shut it down”. But as a business owner, my brain had started connecting all of the dots. God gave me a gift where I can map things in my mind. While she was rejoicing, I was looking around the room and thinking to myself, “Oh dear Lord. We’ve accidentally uncovered a massive scheme.”

In May of 2018, in a night of Senate Testimony that God has since spread across America and which formed our network of providers and insiders in places like Louisiana, Molly and I shared our stories. And from that moment on, we vowed to see this through to the end. (To watch the testimony – including Molly’s awful story of how a government agency gone rogue will destroy your life – click here).

So, what do we know?

*We know that this has deep Federal roots, including a National non-profit who has set up a monopoly and a clear anti-trust law violation by driving up prices and targeting certain groups of providers across America – namely family and independently owned small centers.

*We know that over 31% of New Horizon Academy’s locations have maltreatment determinations, yet they have not had their Parent Aware, High Quality Rating, revoked.

*We know that the market rates for the Child Care Assistance Program are not only highest in the counties where New Horizon facilities are located, but they are identical down to the penny, in all of those counties. The CCAP Rates are set by DHS and the Legislature, even though an actual survey is conducted of both family and center-based providers.

*We know that in 2015, Family and Independent Centers became targets of DHS. Family providers are decreasing in number rapidly and center providers are slowly being replaced by Head Start and franchised centers.

*We know that Head Start Programs – which are legally licensed – are not being inspected but yet receive an accelerated “aka automatic” 4-Star Rating.

*We know that Public Preschool Programs – which are legally unlicensed – are not being held to any standard, because an audit report demonstrates they cannot prove these programs are meeting intended outcomes.

*We know that the Office of the Legislative Auditor and that Scott Stillman and the forensic team are on the right track when they have concerns about the top 150 paid centers in this state. The map on page 5 of the most recent report provided by the OLA in their April 2019 release, shows a bright orange cluster where the highest CCAP funds were paid and it aligns with the counties where New Horizon’s Academy operates, including one outside of the 7 County Metro area, in Olmsted County – which honestly was a tell for those of us who know the industry.

*We know that the Early Learning Council that Governor Dayton created was interested in capturing a “$1.5 billion private revenue stream currently paid for from parent’s pockets”, which is referenced not only in emails that Molly has, but in a public report which has now been stripped from the MDE website.

We know from experience, that only one small group of Legislators have been willing to help us – and they reside in the New Republican House Caucus and one Republican individual from the Senate. And we also know that only child care providers who work in these systems day-in and day-out will be able to help stop the fraud, waste abuse, and destruction of family choice and childhood.

But above all, we know that not only are parents losing their choice, not only are providers being maliciously targeted – above all, we know that children are being placed in environments that cannot be proven to be superior to any Non-Rated Parent Aware Program, as demonstrated by an over 140 page report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, but worse yet, they are being placed in environments that have maltreatment documented and of whom the vast majority of facilities, have not been inspected since 2015.

But the greatest question of all is: Who is going to put a stop to this?

There was only one Legislator during the 2017 session who asked to see my data. He literally ran after me in the hallway. His name is Representative Jeremy Munson. He held a Town Hall over the Summer – he even took a group of providers and parents to the Capitol to discuss legislation over the Summer. And now as I type this, the members of the New House Republican Caucus, are the only ones stepping up to the plate to help Molly and I and quite frankly to defend the tax payer and child care providers but most importantly, the children.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is far more nefarious then the contents of this document. The entire data file – SLEDs, CAGE Reports – Federal Documents – have all been distributed across this country. There are fail safes in many states. There are investigative journalists who have the data.

Here’s what it comes down to. This world is not my home. God called me to shine light in the darkness – to expose the truth. Sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard when your dreams and plans don’t align with what God is calling you to do. Peter was afraid and began to sink when Jesus called Him out on the water, but He got out of the boat. Molly got out of the boat. I got out of the boat. Will anyone else get out of the boat?

There is no other explanation for how this has transpired aside from the awesome power of God. Sometimes Molly and I will get together to work and we will open our computers and search and a different document with more relevance then what we had hoped for will appear. Sometimes we will be talking on the phone and things will just start connecting.

I had no idea what the data meant when I first compiled it. But God brought all of it together in His time. Perhaps like Esther in the Bible, Molly and I were made for such a time as this.

I will end with this final thought. On September 9, 2017, I wrote an entry in my blog for my business, Here We Grow, entitled, “Here I stand, I Can Do No Other”.  That phrase is printed on the back of the t-shirts I had made when I chose to take a stand after I found out we were being investigated by DHS for a playground accident – of which we were cleared.

I was terrified to speak up, because DHS has so much power and the Legislature wasn’t doing anything. But I was wrong to doubt God. Indeed, Molly and I believe a reformation is coming: a reformation and restoration of the family, which has been consumed by government programs, stock options, campaign finance and lobbyists.

But Molly and I know who we are following. Even though the New Republican House Caucus is dedicated to the cause and we support them, we follow God. A servant cannot have 2 Masters. God can and is certainly working through people at the Capitol, including as we call them “The Fab 4” aka New Republican House Caucus, but elected officials are not meant to be idolized, yet many in this country do exactly that; exalt them to levels from which they never step down.

But the Million Dollar Question for children – for providers – for families in this state is: Who else will take a stand?

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“Here I Stand; I Can Do No Other”

September 9, 2017

Regardless of your view on religion, if you have studied history you may have heard the phrase “Here I stand; I can do no other.” The phrase became descriptive of the time period commonly known as “The Reformation”. But I’m not here to debate religion. I’m here to take a stand for families, children, teachers, child care providers, and small business owners; to take a stand for communities. I’m here to take a stand, regardless of the repeated emails, social media messages and warnings from those who fear that by taking a stand, I will become a target, risking my own business and livelihood. That I am risking the dream I have worked so hard to bring to fruition… I’m afraid too. However, in the words of Luther, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

Here We Grow began with a prayer in the parking lot of what was originally built as a 2-room school house, located on 2 acres in Lime Township, Mankato, MN. It was the Summer of 2012. It was the beginning of our journey to partner with families; to do things differently than the status quo. I took a leap, knowing that there must be a different way, knowing that I would have to prove myself and our philosophy.

Five years later, here I stand, surrounded by 7 teachers, each employed full-time; surrounded by 38 families, with another 20 on our waiting list. Here I stand, surrounded by partnerships within the community and beyond. Here I stand.

Here I stand, in the middle of a child care crisis, receiving sometimes 10 phone calls a day from families seeking an environment that meets their parenting philosophy, or in most cases, seeking to add their name to our waiting list or even join us on a temporary basis so that they can continue employment.

Here I stand, a 4-Star Parent Aware Rated early learning environment, viewed by the local school district as “not a real Preschool”.

Here I stand, extending our mission beyond our four walls, by consulting with other towns/cities to bring quality learning environments to their community; often times to save their small schools and local businesses. Here I stand, viewed by others as “stupid” for “helping the competition”.

Here I stand, accepting child care assistance and Parent Aware Scholarships that provide over 40% of our families access to a high quality early learning environment.

Here I stand, providing wages that far exceed the 2016 National Average Wage of $9.77 per hour in our industry, yet still feeling as though I am perpetuating poverty, because 46% of child care workers in America live in poverty, utilizing one or more forms of government assistance.

Here I stand, awaiting SBA Loan Approval for the 2nd phase of my renovations for our Infant Wing, because even though my financials are solid and I have a high credit score, the industry rate of failure is high, with over 35% of child care centers in Minnesota closing within the first 4 years of operation. Banks will not provide loans without a high percentage guarantee, as provided by the SBA.

Here I stand, feeling like I’m letting down my 16 families who are awaiting Infant Care, with another 40 some on our waiting list hoping for an opening one day.

Here I stand, paying interest on 2 lines of credit while I await County Assistance Payments and Parent Aware Pathway Grant Payments which at this current moment total over $13,000; payments that are rendered 45 days after service because of the manner in which the system is designed.

HERE I STAND. YELLING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS HOPING FOR SOMEONE TO HEAR ME! TO GIVE ME EVEN JUST 5 MINUTES OF THEIR TIME; TO LISTEN FROM SOMEONE IN THE FIELD, ON THE FRONT LINES RATHER THAN A PANEL OF EXPERTS WHO ARE BROUGHT FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY, TO A LOCATION CONVENIENT FOR THE MINORITY AND INCONVENIENT FOR THE MAJORITY. HERE I STAND, MY SCREAMS FALLING ON DEAF EARS. HERE I STAND, YARD SIGNS IN OUR FRONT LAWN HOPING FOR EVEN ONE PERSON TO TAKE ACTION; I CAN DO NO OTHER.

By now, most would have given up; raised the white flag. The truth is, that many already have. Minnesota is losing providers at an increasing rate (while amid a child care shortage- which is rather telling in my opinion) but alas, Here I stand; my message falling on deaf ears of those who have the capability to make the most change.

Here I stand. I can do no other.

Yet there you stand; a government agency making decisions for us, without us.

Yet there you stand; expecting us to step up and solve the child care crisis, while heaping regulations upon us.

Yet there you stand; wondering why so many providers are leaving the field or failing, yet not addressing the time frames, guidelines, and complete disorder of the systems you expect us to participate in to support families.

Yet there you stand; promising meetings to hear our input, while bringing in other experts aside from the ones standing right in front of your face.

Yet there you stand; making decisions without taking an in-depth look at how the agencies work together, or rather don’t.

There you stand, far removed from where I stand. And that is the problem.

So Here I stand.

I will continue to provide assistance to other providers and communities, breaking down the walls that the system has built.

I will continue to put signs in our front lawn and seek local partnerships.

Because every day, when I enter the doors of Here We Grow, I stand surrounded by families, children, teachers, and others within the community and beyond; I stand surrounded by my cause.

So, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.

Here I stand, I can do no other, so God help me. Amen.

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