ST PAUL, Minn. — The MN Children's Cabinet was established in Minnesota law in 1993, and relaunched in 2011 by then-Gov. Mark Dayton. But if you haven't heard of it, you're not alone.
Gov. Tim. Walz wants to change that. Wednesday morning he officially rebooted the Children's Cabinet, a group of 22 state commissioners and many experts in the early childhood field.
"We’ve got great employees doing great work across agencies, but sometimes they don’t know what their neighbors are doing," Gov. Walz explained.
"We’ve got great programs, great commitment, but they’re not aligned in a way that we think uses our community partners, makes sense."
The effort will include organizations such as the Children's Defense Fund and the Minnesota foundation. Former Federal Reserve Bank research economist Art Rolnik, who has long championed the value of early childhood education, is among the experts who are on board with the new initiative.
Walz said he said many people he talked to hadn't heard of the Children's Cabinet, or thought it might be actually a junior cabinet made up of actual children. He said the tots will be there in spirit, and they'll be the focus, but the adults will be doing the heavy lifting.
"We should have the healthiest children, we should close that achievement gap for children of color. And those are the things we’re going to start using best practices, organizational design and probably most importantly the commitment to bring the community in," Walz told KARE.
He envisioned many working study sessions and training sessions for cabinet members so they can find practical ways to deliver services to more children, and more efficiently, and to get the better long-range outcomes.
"Some of these pieces come out of the Department of Health, some of them come of the Department of Education. Some of them come out of the departments of Ag and Housing," Walz said.
The plan laid out Wednesday included these goals:
• Healthy beginnings (beginning with prenatal)
• Child care and education (beginning with early childhood)
• Mental health and well-being
• Housing stability
It's all consistent with his One Minnesota theme, and his overarching belief in taking a holistic approach to taking on challenges. It's a recognition, for example, that homelessness impacts school performance and falling behind in school can affect a child's future in profound ways.
"The Children’s Cabinet will be a way to focus on that. I think that’s who we are at heart. I came into politics as a teacher. I came into focusing on those outcomes, and that’s who I am."