Mayor details strategies for eliminating childhood gaps

A year after it was assembled, Hodges' Cradle to K Cabinet releases its final report

A final report from Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet released Monday is the most detailed version yet of her plan to shrink the city’s disparities by eliminating early gaps in healthcare, education and housing.

The recommendations focus on children from before birth to age 3, a critical period for health and brain development. The report states Minneapolis is facing an “epidemic” of children arriving in kindergarten unprepared — children who are then less likely to graduate from high school and earn a decent wage in the years ahead.

The goals include getting all Minneapolis children off to a “healthy start” both physically and cognitively, moving more families into safe and stable housing and providing all children access to high-quality early learning experiences. The report identifies specific strategies for achieving those goals and key indicators of progress in each area.

That’s the “what” of Hodges’ vision, but the report doesn’t get to the “how.” How to implement and pay for a plan that will require cooperation between various levels of government, as well as between the city and a network of nonprofits, are the next big questions the Cradle to K Cabinet members have to take on.

Peggy Flanagan, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund–Minnesota and co-chair of the cabinet, acknowledged as much Monday when she described the release of the final report as “the easy part.”

“Now, it will be actually moving and implementing this plan, and we need everyone’s help to be able to do this,” Flanagan said.

The Cradle to K Cabinet includes more than two-dozen local experts in the fields of healthcare, education and economics. It refined its recommendations since releasing a draft version of the report in February and holding public meetings in recent months.

“As much as possible, these recommendations are based on current research and prevailing best practices,” Hodges said. “We want to focus on what works for kids. We want to focus on what we know works and what people have been doing so we can really move forward.”

She didn’t set a timeline for implementing the plan, but said the cabinet would begin work on next steps immediately. The full report can be read on the mayor’s section of the city website.