Across the state of Minnesota, there is a lot of confusion regarding what scholarships are and how they will work. Finding agreement on how scholarships is defined is a constructive place to start.

A scholar is defined as "One who is taught in a school; esp. a boy or girl attending an elementary school (Oxford English Dictionary, OED). Another definition is "A student who receives emoluments, during a fixed period, from the funds of a school, college, or university, towards defraying the cost of his education or studies, and as a reward of merit (OED, emphasis added). Some people have argued that early childhood scholarships are the same as scholarships in higher education.

Conversely, a voucher is defined as " A document which can be exchanged for goods or services as token of payment made or promised by the holder or another." The idea of "scholarships" is based on Milton Friedman’s voucher model. In addition, relevant literature uses the term voucher. While advocates in Minnesota have named them scholarships, they are more appropriately defined as vouchers. This may be do to the fact that vouchers have been used, or proposed to be used, in ways that some people argue takes money away from publicly funded programs (e.g. Head Start, public schools, etc).

It is important to note that using the term "scholarships" does have precedence in Minnesota. Many School Readiness programs refer to their preschool subsidies to families as scholarships. Because of this, there may be some confusion between state scholarship proposals and existing scholarships provided through School Readiness.


Minnesota Department of Education
Early Learning Scholarships

Parent Aware Website
Early Learning Scholarships


Cost Study of the Saint Paul Early Childhood Scholarship Program

Countering the Politics of Class, Race, Gender, and Geography in Early Childhood Education
by Travis S. Wright, George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Educational Vouchers for Universal Pre-Schools
by Henry Levin, Heather Schwartz, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Formations of New Governing Technologies and Productions of New Norms: The Dangers of Preschool Voucher discourse
by I-Fang Lee, Hong Kong Institute of Education

Politics of Preschool Education Vouchers in Taiwan, The
by Ming‐sho Ho, Comparative Education Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 (February 2006), pp. 66-89

Proposal for State, Income-Targeted, Preschool Vouchers, A
John F. Witte, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin–Madison


Coalition seeks $150 million more for Minnesota early-childhood education - Pioneer Press
Early Childhood Education Gets Boost from Dayton's Budget Proposal from MPR
Dayton budget funds innovative scholarships for low-income preschoolers MinnPost


Early Childhood Education Scholarships: Investing in Early Learning from the Office of Governor Mark Dayton
Grant - Early Learning Challenge Scholarship Local Coordination from MDE


Early Childhood Education Scholarships: Implementation Plan


Families can receive vouchers to any Parent Aware rated program, regardless of quality level. For example, 3 and 4 star rated are up to $4,000 while 1 and 2 star rated are up to $3,000. Click here for application

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Post a question or answer a question

Q: Does my program have to be Parent Aware rated in order to receive scholarships?
A: Yes. Go to the Parent Aware website or the Parent Aware/QRIS page on this wiki for more information.

Q: Are the scholarships only for Child Care programs? When I look on websites like Parent Aware for School Readiness, they only talk about child care (e.g. "Extensive research has found that Minnesota can improve early education quality in all types of child care settings."
A: No, parents can also choose Head Start and school-based programs.

Q: Everything I read talks about the importance of collaboration in early childhood. I was at a state conference and heard speakers from Bremerton, WA, talk about the power of their collaborations with child care partners. Won't the vouchers increase competition while hampering collaboration?
A: Another initiative in Minnesota is PreK-3rd Grade alignment. This framework includes collaboration, so it is expected that this will help improve collaborations and partnerships amongst providers.