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Family talk: What will we learn from Minnesota's early childhood plan?

Jim Priest
Jim Priest

What could the state of Oklahoma do to make itself a top 10 state for families if it had $26 million in federal grant money? Right now, we don’t know, but the state of Minnesota is finding out. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced his state will receive $26.7 million in federal money to support critical early childhood services.

Here’s what Walz said at the press conference:

“Minnesotans agree that they want our state to be the best place for children to grow up, no matter who they are or where they’re from. This federal support will help achieve that goal by putting children at the center of government and helping connect families with the support they need to thrive.”

How did they get that money?

They applied for it. It took some effort and coordination among three state agencies and multiple private agencies. And it took over a year to research and apply for the grant. But they did it. And they got it.

Here’s how one newspaper reported on the grant:

Based on feedback from over 130 community listening sessions, Walz has decided that the funding will be used to improve how state systems serve families with young children. This will be accomplished by investing in a whole-family approach as to how the state delivers services, connects young families to local resources in education, health, human services, housing and transportation, among others.

From my years serving in an early childhood agency, I agree that a whole family approach in the delivery of services to young children, prenatal to age 5, is necessary. Oklahoma, as a state, does not have such an approach. But it could.

If you want to encourage your government to take a Minnesota-like approach, here is contact information:

• To contact the governor’s office, go to

• To find and email your senator or representative, go to

Albert Einstein said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Oklahoma needs to think differently about the state of its families if we’re going to rise above the sixth worst place in the United States to raise a family.

Jim Priest can be reached at