Volume 2, Issue 2

March 12, 2003

Hot Topics

Steve Barnett, NIEER Director, Linda M. Espinosa, NIEER Co-Director and Dorothy Strickland, NIEER Senior Research Fellow briefed Senate staffers on February 25 about a variety of preschool issues. Dorothy Strickland, who is also the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair in Education at Rutgers, provided information on preschool literacy concerns, Linda Espinosa spoke on the issue of testing and assessment and Steve Barnett addressed issues related to economic benefits of high-quality preschool programs. The briefing was especially timely in light of the number of reauthorizations scheduled for the coming months.
A national poll, commissioned by the Public Education Network and Education Week, shows most American voters believe education funding is a top priority and should be protected from cuts at all costs, even as many states deal with budget crises. Provisions of the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 also received support, with many voters calling for federal funding to implement “No Child Left Behind.”

After months of debate, Congress completed its overdue budget work. While previous years have seen double-digit percentage increases, the appropriation for Fiscal Year 2003 includes a raise of about $3.2 billion for the Department of Education – up 6.3 percent from last year. The spending bill treats special education and the Title I program for disadvantaged students more favorably than other programs.

New York Governor George E. Pataki’s proposed budget includes $1.2 billion in education cuts across the state. Preschool has been zeroed out. New York City schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said the impact of the cut would fall most heavily on two early education initiatives: a prekindergarten program and a program to lower enrollment in elementary classes to 20 to 25 students.



Meanwhile, Ohio Governor Bob Taft is looking to save nearly $200 million in the next two years with a proposal to cut child-care assistance to low-income parents of 15,000 children and eliminate 4,000 slots in Head Start.



In New Jersey, the Department of Education expects to spend $20 million more next year on court-ordered preschool classes in 30 of the state's poorest urban (Abbott) districts. According to Ellen Frede, the education commissioner’s assistant for early childhood education, preliminary approval has been given to the Abbott districts to spend $397.3 million on next year's classes for 3- and 4-year-olds.



Most child-care and development programs would be affected in California Governor Gray Davis’ plan to transfer the administration of more than $8 billion of various state programs to counties and raise money for the programs through tax increases. Advocates fear that education programs for child-care providers and the programs themselves could be jeopardized by the plan.



To close a $1.3 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year, Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has decided to go through with the proposed cut of $25 million from a $134 million program to help cover child-care costs for poor families.



Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s budget proposal includes spending about $2 billion more in the 2004-05 budget on early childhood-through-12th-grade education than was spent in the 2002-03 budget cycle. However, it is still less than what is needed to maintain programs at their current levels.



A proposal being considered in the Oregon state House of Representatives would provide pre-kindergarten for all eligible low-income students – those from families making no more than $18,400 per year. Current federal and state funding aids only 66 percent of the children in need.



The Arkansas Senate voted to extend a 3 percent beer tax to benefit early childhood education. The tax is expected to raise $8.1 million this fiscal year. The Arkansas Better Chance Program, a preschool program for disadvantaged children, would receive $6.4 million. The remaining 20 percent of the funds would go to a child care voucher program for low-income families.



North Carolina Governor Mike Easley has proposed expanding More at Four, a preschool program designed to help prepare at-risk 4-year-old children for success in school.



In his Condition of the State speech, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack called for the creation of the Iowa Learns Council to develop strategies to ensure that “virtually all (over 90%)” Iowa children have access to quality preschool and at least two years of college.



South Carolina legislators are considering a budget proposal that includes $18.5 million – down from $28 million allocated last year – for the First Steps early childhood education initiative.



Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s inaugural budget proposal protects funding for educating at-risk children and pre-school early learning initiatives.



Another new chief executive, Governor Ed Rendell, proposes to offer funds to Pennsylvania school districts to reduce class sizes and provide pre-k and all-day kindergarten.

NIEER Activities

The National Governors Association featured Rob Reiner, head of the I Am Your Child Foundation, and Dr. Craig Ramey, Georgetown University, at its mid-winter session on early childhood education programs. NIEER Director Steve Barnett discussed the potential for NIEER’s assistance to a variety of Governors in attendance.

Calendar

March 27, 2003


This upcoming audio conference will give participants the opportunity to listen to discussions between staff from the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, national policy experts, and city officials as they discuss funding and support for early childhood initiatives.
April 8, 2003


Minneapolis, MN -- The Minnesota Round Table brings together a panel of experts on children's issues for discussion on research and practice issues, focusing this year on improving child development.
April 8, 2003 - April 11, 2003
Washington, DC – The Children’s Defense Fund National Conference focuses on finding new strategies to ensure that our nation lives up to the commitment to Leave No Child Behind®.
April 13, 2003 - April 16, 2003
Phoenix -- The Association for Childhood Education International's Annual International Conference will feature more than 250 workshops and seminars on topics of interest to teachers, teacher educators, college students, child care personnel, and other care givers.
April 24, 2003


The conference will focus on infants and young children, in the context of relationships with family, care givers and community.
April 27, 2003 - April 29, 2003
St. Louis, Missouri -- The Born to Learn Conference aims to inform both early childhood educators and parents.
April 29, 2003 - May 2, 2003
Ypsilanti, Michigan -- The High/Scope International Conference will provide workshops and discussion of topics related to all aspects of the High/Scope Curriculum.

Early Education News Roundup

March 10, 2003
U.S. News & World Report
Critics of Head Start say that it has sorely neglected education in its efforts to provide poor families with day care and a range of social services, and that low-income kids who are most in need of a strong academic start are coming to school knowing only a few letters. But many early-education experts fear the pendulum will now swing too far the other way.
March 7, 2003
New Haven Register
Gov. John G. Rowland sparred with members of Congress Thursday over President Bush's proposal for states to take over the Head Start programs, and he vowed that Connecticut would be the first to take on the challenge. "Head Start is a great program, we can make it better," Rowland told members of the House Education Committee during a hearing.
March 7, 2003
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN
[S]tudies underscore the urgent need to improve and expand preschool learning -- both for the students themselves and society in general. Although some attention has been focused on preschool learning, government, schools, businesses and nonprofits must do more to support early education.
March 7, 2003
The New York Times
Poor children suffer no psychological damage when their mothers move from welfare to work, as millions of women have in recent years, a major new study says. The researchers said they had detected neither harmful nor beneficial effects on preschool children when their mothers went from welfare to work.
March 5, 2003
The Tennessean
Gov. Phil Bredesen said yesterday that he probably will not intervene in the legislature, where creating a state lottery has bogged down, but said he will continue to push for certain aspects including setting aside some money for early childhood development programs. The constitutional amendment that voters approved in November said that any "excess" after college scholarships are funded is to be used for capital outlay projects in grades K-12 and for early learning programs and after-school programs.
March 5, 2003
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
Children enrolled in quality child-care programs are better prepared for kindergarten than children who attend lower-quality centers, according to an evaluation of the Smart Start program released Tuesday by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill. The report Tuesday largely confirmed earlier findings about the benefits of quality child-care centers, although it was the first time researchers measured whether quality centers that participated in the program specifically improved children's chances for success in kindergarten.
March 4, 2003
The Press of Atlantic City
Preschool was a focal point of the Abbott v. Burke legal decision, which designated 30 urban school districts for special state assistance. A Rutgers study found children in urban districts who did not attend preschool arrived in kindergarten developmentally as much as 18 months behind their peers.
March 3, 2003
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, NH
The primary question is: At what level of government are the best decisions about what's good for the citizens of our states and communities made? The answer, we feel, is at the level that is closest to the people who will be most affected. That is why the concept of including Head Start, Title I, No Child Left Behind and other federal educational money in block grants to the states appeals to us.
March 2, 2003
The Philadelphia Inquirer
It has been five years since the state Supreme Court mandated that the governor provide for preschool programs in 30 special-needs districts. So this year, the New Jersey Department of Education is developing a plan to assess what has been called the most ambitious and expensive preschool program in the country, education experts said.
March 2, 2003
San Antonio Express-News
Child care is one of the few fields in which a worker can start with a high school diploma or GED so long as he or she enrolls in at least a child development associate degree (CDA) program offered by community colleges. But pay varies widely depending on a worker's training.

Resources

Part of the Urban Institute’s Assessing the New Federalism series, this paper explores the extent of child care assistance available to low-income families.
The Council of Chief State School Officers report describes the status of the 50 states’ policies that define and shape elementary and secondary education in public schools.
Kalman R. Hettleman’s report recommends steps to deal with the hidden discrimination against poor and minority children with dyslexia.
This report by the Education Policy and Leadership Center examines teacher quality issues, current state policy, and the availability of qualified teachers in Pennsylvania. It also addresses the role of the federal government in generating state policy.
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) has posted a compilation of excerpts from governors’ recent State-of-the-State addresses. The document is 2003 State-of-the-State Addresses: Early Learning and can be found at the ECS Web site.