Volume 4, Issue 11

June 24, 2005

Hot Topics

Eight days after Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen signed the law establishing the state's new voluntary pre-K program, he signed the budget authorizing $25 million to fund it from lottery proceeds. The new money is expected to expand the state's pilot program to 300 new classrooms for about 6,000 additional poor and at-risk 4-year-olds. That would triple the number of children currently being served. The governor acknowledged that is a fraction of the total number of disadvantaged preschoolers in the state. "We are going to continue to grow the program," he told attendees at the bill signing. As Bredesen goes about doing that, he will also have to ensure the $25 million authorized for this year will be there next since the legislature approved it on a one-time basis.
Six months after Kraft announced it would stop advertising its sweetest cereals to young children, General Mills has stepped into the void with an ad campaign touting the health benefits of eating its cereals for breakfast, including sugary brands Trix, Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms. The yearlong campaign set to air on Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, raised eyebrows among some marketers who see it as risky, given current concerns over childhood obesity. New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle says cereal makers are "making people think that these are healthy foods when these are cookies." General Mills says no more than 5 percent of sugar in children's diet comes from cereal.
A just-completed study conducted by Cornell nutritional scientist David Levitsky concludes that the most powerful predictor for how much children eat is how much food is put on their plates. Levitsky and associate Gordana Mrdjenovic monitored the food intake of 16 preschool children for 5 to 7 days in day care centers. "We found the more children are served, the more they eat, regardless of what they've eaten previously, including breakfast that day," says Levitsky. The findings run counter to previous studies on the subject — perhaps, suggests Levitsky, because the study was conducted in natural settings rather than laboratories.
Even though the U.S. House of Representatives voted to keep most of the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Ready to Learn program aimed at promoting literacy and school readiness among preschoolers remains unfunded. That arm of PBS, which provides parenting resources and children's shows like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Postcards from Buster, was criticized when the animated rabbit, Buster, visited two families in which both parents were women.
Investing in a national preschool program today could help shore up our ailing Social Security system, says economist Robert G. Lynch in a report released by San Francisco-based nonprofit WestEd. Lynch says Social Security starts to run into financial difficulties in 2018 when the bulge of retired baby boomers will draw heavily on the system. That's about when the first class of today's preschoolers would enter the workforce. He said investing $12,000 per child in the 1.6 million disadvantaged youngsters most likely to cost taxpayers money when they grow up would turn them into net contributors to the system since they would enter the workforce at higher skill levels. Not only would Social Security run a surplus by 2021, says Lynch, but the nation's gross domestic product would rise. Read the full report at www.wested.org/cs/we/view/rs/772.
Though there has been some dispute over interpreting the impacts on 3- and 4-year-olds found by the recently released Head Start Impact Study, there is little dispute among researchers about the science behind them. "This is a high-quality study," says Jason Hustedt, lead researcher for NIEER's State of Preschool yearbook. "It provides the most scientifically rigorous look to date at benefits that can be attributed to Head Start, by comparing children who participated in Head Start to similar children who did not." The recently released report covers impacts during the first year of a 4-year study that will follow children until the end of first grade.

Calendar

July 7, 2005 - July 8, 2005
Aurora, CO – This workshop provides an introduction to the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) Scaffolding Early Literacy professional development program and a brief overview of the Early Literacy Advisor™, a computerized, diagnostic assessment system.
July 12, 2005 - July 15, 2005
Denver, CO - This conference provides educational leaders with the opportunity to network and discuss leading issues affecting education policy with their colleagues.
July 18, 2005 - July 20, 2005
New Haven, CT – This conference focuses on how to strengthen the connections among communities, families and schools.
July 27, 2005 - July 30, 2005
Denver, CO – The theme of the conference is "Taking Family Child Care to New Heights: Strengthening Curriculum, Community, and Culture."
August 2, 2005 - August 4, 2005
Seattle, WA – Exchange insights and receive guidance from child care experts and advocates as well as government professionals at GSA's annual conference.

Early Education News Roundup

June 24, 2005
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gov. Sonny Perdue said he would unveil a proposal today designed to keep state legislators from using Georgia lottery money for anything except HOPE college scholarships, pre-kindergarten classes and financial reserves.
June 23, 2005
The Boston Globe
Schools have been allowed to use public funds for preschool programs since 1987.
June 23, 2005
Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, VT
The heart of the issue is how involved the state will be in providing pre-kindergarten schooling or whether it should be left to private nursery schools.
June 16, 2005
Metro West Daily News, Framingham, MA
The new Department of Early Education and Care replaces the Office of Child Care Services and the early childhood education programs run by the Department of Education.
June 16, 2005
The Philadelphia Inquirer
New Jersey's special-needs districts could face their biggest challenge yet: their right to exist.
June 14, 2005
The Denver Post
Focusing on the youngest children is the best strategy for tackling high dropout rates, low test scores and other problems in the classroom.
June 13, 2005
New Bern Sun Journal, New Bern, NC
A recent survey found the majority of North Carolina residents support Smart Start and would approve a funding increase for the program.