Volume 4, Issue 4

February 25, 2005

Hot Topics

In a departure from school funding decisions seen in other states, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has decided the state government is showing good faith in funding schools, ruling more time should be granted to allow inequities among school districts to be addressed by current policy. Governor Mitt Romney, who did not expect a decision favorable to his administration in Hancock v. Commissioner of Education, saw the decision as validation that measures set in place by the state’s 1993 Education Reform Act are on the right track. The lawsuit contended poor districts fare worse than affluent ones as measured by such criteria as quality of libraries, number of computers in classes and opportunities for early childhood education.
Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen introduced his legislative package that would expand the state's pilot pre-K program to one he says could become available to every 4-year-old in the state by the end of the decade. The legislation establishes a matching funds plan, application and award process for local school systems wishing to participate and quality standards expected of those that do. A newly created Office of Early Learning will monitor programs for accountability. Bredesen has budgeted $25 million in this year’s budget — to come from excess lottery funds — to pay for this year's effort. Tennessee's Early Childhood Education Pilot Program achieves 8 or 10 quality benchmarks on NIEER's Quality Standards Checklist.
The number of children in poverty has grown by 29 percent in New Jersey over the past four years, figures child advocacy organization Association for the Children of New Jersey. Compiling the figures as part of its contribution to the 17-state "Getting Ready" school readiness initiative, the organization calculates that, as of 2003, the latest year for which data are available, there were 81,394 children in the state under the age of 5 whose families live below the poverty line. Early childhood educators in the Garden State are surpassing that growth rate with a big expansion in prekindergarten slots. The state's Abbott program is providing free preschool educations for about 46,000 3- and 4-year-olds in poor school districts. That's three times the number of kids the program handled in 1999.
A Canadian study of more than 5,000 fifth-grade students found that obesity rates were 72 percent lower when children were exposed to a healthy food curriculum and physical activities programs and that the number of children who are simply overweight (rather than obese) dropped 60 percent. Schools in the study that had been contracting with fast food companies to provide lunch switched to more nutritionally balanced fare high in fruits and vegetables. That move, coupled with a healthy eating curriculum, daily gym class and accessible after-school activities, has made the difference.
No sooner had new federal Education Secretary Margaret Spellings taken office than she sent a letter to the Public Broadcasting Service president Pat Mitchell criticizing an episode from the Postcards from Buster kids’ show in which Buster the Bunny visits friends whose parents are the same sex. Shortly before announcing her intention not to seek a third term as PBS head, Mitchell placed Postcards and the rest of its children’s line-up under review. The incident underscores administration sensitivity to social issues as well as how much is at stake for PBS, which has directly or indirectly received about $100 million from DOE in recent years to provide early learning programming.

Calendar

March 1, 2005 - March 5, 2005
Washington, DC – Get the very latest policy, research, and practice developments from the nation’s leading experts at NACCRA’s 17th annual symposium.
March 21, 2005 - March 24, 2005
St. Louis, MO -- Join professionals from a variety of fields – from child care to government – for the 14th annual Born to Learn conference in St. Louis.
March 23, 2005 - March 26, 2005
Washington, DC – Join teachers, principals, child care professionals, school board members and teacher educators at the Association for Childhood Education International's annual conference.
April 20, 2005 - April 22, 2005
Chapel Hill, NC – Participants at this year’s conference will focus on the theme, Helping Meet the Demand for Tomorrow’s Workforce Today.

Early Education News Roundup

February 24, 2005
The Honolulu Advertiser
Too many of Hawai'i's children don't have the basic skills they need to begin learning when they enter kindergarten, according to a recent study by the Hawaii School Readiness Task Force.
February 23, 2005
Knoxville News Sentinel
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen wants to use $25 million in lottery proceeds for a prekindergarten program that would allow local schools to voluntarily get involved.
February 21, 2005
Winona Daily News, Winona, MN
Early Childhood Family Education providers wait for the statewide program's funding to be restored.
February 21, 2005
Connecticut Post
Most of the money is targeted at improving the existing 7,297 state-funded preschool slots.
February 17, 2005
The Record, Bergen County, NJ
The number of children under 5 in poverty has soared in New Jersey in recent years, but a new report offers some hopeful signs that more will be ready for kindergarten and poised to narrow the achievement gap with their wealthier suburban peers.
February 17, 2005
The Santa Fe New Mexican
A House committee has approved a $2.1 billion education spending proposal that scales back New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's pre-kindergarten initiative.
February 17, 2005
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Northwest Arkansas edition
Arkansas is one of 17 states participating in a $2 million, three-year project to identify those factors that affect school readiness and can be tracked over time to evaluate a state's progress in meeting the educational needs of children.
February 15, 2005
The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC
High cost does not necessarily equal high quality.
February 13, 2005
The Oregonian
About 60 percent of Oregon's 16,000 eligible children are enrolled in state or federal Head Start programs, down from 62 percent in 2002.
February 13, 2005
The Times, Trenton, NJ
A leading researcher on preschool education said New Jersey could use its dollars more wisely if it required parents to pay a portion of before- and after-school day care.