Volume 4, Issue 6

March 28, 2005

Hot Topics

It's not big, but New Mexico's recently passed $5 million pilot pre-K program puts the state a step closer to making early childhood education more widely available, say governor Bill Richardson and Lt. Governor Diane Denish, who championed the bill. The two had a fight on their hands from Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the legislature who were sensitive to new spending after giving the Governor some of the tax cuts he had wanted. Opponents said the program is weak on literacy emphasis. It will be targeted to communities with schools failing to meet performance standards. The Richardson administration estimates the program will cost $30 million annually when fully implemented. Of the 28,000 4-year-olds in New Mexico, about half are not currently in any kind of pre-K program. "New Mexico's new program can become a model of success to be emulated by other states in the Southwest," said Libby Doggett, executive director of Pre-K Now.
Citing hundreds of Head Start preschool programs with financial irregularities, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said The Department Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF), is unable to ascertain how widespread the irregularities are. In a recently released report, GAO said even though ACF knew between 2002 and 2003 that more than 800 programs had serious errors in their administration, problems remained and more than half were cited recently. Sarah Greene, president of the National Head Start Association said the GAO report is flawed.
From California's 50-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes to Arkansas's 3 percent tax on a six-pack of beer, sin taxes are turning the heads of more policymakers looking for a way to fund early childhood education. Latest to look are North Carolina governor Mike Easley and the House of Representatives speaker in that state, Jim Black, who are pushing for a lottery there. North Carolina has resisted the lottery movement on the basis that poor people who can't afford it buy most of the tickets. But the $400 million that Black says a lottery could generate is tantalizing to policymakers who say it could go a long way to funding education in the state, including the More at Four prekindergarten program. Meanwhile, a gambling expansion bill is being considered in Illinois that would put a casino in Chicago. Some of the proceeds would go for early childhood education.
The Polk County Florida school district has said it won't participate in the new state universal pre-K program during the next regular school year unless the legislature loosens certification requirements. To participate, the district says it must agree to continue meeting class size reduction requirements set forth by the state – and guarantee they won't need more money to do it through the 2010 school year. The reaction of Polk and similar assessments by other districts has the state Department of Education working with the Legislature to see what can be done.
The Yale (Bush) Center in Child Development and Social Policy has been renamed in honor of its founder and esteemed scholar, Edward Zigler, who is widely recognized as a co-founder of Head Start. Called the Edward Zigler Center for Child Development and Social Policy, the center has a new director — assistant professor Walter S. Gilliam, who has been on staff there since 1995. Zigler, who is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University will stay on as director emeritus of the Center.

NIEER Activities

Please join NIEER Director Steve Barnett, Dr. Barry Zuckerman, and Dr. Dorothy Strickland for a forum on "School Readiness: Innovations to Level the Playing Field" on Friday, April 1, 2005, at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, East Lecture Hall in Piscataway, New Jersey. Read more.
NIEER Director Steve Barnett was a presenter and an attendee at an early childhood education symposium on "Quality in Early Childhood Services" at Freie University, Berlin, Germany March 21 – 23. Dr. Barnett's presentation was on "Vouchers and Quality in Early Care and Education."

Calendar

April 1, 2005 - April 2, 2005
Bronxville, NY – Nationally renowned education experts will address controversial issues in education at this conference hosted by Sarah Lawrence College's Child Development Institute.
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.
April 25, 2005 - April 27, 2005
Louisville, KY – The National Conference on Family Literacy synthesizes the latest reading research that impacts children, adults and families.
May 10, 2005 - May 13, 2005
Ypsilanti, Michigan -- Teachers and trainers from throughout the U.S. and around the world will gather together for High/Scope Foundation's annual training conference.

Early Education News Roundup

March 27, 2005
Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME
The number of preschool programs in Maine's public schools has risen dramatically in recent years as educators and state officials strive to ensure children are ready for school academically and emotionally.
March 21, 2005
Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA
Gov. Tom Vilsack is insisting that any budget plan approved by lawmakers this year include money for a new early childhood development initiative.
March 17, 2005
Carlsbad Current-Argus, Carlsbad, NM
The bill would allow both public schools and private childcare providers to run pre-kindergarten programs funded by the state.
March 15, 2005
The Herald, Bradenton, FL
With a heavy emphasis on reading and language skills, the state Board of Education adopted key learning standards Tuesday for the voluntary prekindergarten program being offered to all Florida 4-year-olds beginning this August.
March 13, 2005
Chicago Tribune
More children are going to preschool, and they're doing so at increasingly younger ages.
March 12, 2005
The Fresno Bee
The dividends of preschool include helping children become "school ready," equipped with the cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills it takes to succeed in school.
March 12, 2005
The Albuquerque Tribune
Early education is widely regarded as the key to improving academic performance - especially of low-income New Mexicans.