Volume 5, Issue 11

June 30, 2006

Hot Topics

This budget season finds many policy leaders continuing to place a priority on incremental expansions in publicly funded pre-K. California’s newly passed budget allocates $50 million in ongoing funds for expanding pre-K access in low-performing schools and $50 million in one-time funds for pre-K facilities. The recently passed Illinois budget contains $45 million for the first installment of Governor Rod Blagojevich’s plan to eventually provide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen inked a state budget that provides money for about 250 new preschool classrooms. New York State's budget, passed this spring, adds $50 million in new money for the Empire state's Universal Preschool Program (UPK) after several years of shrinkage in the funding base due to flat funding. Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Speaker Christine Quinn announced agreement on a 2007 budget that expands 2,000 slots in the state program to full day. They also announced a new interagency working group formed to develop plans for expanding more UPK programs in the city to full day. NIEER's recently released research report, "Is More Better? The Effects of Full-Day vs. Half-Day Preschool on Early School Achievement," served as a resource for the city's decision. It's available at http://nieer.org/docs/index.php?DocID=144.
Concern over violent and explicit videogames prompted the House Committee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer protection to hold hearings recently on the adequacy of the ratings performed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Children's Technology Review Editor Warren Buckleitner told the committee that the ESRB rating system remains valid but that improvements can be made, such as locating descriptors explaining game content directly adjacent to the letter ratings. Stores selling predominantly children's products such as toy stores "have no business selling M-rated (mature) games," Buckleitner told the committee. The ESRB system has been under suspicion since it was discovered that hidden code in the popular Grand Theft Auto game contained content of a sexual nature. Game maker Rockstar paid a settlement in that case. Buckleitner's testimony can be read at http://wwww.childrensoftware.com/pdf/buckleitner_testimony.pdf.
The final enrollment tally for the first year of Florida's Voluntary Prekindergarten Program shows that 105,000 of the state's 4-year-olds participated. Forty-eight percent of eligible children enrolled in either the full-year or summer sessions — significantly fewer than the 70 percent experts predicted would take advantage of the program when it was first launched. Still, Florida's launch represents the single largest one-year increase in access to occur since NIEER began tracking state-funded pre-K. A bi-partisan effort is underway to draw attention to the need to increase program quality.
A school reform plan approved by the board of education in Buffalo, New York includes preschoolers, reports The Buffalo News. About 260 pre-K pupils will repeat next year if four weeks of mandatory summer school don't bring their literacy skills up to grade level. Controversy has accompanied the program and Harvard's Daniel Koretz has cautioned against relying on a single assessment to make determinations such as repeating grades among young pupils. More than 40 percent of Buffalo's 1st and 2nd graders will be held back a year if their literacy skills don't improve by September.
The Committee for Economic Development (CED) released a report concluding that implementing preschool programs for all can be expected to generate $2 to $4 in net present-value benefits for every dollar invested and provide a boost to long-term economic growth. "The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool" recommends, among other things, that governing bodies make access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-K an economic and educational priority, that pre-K programs meet quality standards necessary to deliver potential benefits, and that the broad economic benefits of pre-K should be considered when allocating resources in the face of competing uses and demands for funding. Susan Urahn, Director of State Policy Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts, a funder of the CED work, sized up the issue this way: "This nation is at a cross roads. We can either take the steps needed to keep our country competitive or cede that ground to other countries. The business community has recognized that investing in quality pre-K not only benefits young children's education, it makes smart fiscal sense for our states and our nation and contributes greatly to our communities' and our country's bottom line." To read the report, go to http://www.ced.org/docs/report/report_prek_econpromise.pdf.
The 17th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation-funded KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that 3 out of 10 child well-being indicators have worsened since 2000. There were more than 13 million children living in poverty in 2004 — an increase of 1 million over four years. There was also an increase in the percentage of low-birth weight babies and an increase in the number of children living in families where no parent has full-time year-round employment. Among the Casey Foundation's recommendations is making early care and development a higher policy and funding priority at the state and federal levels. The new edition, with state by state break-outs for well-being indicators, is available at http://www.aecf.org.

Calendar

July 17, 2006 - July 18, 2006
New Haven, CT – This conference is intended for educational leaders who are faced with new expectations brought on by testing and accountability for academic improvement.
July 25, 2006 - July 27, 2006
Chapel Hill, NC – At this conference, participants will learn the latest research findings related to inclusive policy and practice.
July 26, 2006 - July 29, 2006
Orlando, FL – The theme of the National Association for Family Child Care's conference is "Family Child Care Shines Around the World – Strengthening Children, Families, and Communities."
August 1, 2006 - August 3, 2006
Chicago, IL – This conference will offer expert-led sessions providing valuable training opportunities to add to participants' knowledge of quality child care.
August 7, 2006 - August 11, 2006
Washington, DC – The conference agenda will be organized around the common goals for America's children and the people that care for them.
September 18, 2006 - September 19, 2006
Denver, CO – This conference addresses the challenges of monitoring programs providing education for students with disabilities.

Early Education News Roundup

June 29, 2006
Arizona Daily Star
Arizona voters will likely get to decide whether to sharply boost the tax on cigarettes to fund programs for early childhood development. Backers of an initiative drive filed more than 206,000 signatures Wednesday to put a measure on the November ballot to boost the levy by 80 cents a pack.
June 27, 2006
Daily Press, Hampton Roads, VA
Most children of working parents are in some kind of care. Instead of replacing it with public preschool, why not make sure it is of high enough quality to get children off to a good start in school and in life?
June 23, 2006
The Roanoke Times, Roanoke, VA
Questions abound about Gov. Tim Kaine's initiative to make preschool available to every 4-year-old in Virginia. Luckily, there is time to answer those questions and an apparent will by Kaine to get the answers right.
June 20, 2006
The Tampa Tribune
Florida's new summer prekindergarten program worried parents and educators: How would 4- and 5-year-olds weather long days in the classroom at this time of year? As it turns out, some students enjoy it so much they don't want to go home, and many teachers can't wait to come back next year.
June 20, 2006
The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen today heralded the passage of legislation providing $20 million new dollars to the state's pre-K programs, increasing total funding to $55 million for the coming year. The new money will allow Tennessee school systems to open as many as 250 new pre-K classrooms this fall, providing 5,000 additional four-year-olds access into Tennessee's voluntary Pre-K for All program.
June 20, 2006
The Washington Post
A coalition of education advocates yesterday called on the District's political and business leadership to support providing pre-kindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the city. Based on research by City University of New York economics professor Clive R. Belfield, the group reported that investing $58.5 million a year to add 2,000 slots and improve existing pre-kindergarten programs would eventually save the District $81.5 million a year.
June 17, 2006
WestEd
School reforms to close the academic achievement gap among our nation's children cannot fully succeed unless supplemented by reform in the social and economic institutions that affect children's ability to learn, according to a WestEd Policy Perspectives paper.

Resources

This research brief from the Harvard Family Research Project summarizes the latest evidence on effective family involvement for the growth of young children's cognitive and social skills.
This report, a joint effort of the National Center for Rural Early Childhood Learning Initiatives and ChildTrends, introduces the results of an analysis of young children’s development in both rural and non-rural settings using data from the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study birth and kindergarten cohorts (ECLS-B and ECLS-K).