Volume 5, Issue 20

November 30, 2006

Hot Topics

If New Jersey's Joint Legislative Committee on Public School Funding Reform has its way, the state's Abbott preschool program will be expanded to an additional 77 low-income school districts and low-income children in more well-to-do districts will receive state-subsidized pre-K. At present, the court-mandated Abbott program is offered only in the state's 31 lowest-income districts. The committee's recommendation to expand beyond the court-mandated districts came as part of an effort to revise the state's school funding formula so districts more equitably share in state aid. The committee also recommended the state fund pre-K programs, though not necessarily Abbott programs, for low-income children who qualify for the federal lunch program in all other districts. Many of those districts would participate in the state's Early Launch to Learning Initiative (ELLI).
A Court of Appeals has overturned lower court rulings saying New York City schools are entitled to at least $4.7 billion a year in additional education aid so the city can live up to its constitutional responsibility of delivering a sound and basic education. Instead, the judges said $1.9 billion will suffice. Anticipating the larger number, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had proposed providing public full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds and special-needs 3-year-olds in the city. Since the ruling sets a minimum level of additional funding required, it increases the likelihood of negotiations between the Bloomberg administration, the state legislature, and governor-elect Elliot Spitzer for any funding above $1.9 billion. The New York Times reports Spitzer has said he will propose more than the minimum in additional aid but Spitzer has not said how much.
It took nearly two weeks and help from the police to count the ballots, but when the final vote was tallied, Denver's Initiative 1A, calling for making preschool education available to all 4-year-olds in the city, passed by a narrow margin. The program will be funded by an increase in the sales tax of 12 cents for every $100 spent. During the run-up to elections, advocates feared opposition from the Anti-Defamation League would sink the measure. While the League agreed with the plan's goals, it opposed its funding mechanism, saying that paying faith-based providers violates the state's constitutional prohibition against sending taxpayer money to religious organizations. Mayor John Hickenlooper, who championed the plan, pointed out the funds go first to parents who then decide where it is spent.
The Wall Street Journal reports on new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing a 7-year trend of more mothers staying at home to nurture children than previously thought, particularly mothers of newborns. The soon-to-be-released analysis will reportedly show new mothers leaving the workforce for an average of one to three years. The trend toward mothers temporarily leaving the workforce cuts across the socio-economic spectrum. While the largest decline in workforce participation is among mothers with bachelor's degrees or more and/or whose husbands are in the top 20 percent of earners, BLS economists noted that declines in workforce participation also grew at lower educational and income levels. The decline for mothers with children 3-5 years old were half as large as for mothers with newborns. This has occurred despite the fact that the importance of mothers' incomes to family income rose during the period for which data was collected.
The New York Times Magazine Editor Paul Tough has written a comprehensive cover story in the November 26 issue exploring the challenges and successes in closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their more fortunate peers. Setting his story in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act and its shortcomings, Tough draws insights from a broad swath of social and educational research exploring parent-child relationships, literacy, non-cognitive development and the econometric modeling of investment in early childhood education. He tracks the prodigious effort put forth by schools that are succeeding in closing the gap such as KIPP, Amistad Academy and North Star. Concludes Tough: With preschool education and other measures, the gap can be closed if we have the means and the will to do so. To read the article, visit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/magazine/26tough.html.

New on nieer.org

The October/November issue of Preschool Matters includes an article about a new initiative launched at the Frank Porter Graham Institute: The National Center on High Quality Personnel in Inclusive Early Childhood Settings.



Also in Preschool Matters:


  • Why Cities are Making Preschool Available to All Children

  • Utah Considers a Different Approach to School Readiness

  • Newsmaker Interview with Washington Governor Chris Gregoire

  • New OECD Report on Early Education

  • Ensuring School Success: A Tale of Two Studies

Calendar

December 1, 2006 - December 3, 2006
Albuquerque, NM – This training event will focus on early care, health and education.
December 15, 2006 - December 19, 2006
New York, NY – This conference aims to encourage networking among parents and the staff of their children's early care and education programs.
January 10, 2007 - January 12, 2007
Washington, DC – This seminar will provide participants with hands-on experience in using the ECLS-B database.
February 5, 2007 - February 8, 2007
New South Wales, Australia – This conference looks at the role of art in early childhood education, particularly in social, cultural and historical contexts.
February 7, 2007 - February 10, 2007
San Jose, CA – The National Association for Bilingual Education's annual conference boasts the largest gathering of teachers, administrators, researchers, and policymakers dedicated to serving English language learners in the United States.
February 25, 2007 - March 3, 2007
Washington, DC – This conference will offer participants the latest policy, research and best practices from the nation’s leading experts.

Early Education News Roundup

November 28, 2006
Kokomo Tribune, Kokomo, IN
Full-day kindergarten, in the long run, could help more Hoosier students earn high school diplomas. Just last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling, during a visit to Kokomo's Sycamore Elementary School, said states showing the greatest gains in education are those that are investing in early childhood education programs such as full-day kindergarten.
November 27, 2006
The New York Sun
This year, the City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Christine Quinn, announced a goal to make public, full-day pre-kindergarten classes available for all the city's 4-year-olds. A court decision last week that ended the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit by setting $1.93 billion as the minimum amount New York City could receive in additional school aid could jeopardize efforts to expand the prekindergarten program, however.
November 22, 2006
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Arkansas' pre-kindergarten program already stands to benefit state taxpayers with projected savings in education, prison, health and welfare costs, according to a report released Tuesday. But the state would see even greater economic benefits if the Arkansas Better Chance for School Success program were expanded to include all 3- and 4-year-olds statewide, said Clive R. Belfield, an economist at Queens College in New York City.
November 21, 2006
KUSA-TV, Denver, CO
After nearly two weeks of waiting and wondering, Referendum 1A in Denver officially passes by a narrow margin, creating an unprecedented urban education system in America. Now, some wonder if it will blur the line between church and state.
November 20, 2006
The Press of Atlantic City
Studies showing the long-term value of early education have spurred a nationwide movement for full-day kindergarten and even public preschool. New Jersey has been in the forefront of those efforts — but the focus has been exclusively on poor districts.
November 20, 2006
Tallahassee Democrat
That constitutional amendment grew into the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK), which was signed into law in early 2005. After only a little more than a year of operation, it's clear that the program is working - and that more can be done to make it work even better.
November 20, 2006
The Sun Herald, Biloxi, MS
A new report says that for Mississippi to improve its economy, the state needs to strengthen its education system, from preschool through college. The [report] says Mississippi is the only Southern state that has no state-supported, voluntary preschool programs.
November 17, 2006
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
A movement to make public pre-schools the norm has come closer to starting its Chapel Hill pilot. Years in the making, it is the "FirstSchool" project out of UNC-Chapel Hill's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Its mission: Extend the reach of elementary schools to children as young as 3 through quality-staffed pre-kindergarten programs.
November 13, 2006
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
A leading child development institute based at UNC-Chapel Hill wants to revolutionize education by enrolling 3-year-olds in public school. Researchers at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute say quality education from ages 3 to 8 is crucial and that FirstSchool, the institute's name for its early schooling concept, would start all children on a level playing field, said Sharon Ritchie, co-director of the project.
November 12, 2006
The Independent, Grand Island, NE
The grants were made possible by last Tuesday's vote to approve Amendment 5. The amendment allows using a portion of interest income from the Nebraska School Lands Trust Fund for early childhood education.
November 12, 2006
The Washington Post
The youngsters are part of a dual-language immersion program whose aim is to have non-English-speaking students and their English-speaking counterparts help each other become bilingual. Researchers who looked at dual-language immersion programs said that by the fifth grade, children achieve at roughly the same level or better than those who participate in standard bilingual programs.
November 11, 2006
The Republican, Springfield, MA
There's no such thing as a magic bullet to ensure the health of the Bay State economy, but a proposal for universal early education for children of the commonwealth comes pretty close. The "Act Establishing Early Education for All," the result of a two-year process involving extensive public policy, economic and scientific research, - and now an important economic cost and benefit analysis - is one of the wisest investments Massachusetts can make in its economic future.

Resources

A study by America's Promise – The Alliance for Youth says two out of every three young people are not receiving the "promises" from society required to assure that they succeed. The Every Child, Every Promise: Turning Failure into Action report takes a whole child approach, measuring the presence and impact of five fundamental resources — or promises — research has shown affect the development and lives of America’s youth. The report breaks down the promises as follows:

1. Caring adults

2. Safe places and constructive use of time

3. A healthy start and development

4. An effective education

5. Opportunities to make a difference helping others



For school-age children, the report says 31 percent receive four to five promises, 48 percent receive two to three promises and 21 percent receive zero to one promise. Among the recommendations in the report are investment in early childhood education and passage of the Calling for 2-1-1 Act that would create a nationwide 2-1-1 telephone service for easy access to information and referral services on how Americans can give and receive help for children. The Founding Chair for America's Promise is Gen. Colin Powell and his wife, Alma J. Powell, is the Chair.