Volume 5, Issue 3

February 17, 2006

Hot Topics

If Governor Rod Blagojevich has his way, Illinois will become the first state in the nation to set its sights on making state-funded pre-K available to all 3- and 4-year-olds. In announcing his intent to pursue the plan, the governor cited the needs of middle-income families, many of whom earn too much to qualify for existing state preschool but not enough to pay for pre-K on their own. The voluntary program would require a minimum 2 ½-hour school day and, according to figures from the governor's office, require lawmakers to increase funding by $45 million a year for at least the next three years. Blagojevich said some of the money for the program would come from closing corporate tax loopholes. Due in part to the governor's prodding, Illinois has increased its pre-K funding commitment $30 million per year each of the past three years.
Funding for Head Start is slated to hold steady under the Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2007 budget — a move widely seen as a cut when inflation is figured in. The National Head Start Association said the proposed budget would result in the loss of 19,000 slots for children in the program in the budget year beginning this October. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg saw the proposed budget as inconsistent with President Bush's state of the union address, saying, "We heard the president talk about the number of engineers and scientists we want to graduate, but the fact of the matter is that he's not backing it up with substance." Head Start provides services to about 917,000 disadvantaged children.
The Start Strong universal preschool plan many believe helped carry Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to victory last November now faces the deliberations of a study group and a legislature wrestling with funding limitations. In the coming weeks, Kaine will appoint members of the Start Strong Council from private, public and faith-based pre-K providers as well as from the business and parent communities. The council will be charged with developing a consensus on how best to proceed with a universal program. The governor would like the program to begin phasing in next year and has said the approximate cost will be $74 million per year. Once agreement is reached on program particulars, it will fall to the legislature to come up with funding. Legislative leaders have not opposed the program but say they are currently dealing with pressing transportation and K-12 funding issues.
When it comes to rationalizing investment in pre-K, most business leaders see it as key to keeping America competitive. A recent Zogby International poll of 205 senior executives at Fortune 1,000 firms and companies with more than 1,000 employees showed that 4 out of 5 surveyed believe funding of voluntary pre-K for all children would improve America's workforce. More than half of respondents anticipate difficulty in finding enough educated and skilled workers to fill jobs in the future and about half said workers' skills in the U.S. have decreased over the last 10 years. Maintaining a skilled workforce rated "very high" on the list of priorities for four out of five respondents. The survey was commissioned in conjunction with the "Building the Economic Case for Investment in Preschool" forum held in New York City last month. The Committee for Economic Development, the Pew Charitable Trusts and PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. sponsored the event.
Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is moving forward with his plan to give parents a $1,200 per-year child care allowance for every child under 6. At the same time, he is laying the groundwork for canceling the national child care program put in place by the Liberal government last year. Harper's plan to reverse the course set by his predecessors has been complicated by the fact that full funding agreements for the previous plan are already in effect in Quebec and Ontario where provincial leaders say they expect the national government to honor them. Observers say Harper can afford to negotiate since Canada has a fiscal surplus. Harper's critics say the $1,200 allowance, which proved popular with voters, falls well short of what it takes to provide high-quality early childhood programs. In a recent press release, the Prime Minister said the "allowance will let parents choose the child care option that best suits their family's needs."
The latest paper from the Committee for Economic Development (CED) examines the Perry Preschool Program, Carolina Abecedarian Project and Chicago Child-Parent Centers to determine the key characteristics that made them successful. Beyond the obvious factors like well-trained teachers and small classes, author Ellen Galinsky of the New York-based Families and Work Institute says there are other, sometimes overlooked factors. Among them are clear goals, responsiveness to children and families, focus on the whole child, strong relationships between teacher and child, active learning, and a focus on teacher education.

Calendar

February 21, 2006 - February 25, 2006
Washington, DC – This conference will provide participants with the latest policy, research and best practices from the nation’s leading experts.
February 26, 2006 - March 1, 2006
Jacksonville, FL – This annual conference features a workshop focusing on early childhood education for children with learning disabilities.
March 7, 2006 - March 9, 2006
Greensboro, NC – This conference offers numerous workshops on a variety of early learning topics.
March 8, 2006 - March 10, 2006
Las Vegas, NV – Join administrators, policy makers, and child care professionals for the NCCA's 2006 Leadership Conference.
March 9, 2006 - March 10, 2006
Arnhem, the Netherlands – Attendees will learn about worldwide developments and trends in early childhood education at this conference.
March 31, 2006 - March 31, 2006
Somerset, NJ - This year's Conference on Reading and Writing presented by the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education includes many workshops geared toward the preschool educator.

Early Education News Roundup

February 16, 2006
Chicago Tribune
Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to offer every 3-year-old and 4-year-old the chance to go to state-funded preschool.
February 14, 2006
St. Petersburg Times
Local school districts, which must provide 300 hours of pre-K classes this summer, are taking registration information.
February 12, 2006
Chicago Tribune
Illinois now has a hodgepodge of publicly funded early-childhood programs.
February 9, 2006
Orlando Sentinel
The state of Oklahoma took a different path from Florida in setting up pre-K education.
February 8, 2006
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Gov. Bredesen proposed a $233 million overall increase for education, including $20 million for 250 more pre-kindergarten classes to serve 5,000 more 4-year-olds.
February 8, 2006
The Houston Chronicle
Houston ISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra's plan for creating a "college-bound culture" starts with enrolling all of the city's youngest pupils from poor families in daylong pre-kindergarten classes.
February 8, 2006
Connecticut Post
Gov. Rell is pushing forward to create an Early Childhood Research and Policy Council.
February 6, 2006
Leesburg Today, Leesburg, VA
Universal preschool talks in Virginia come at a time when legislators across the country have begun to focus on pre-K education.
February 6, 2006
The Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD
The bill requiring all children to attend kindergarten might seem like a small step, but supporters see it as a portal to a greater early childhood learning initiative.
February 3, 2006
The Washington Post
The efforts in Fairfax come during a nationwide movement to expand and improve pre-kindergarten classes aimed at helping the youngest children -- particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds -- prepare for school.
February 3, 2006
The News-Herald, Willoughy, OH
The eligibility requirements created by the state for the Early Learning Initiative program are a hindrance to enrolling the children the program aims to help.
February 3, 2006
The Tampa Tribune
No matter how many hours or days a school district sets for its 300-hour summer voluntary prekindergarten program, parents can send their children for partial days or for a portion of the summer.

Resources

This new report from Pre-K Now exams how policymakers nationwide have found innovative approaches to financing prekindergarten.
This RAND Corporation research brief explores the progress states have made in implementing universal preschool programs and notes issues of particular significance to the policy and practice of such implementation.