Volume 6, Issue 3

February 14, 2007

Hot Topics

The leading state in the nation in pre-K for 4-year-olds turned its attention to 3-year-olds when Governor Brad Henry recently announced plans for a pilot program to serve the younger age group. Henry told the legislature it will take $30 million to start the pilot this year and, if it proves effective, it may need to be made universally available. Henry is also eager to foster more public/private partnerships such as Educare, an early care and education facility in Tulsa funded in part by the Kaiser Foundation.
Despite a state budget surplus approaching $1 billion, Virginia's House of Delegates surprised many by approving a budget that is conspicuously absent of funding for the pilot preschool education program that is one of Governor Tim Kaine's top priorities. The Senate budget includes most of the $4.6 million the governor requested for the pilot. The two budgets will be reconciled through negotiation. Kaine ran for office on a platform including state-funded preschool education for all Virginia's 4-year-olds.
Ohio is providing an object lesson in the importance of well-designed early childhood education policy. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that since moving away from its state Head Start Program a few years ago, Ohio has struggled to serve even half the number of children it did before making the switch. The ill-fated replacement program, Head Start Plus, was shut down after failing to register children in half the counties. Replacing it was the Early Learning Initiative that reaches across child care, state pre-K and Head Start. The Plain Dealer says this has left parents and providers confused about eligibility and other program details. One reason is that using federal child care dollars to fund the program means that in effect, eligibility to the program is determined by parent's employment status, not the child's educational need. Consequently, children are removed from the program based on that same employment status. Critics say the result is that 50,000 eligible Ohio children have failed to register for either the state program or federal Head Start.
Spending $94 billion to deliver high-quality early childhood education for the nation's 3- and 4-year-olds and spending $39 billion on three other childhood initiatives over a 5-year period is one component of a strategy prescribed by The Brookings Institution for balancing the federal budget. The analysis behind the recommendation is detailed in Cost-Effective Investments in Children, one paper in the Brookings Budget Options Series. Others in the series discuss reducing domestic spending, raising revenues and pruning the defense budget. Read the report at http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/200701isaacs.htm. Senior Brookings Fellow Isabel Sawhill co-authored a New York Times op-ed outlining the deficit-taming strategy.
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently spent more time addressing economic disparities and the need for better education than he did interest rates, it raised the profile of a growing concern among key thinkers in this country — that rising inequities in wages and wealth will ultimately affect the cohesiveness of society and our standard of living. That view is detailed in a just-released policy information report from the Educational Testing Service compellingly titled America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future. The authors identify disparities in the distribution of skills, economic restructuring and demographic trends related to immigration and an aging society as the three forces that must be addressed with sound policies. While ETS plans to issue its recommendations in a separate paper, it has identified education of children as one area to be addressed. Read the report at http://www.ets.org/Media/Education_Topics/pdf/AmericasPerfectStorm.pdf.

Calendar

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.
March 23, 2007 - March 25, 2007
Las Vegas, NV – Join administrators, policy makers, and child care professionals for the NCCA's Annual Leadership Conference.

Early Education News Roundup

February 12, 2007
The Kansas City Star
Statewide, Missouri public pre-kindergarten enrollment has more than quadrupled in four years — from 4,400 in the 2001-2002 school year to nearly 18,000 last year. Libby Doggett, the executive director of Pre-K Now, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said Missouri’s pre-K boom is mirrored nationwide.
February 12, 2007
Daily Press, Hampton Roads, VA
A child who's already behind when kindergarten starts is more likely to have trouble, to drop out, to get involved with crime, to end up in jail. The earlier intervention starts, the more hope there is of mitigating the damage a poor home environment can cause, and the greater likelihood of success down the line.
February 12, 2007
Daily Press, Hampton Roads, VA
Speaking of preschool quality, there's another miniscule budget item Gov. Tim Kaine has proposed that could make a big difference. It would take Virginia the first step toward a system that rates the quality of child care.
February 11, 2007
Herald News, Passaic County, NJ
Based on test score data provided by the state Department of Education in its annual release of the New Jersey School Report Cards, the cumulative three-year gap in scores between students in Abbott and non-Abbott school districts is decreasing, for the most part.
February 7, 2007
The New York Times
Almost a decade ago, thanks to a low-key push by a small group of state legislators, business executives and educators, Oklahoma agreed to pay for one year of prekindergarten. The program is voluntary, but 70 percent of 4-year-olds here now attend public preschool, more than in any other state. In every classroom, the head teacher must have a bachelor's degree — nationwide, most preschool teachers don't — and there must be a teacher for every 10 students.
February 6, 2007
The Record, Bergen County, NJ
It has long been ironic that New Jersey is one of the biggest-spending states on education but fails to universally offer a program considered basic in many parts of the country: full-day kindergarten. But the state is considering altering its school-funding formula so all districts can afford full-day kindergarten.
February 5, 2007
The Tennessean
One national expert in early education thinks the money already put into the program is a good investment — if it has high-quality teachers and strong academics. Steven Barnett is director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. The group rated Bredesen's pre-K initiative as one of the top "high quality" programs in the nation last school year.
February 5, 2007
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
Ohio's Early Learning Initiative is short of its goal of enrolling 12,000. As of Dec. 10, the program was serving 9,361 youngsters. That's up from this time last year when the program had 7,600 children, but still far from providing crucial preschool services to the children who need it the most. In fact, 12 of Ohio's 88 counties -- all outside Northeast Ohio -- still lack an Early Learning Initiative program.
February 2, 2007
Missourian, Columbia, MO
The Parents as Teachers early education program is a Missouri original, one of the state's most successful exports to other states and countries. It was piloted in four Missouri school districts in 1981 and since then has served more than half a million Missouri families and has been modeled in 44 states and several foreign countries, such as China.
February 2, 2007
Times Argus, Barre, VT
Vermont's early childhood education programs need better coordination but should still be funded by tax dollars, a special committee recommended Thursday. The panel's recommendations, which are expected to be drafted into legislative proposals, may not quell criticisms that those who work in public education are trying to take over private day care and other early education programs.
February 2, 2007
Metroland, Albany, NY
Gov. Eliot Spitzer promised to breathe new life, and dollars, into the prekindergarten program during a policy speech Monday at the State Education Building. Spitzer pledged to make "quality" prekindergarten programs "available to every child who needs it within the next four years."
February 1, 2007
The Daily Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, IA
[Governor Chet Culver] toured western Iowa Wednesday to promote his educational package in his first budget that includes $20 million in additional spending for early childhood education. His early education spending is geared to have it available to all Iowa students, Culver said.
January 31, 2007
North Adams Transcript, North Adams, MA
Early education advocates, including the state's first lady, met with legislators yesterday to push for a statewide system of public and private preschools. But even lawmakers who support the plan warned there won't be enough to initially fund the costly program.
January 30, 2007
The Norman Transcript, Norman, OK
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry proposed an allocation of $15 million for a pilot pre-kindergarten program for 3-year-olds and an additional $15 million to increase the public and private partnerships for 3-year-old programs.

Resources

This paper from the Center for Law and Social Policy provides examples of specific state policies to promote child development from birth to age 3 and gives recommendations for state funding and governance structures to provide attention and resources for all children from birth to age 5.
This annual report from Pre-K Now provides information on the final funding of preschool education programs for 3- and 4-year-olds in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.