Volume 6, Issue 7

April 13, 2007

Hot Topics

A bill clarifying Vermont's statutes on its existing state-funded preschool program recently passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate where many expect it to pass. H. 534 caps the number of children eligible for state funding at 50 percent of a district's 3- and 4-year-olds. It does not stipulate a specific funding level per pupil but instead codifies funding through a formula taking into account per-child funding at the local level, according roughly 40 percent of spending for full-time school children to each preschooler who attends the program for 10 hours per week. Services would be provided by public and private providers who meet state standards that, among other things, include bachelor's degrees for teachers and quality assurances such as NAEYC accreditation or achieving an adequate number of stars on the state's quality rating system. The cap on participation prevents communities from establishing state-funded pre-K for an unlimited number of children. If signed into law, it would serve an estimated 3,700 additional children at a cost of an additional $14.5 million over five years.
The bill passed by the Iowa House at the end of March providing for state-funded voluntary universal preschool for 4-year-olds is active in the state Senate. HF 877 calls for increased funding of about $15 million each of the next four years with a goal of reaching 90 percent access by the end of that period. A teacher in each classroom would be required to hold a bachelor's degree and teacher-to-child ratios would be established as part of the program standards. The 10 hours per week of state-funded classroom time would put Iowa in the bottom five of states specifying hours per week funded. Early priority would go to districts without existing pre-K programs and those with high levels of children in poverty. Program cost would be about $3,420 per pupil.
Fifteen months after a South Carolina judge ruled the state must provide early childhood intervention for at-risk children, a bill that would expand the pre-K pilot program resulting from that ruling is back in committee. The state has spent $23.5 million on the pilot to provide full-day pre-K education to about 3,000 4-year-olds. The Post and Courier in Charleston reports a bill expanding it to serve a projected 30,000 at-risk children at a cost of $150 million came before the House two weeks ago before returning to committee due to cost concerns and attempts to amend it with a provision for private school tuition tax credits. The paper said lawmakers predict it will remain stuck there. Meanwhile, the lawyer for districts bringing the school funding case in the first place says they'll go back to court if nothing happens.
The quality of teaching and facilities in 70 percent of Boston's pre-K and kindergarten classrooms is inadequate to achieve the goal of preparing children for first grade, says a new study from the Wellesley Centers for Women. According to The Boston Globe, three quarters of teachers lacked classroom materials and, in many classrooms, children spent too much time sitting at desks or in relatively meaningless large group activities. About half of teachers missed signs children were struggling to make progress in learning. Jason Sachs, director of the school system's department of early childhood says they are in the process of addressing the shortcomings.
A $10 million study that included first graders said 15 classroom software programs used to teach reading and math didn't significantly raise test scores. Released by the U.S. Department of Education, the study had a sample of 10,000 students in 439 classrooms across 132 schools. While the first graders who used the four early reading software programs in the study didn't significantly raise their scores as a group, those in smaller classes had higher scores and those in larger classes had lower scores. Fourth grade, sixth grade and ninth grade classrooms also participated in the study which has been criticized by software makers and some educators.
The Arkansas Legislature approved an increase of $40 million for state-funded preschool programs as part of a $122 million increase for general school operations. Championed by Governor Mike Beebe, the increase will expand the Arkansas Better Chance program which achieves 9 of NIEER's 10 benchmarks for quality. A NIEER study released in January found 4-year-olds who attended the program showed significant improvement in early language, literacy and math skills.
The recently approved New York State budget adds $99 million to the state's Universal Prekindergarten Program, bringing total funding to $394 million. Governor Elliot Spitzer, who championed the increase as part of a $7 billion education funding hike, says he has UPK's funding on track to total $645 million by 2010-2011. Spending on the state's Medicaid program is set to decrease by about $1 billion.

Calendar

April 25, 2007 - April 28, 2007
Boston, MA – This conference aims to improve the quality of early care and education across the country.
May 2, 2007 - May 5, 2007
Tampa, FL – The theme of this year's conference is "Education for Transformation: Impact on the Children of the World."
May 8, 2007 - May 11, 2007
Greensboro, NC – This conference will feature many workshops covering a wide array of early childhood-related topics.
May 10, 2007 - May 12, 2007
Chicago, IL – The conference provides three days of professional development for early childhood leaders.
May 15, 2007 - May 18, 2007
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Participants will exchange ideas about the quality of services for young children in diverse settings.

Early Education News Roundup

April 10, 2007
The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC
It's been 15 months since a circuit judge ruled that South Carolina fails to provide its youngest residents with sufficient early childhood education programs. In issuing his decision in the long-simmering school equity lawsuit, which pitted eight rural districts against the state, Judge Thomas W. Cooper found that adequate funding was available for facilities, curriculum and teachers. But the state fell short of its obligation when it came to early childhood intervention and pre-school programs, the judge wrote.
April 10, 2007
The Journal News, Rockland County, NY
The budget allocates nearly $438 million toward universal pre-kindergarten programs for all 4-year-olds - an increase of more than $145.9 million. In districts that already offer pre-K, some educators say they are pleasantly surprised and want to use the money to enroll as many children as possible come September. Others worry that if they expand, they'll be left paying for expensive programs themselves if the aid dries up.
April 7, 2007
The Boston Globe
Boston's public preschool and kindergarten programs are hobbled by mediocre instruction, unsanitary classrooms, and dangerous schoolyards, according to a first-ever study of the programs. The quality of instruction and facilities in 70 percent of the classrooms, the Wellesley Centers for Women study said, is inadequate to achieve the school system's primary goal: To get the children, most of whom are black and Hispanic and from low-income families, up to speed by first grade so they are as prepared as their white and Asian peers.
April 7, 2007
Honolulu Advertiser
Statewide survey results confirm what early education advocates have been saying for years: Hawai'i's youngest need to be better prepared to enter kindergarten. A survey of 628 kindergarten teachers showed that only 8 percent of them felt that most of their students started kindergarten with all the skills necessary for success.
April 6, 2007
The Courier, Waterloo, IA
The Iowa Legislature is currently considering a bill that would create a voluntary statewide preschool program that would be available to all 4-year-olds. The proposed legislation would only require programs to offer 10 hours of class time each week.
April 5, 2007
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Up until now, we have had a patchwork system of early education. We now have two examples of attempts to provide opportunities to children - the collaboration with Newport Independent Schools and Ohio's plan to increase access to early education and care.
April 5, 2007
The Intelligencer, Wheeling, WV
A Rutgers University study of pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-old children ranked West Virginia sixth in the nation in terms of accessibility and quality of such programs. It noted that our state is one of just six that, by law, make pre-kindergarten programs available to all 4-year-olds.
April 5, 2007
Burlington Free Press
The bill, which passed 99-45, would allow for the expansion of publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs but caps that expansion. The legislation also sets up a protocol for how those programs are formed, operated and funded, including requiring that districts consider existing private providers.
April 4, 2007
The Baltimore Sun
Parents on a guilt trip after reading last week's widely reported news that nonmaternal child care and education cause aggressive behavior in children as late as sixth grade should relax a little. That's because reaching such a sweeping conclusion from one limited study needlessly exacerbates the worries of working moms and dads who have few good alternatives for affordable child care outside the home.
April 2, 2007
The News Journal, Wilmington, DE
The research seems clear: Children who attended high-quality preschool programs do better in school, are less likely to break the law and are more likely to have high-paying jobs as adults. [Yet a] 2003 University of Delaware study of early childhood programs in the state called the quality of curriculum planning and implementation "weak," particularly in the areas of math, science and -- for some -- language and literacy.
April 2, 2007
St. Petersburg Times
If Florida were to require pre-k teachers to have four-year degrees, it would not be alone. Already, 22 of the 37 other states that have pre-k programs have that mandate, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Resources

A wide-ranging literature review from Taryn W. Morrissey at Cornell's Department of Human Development looks at paid home-based child care by providers who are regulated through the states and at characteristics of the families served. Among the findings are:


  • Families using this care are more likely prefer it for infants and toddlers but prefer preschools and centers for older children.

  • Ninety-five percent of providers are female, 90 percent are parents and about 33 percent care for their own children as well.

  • Personal relationships with parents may interfere with business aspects of child care resulting in negative attitudes, late pick-ups and/or late or inadequate payments.

  • Although there is wide variability, most observational studies suggest much of regulated family child care is of "adequate" quality.

  • Quality of care is not associated with the provider's age or years of experience but correlates positively with training and education received.


The paper is available through Child Care & Early Education Research Connections at http://researchconnections.org/SendPdf?resourceId=11683.

Bright Futures is a new quarterly newsletter from the National Governors Association that highlights early education efforts from governors around the country. It's produced by NGA's Center for Best Practices that assists governors seeking to implement a birth-to-5 policy agenda.