Volume 8, Issue 10

April 24, 2009

Hot Topics

Congressional Quarterly reports that Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has introduced a bill (S. 839) that would provide grants for states to provide at least one year of voluntary high-quality pre-K to low-income children. Among its provisions, the Prepare All Kids Act calls for programs to use research-based curricula, have children-to-teacher ratios no greater than ten to one and require teachers to have bachelor's degrees within six years. Casey proposes housing the program in the U.S. Department of Education. He is quoted as saying "…what's lacking is a real strategy for early education beyond what we have in Head Start." The bill is similar to one by the same name that he introduced in 2007. He did not provide an estimate of the program's cost.
A budget plan passed in the North Carolina Senate calls for More at Four, the high-quality preschool program created by former governor Mike Easley, to be cut by $40 million and shifted from the Department of Public Instruction to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Senate budget is now in the House but Speaker Joe Hackney has as yet made no assurances the funding will be restored.
It was more than a decade ago that Rob Reiner successfully championed Proposition 10, the measure that financed early childhood development programs through a 50-cent-per pack cigarette tax. Now a new ballot measure, Proposition 1D, asks voters to approve shifting nearly $1.7 billion out of the surpluses in that fund to help balance the state's general fund. Another ballot measure, Proposition 1E, would siphon $460 million from surpluses in a fund for mental health services. Senate President Pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg, a supporter of early childhood education who pushed for Prop. 1D termed it a "temporary sacrifice" but Reiner doesn't see it that way.
A soon-to-be published report from the World Bank says early childhood development services across Latin America cover only a small fraction of the beneficiary populations, noting that in terms of inequality of opportunity between the haves and the have-nots, the region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa. Titled "The Promise of Early Childhood Development in Latin America and the Caribbean," it addresses the substantial returns to be gained from investment in early childhood services in the various countries in the region and makes policy recommendations. Details are available at the World Bank web site.
The PNC Foundation announced this week it is pledging up to $6 million in three-year grants to regional science centers and nonprofits to expand science opportunities for preschoolers. Called "Grow Up Great with Science," it is part of PNC Financial Services Group's 10-year $100 million philanthropic effort in early education that started in 2004. Bank officials and guests, including Elmo from Sesame Street, celebrated the program's launch at the National Air and Space Museum - one of the 14 science centers to receive funding. A recent NIEER working paper shows that teachers tend not to support science and math learning in pre-K.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that in order to compete for the best primary schools Japanese parents are now sending their preschoolers and kindergartners to ojuken, or cram schools, where they take special classes and complete workbooks. The schools are viewed as supplements to Japan's play-based early education policy. Read the full story here: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0423/p06s01-woap.html.

Calendar

April 22, 2009 - April 25, 2009
Orlando, FL - This conference is designed to increase the professionalism of the child care industry.
May 5, 2009 - May 8, 2009
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is devoted to exchanging ideas about early education systems and strategies.
June 25, 2009 - June 27, 2009
Baltimore, MD – The theme for the 19th annual National Association for Family Child Care conference is "Defining New Horizons: Charting a Course to Quality Learning."
July 12, 2009 - July 15, 2009
Cambridge, MA – The theme for this year's summer conference for elementary principals serving children from age 3 through third grade is "Young learners in America's schools: What's in your toolkit?"
July 20, 2009 - July 25, 2009
Cork, Ireland – The theme for the IFDCO’s Conference is "Celebrating Quality Family Childcare."

Early Education News Roundup

April 23, 2009
The Star Press, Muncie, IN
As one of 12 states without state-sponsored preschool, Indiana is missing the mark when it comes to improving education and student achievement.
April 22, 2009
Catalyst Chicago
Experts say all children can benefit from a high-quality early learning program to prepare them for academic success in elementary school and beyond. A state advisory board has recently crafted a set of recommendations for the state's newest agenda: to find and enroll those children who are considered the most at-risk and would benefit the most from preschool, but who are often hard to reach for a variety of reasons.
April 20, 2009
Los Angeles Times
In 1998, Hollywood actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner championed the California Children and Families First Act, which put a 50-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund an early childhood development program. Proposition 1D would shift nearly $1.7 billion over the next five years -- about 70% of the cigarette tax's revenue during that period -- to help balance the state general fund.
April 20, 2009
The Blade, Toledo, OH
Preschool programs funded by some states are in danger of becoming casualties of the recession, with long-term ramifications to the education of American children. Such cutbacks may solve immediate budget problems but canceling them comes at a high cost too.
April 16, 2009
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
And for the skeptics, well-researched and objective findings of multiple studies clearly make a sound business case for investing in early childhood programs. For every $1 invested in quality early childhood programming, $17 will be saved in social and justice services by the time young children reach adulthood.
April 16, 2009
The New York Times
Professor Nisbett strongly advocates intensive early childhood education because of its proven ability to raise I.Q. and improve long-term outcomes. Professor Nisbett suggests putting less money into Head Start, which has a mixed record, and more into these intensive childhood programs.
April 15, 2009
Chicago Tribune
Latino families with young children constitute a significant portion of the nation's population and future workforce, but several studies show those children are less likely to enroll in early education programs because of various barriers including language, cost, transportation and a shortage of pre-kindergarten spots in poor neighborhoods. For those and other reasons, Latino children lag well behind white children in reading and math skills when they start kindergarten.
April 14, 2009
The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's leadership in early childhood education looks better than ever in light of the recession's impact. That's good news, because it shows the rest of world we understand the importance of giving kids from poor backgrounds a fighting chance in those critical grade school years.
April 14, 2009
Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI
Early childhood programs are critical assets to economic development and quality of life. They are firmly linked to our success in the global marketplace.
April 14, 2009
Congressional Quarterly
A proposal from President Obama to create a nurse home-visitation program for first-time mothers has won bipartisan support in Congress, and proponents are optimistic that it could receive funding this year. Under the program, nurses would provide home care to low-income mothers-to-be and to the new mothers and their infants, at a cost of $8.6 billion over 10 years.
April 13, 2009
The Wenatchee World, Wenatchee, WA
Ceasing programs that are working — programs that help young children come to school ready to learn — will hurt all of us in the long run. It's cheaper to provide disadvantaged children with early education in the first five years than it is to re-teach them 10 years later, or to incarcerate.
April 13, 2009
Erie Times-News, Erie, PA
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has been taking baby steps toward universal preschool for two years. The state supplements federal Head Start funding and pays for preschool for additional children through its Pre-K Counts program.
April 13, 2009
Anchorage Daily News
The Legislature has the opportunity to address a gap in Alaska's education system -- a lack of preschool programs in public schools. The governor's budget includes money for a state-funded pilot program with preschool for 500 Alaska children.
April 12, 2009
The New York Times
In a year of declining state revenues and steep cuts to many programs, Gov. Jon S. Corzine will not be able to fulfill his wish to bring all-day preschool to nearly every public school district in the state. But with help from the federal stimulus package, he is proposing to expand the program into more districts in New Jersey, one of the few states in the country even considering a growth in preschool this year.
April 12, 2009
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
The changes, if approved, could jettison North Carolina's preschool program from one of the nation's best to among the worst, said Steve Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "When you take educators out of the picture, you're asking for disaster," said Barnett, who co-authored an annual report last week praising More at Four for its high level of quality.

Resources

This paper in the latest issue of Social Policy Report argues that young Hispanic children should be of particular interest to policymakers, practitioners and researchers. Eugene Garcia and Bryant Jensen, University of Arizona, review a sizable body of literature demonstrating that early interventions can improve learning opportunities and education outcomes and present a set of recommendations. Among them is establishing and strengthening dual language programs in which all students are taught in both English and Spanish.
Pre-K Now presents a collection of online references providing information on and analysis of early education funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Highlights include guidance from budget and early education policy experts, key state and federal resources, and examples of how states are using new federal dollars for pre-k programs.
This report from McKinsey & Company examines the dimensions of four distinct gaps in education: (1) between the United States and other nations, (2) between black and Latino students and white students, (3) between students of different income levels and (4) between similar students schooled in different systems or regions. It concludes that underutilization of human potential as reflected in the achievement gap is extremely costly.