Volume 8, Issue 4

February 13, 2009

Hot Topics

Both houses of Congress have agreed on a compromise stimulus bill containing a number of provisions that benefit early care and education. The following new funding levels are in the conference report:

• $1.1 billion for Early Head Start
• $1 billion for Head Start
• $2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant
• $13 billion for Title I grants to help disadvantaged kids
• $12.2 billion for grants for IDEA (special education)
• $53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, some of which may be used in certain circumstances for school construction and early education.

The compromise eliminates a provision that would have set aside 15 percent of the new IDEA and Title I funds to serve preschoolers that had been in the Senate version. Overall, this is good news for young children and their families, but the compromise is less helpful to state preschool programs than it could have been. Passage by both chambers is expected as early as today.
Experts on early childhood literacy, concerned that the findings issued in the recent report from the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) may be misunderstood by policymakers or practitioners, have drafted guidance to promote a better understanding of the findings. David Dickinson, Vanderbilt University, Roberta Golinkoff, University of Delaware, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University, Susan Neuman, University of Michigan, and Peg Burchinal, Frank Porter Graham Center, University of North Carolina, have drafted a joint response to the NELP report. NIEER Co-directors Ellen Frede and Steve Barnett also have issued guidance reinforcing key points in the report and providing context for interpreting others. Both commentaries are available on the NIEER web site.
Despite a looming state deficit that could top $2 billion, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell proposed increasing education funding by 5 percent in his new budget. If approved as proposed, the state would boost funding for the Pre-K Counts program by 10 percent to $95 million.
Three federal judges impaneled to hear autism cases have ruled against the families in three test cases. According to The New York Times, the rulings are especially significant since each case examined a different theory as to how vaccines might have injured the children. The judges said the families who were seeking compensation from the federal vaccine-injury fund failed to show that their children's autism was brought on by thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, or by a weakened measles virus used in the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine or a combination of the two.
The doctor whose work sparked worldwide concern that the MMR vaccine could cause autism altered and misreported results, reports The Times of London. The paper says its investigation of confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients' data for the report he published in 1998 in the British medical journal The Lancet. Wakefield's evidence was drawn from the cases of 12 children.
The Chicago Program Evaluation Project has released its final report on the Windy City's pre-K system. After studying a sample representing the 30,000 4-year-olds attending the city's public pre-K in 2006-2007, researchers concluded, among other things, that the kids made significant progress in English vocabulary development, early literacy achievement, and early math achievement. Children at highest academic risk and English Language Learners were among those making substantial progress. Children's attention/persistence levels and social behavior improved during the preschool year. Behavior problems remained low, suggesting that children will be ready for the behavioral demands of school.
The Chicago Tribune reports that prominent children's advocate Jerry Stermer has been tapped by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to serve as his chief of staff. Stermer, who heads Voices for Illinois Children, has been instrumental in bringing about Preschool for All in Illinois and serves on the Illinois Early Learning Council. Stermer supported a proposal to increase the state income tax and reduce property taxes as part of a school funding overhaul. The measure didn't pass under former governor Rod Blagojevich.

Calendar

February 18, 2009 - February 21, 2009
Austin TX – The National Association for Bilingual Education's annual conference boasts the largest gathering of parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers dedicated to serving English Language Learners in the United States.
February 26, 2009 - March 1, 2009
New Orleans, LA – The theme for this year's conference is "Education for Peace and Social Justice."
March 10, 2009 - March 14, 2009
Washington, DC – Join with more than 600 participants from across the nation at NACCRRA's Policy Symposium to explore the latest developments in child care resource and referral.
April 9, 2009 - April 10, 2009
San Diego, CA – Join early childhood professionals from across the country at the two-day training institute that will include both physical activity and instructional-based lessons.
July 20, 2009 - July 25, 2009
Cork, Ireland – The theme for the IFDCO’s Conference is "Celebrating Quality Family Childcare."

Early Education News Roundup

February 12, 2009
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
[It] all starts at home, and Parents as Teachers program supporters want to give moms and dads the resources they need to start educating children as young as a couple of months. House Bill 69 would funnel state money to the pre-kindergarten program, which already is running on federal grants in 47 Alaska communities. Local communities would apply to the state for program grants to serve parents with children up to 5.
February 12, 2009
The Arizona Republic
More children with access to health care. Quality ratings for child-care centers. "Childhood-development kits" sent home with newborns. Those and other plans to benefit Arizona children are being unveiled by an organization created to funnel tobacco taxes into programs to improve child development and early education in the state.
February 11, 2009
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Hawaii lawmakers want to preserve a project to expand preschool options by preventing its funding from being used to help plug the state's financial hole. The Legislature, through Act 14, assigned an Early Learning Council last year to plan a voluntary preschool system supported by state and private funds. The council received $250,000, but about half of it is expected to be unspent by the end of fiscal year 2009 on June 30 and lumped into the state's general fund.
February 11, 2009
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN
The bill, dubbed the new Minnesota Miracle, had its first legislative hearing Tuesday. Estimates show it would cost the state an extra $2.4 billion a year, requiring a 32 percent increase in education funding for preschools through high schools.
February 10, 2009
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Gov. Chris Gregoire tapped Bremerton school chief Bette Hyde on Tuesday to run the Department of Early Learning, selecting a veteran public school administrator used to working with tight budgets. The one-time special-education teacher takes on the Cabinet-level post at a difficult time, as policymakers cut the state budget. Amid those cuts, however, improving the education of preschoolers, toddlers and infants remains a priority, Gregoire indicated.
February 9, 2009
Today's Sunbeam, Salem, NJ
School districts from around the county will continue to play the waiting game on whether funding will become available for the state-mandated preschool expansion project. But residents can find some comfort after it was announced by the New Jersey Department of Education that the burden to pay for the program will not fall on the local taxpayers.
February 8, 2009
The New York Times
Lack of money is not the problem: to keep a child in Head Start full-time, year-round, costs about $22,600, as opposed to an average cost of $9,500 in a day care center. And that's the big failing of the stimulus bill. In area after area, it does not require any real change in return for vast piles of money.
February 8, 2009
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, VA
In a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he has a prepared answer for anyone who wants to know what to invest in: "Education is the best investment." In making these tough choices, I submit that even in the face of this shrinking economy, the Virginia Preschool Initiative, or VPI, works, and its funding should be preserved.
February 7, 2009
Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville, NC
With former Gov. Mike Easley gone less than a month, support is building in the General Assembly to end his signature preschool initiative, More at Four, as a separate program. The idea is to fold More at Four, which subsidizes preschool for at-risk 4-year-olds, into the older and broader Smart Start.
February 6, 2009
Winona Daily News, Winona, MN
Early childhood screening is not meant to diagnose disorders or serve as a kindergarten readiness test, but it can identify possible developmental or emotional barriers children might have when they begin school.
February 5, 2009
The Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT
New teachers looking to work in Connecticut public schools would have to learn to teach "atypical" students, such as special education students and English language learners, under revised teacher certification guidelines being developed by the state Department of Education.

Resources

This eighth report card from the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre analyzes early care and education services in the 25 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, ranks them on enrollment of various age groups and on a number of other variables. As its title implies, the report discusses the factors that are driving child care from what used to be a predominantly private responsibility to one that is increasingly supported by the public sector.
Voices for Illinois Children have released the 2009 edition of the Illinois Kids Count data book. Titled Education for the 21st Century, it highlights the changing composition of student enrollment in the state, inequities in resources among districts, and the disparities in student outcomes, including test scores and graduation rates.