Early Education in the News
As state legislators wrestle with how to provide money for more pre-kindergarten classes, the Fort Worth school district is moving forward with a groundbreaking decision to offer a full-day education program for all 4-year-olds.
On Friday morning, the district will break ground in a ceremony signaling the start of construction to add pre-K classrooms at 16 school sites to accommodate all 4-year-old students in the system.
The Fort Worth projects get underway while the Legislature takes up bills to add more funding — but not enough dollars — for early childhood education, an issue that Gov. Greg Abbott made a hallmark of his election campaign.
“I support expanded public investment in early childhood. But I don’t support universal pre-K. Pre-K spending should be targeted to low-income children, not subsidize middle-class families who can afford it.” It’s a common theme in debates about early childhood education. And I used to agree with it.
I still agree that, in a context of limited resources, incremental public investments should focus first on the most disadvantaged kids. But, after a decade of working on pre-K policy and seeing the practical realities of income-targeted preschool programs, I no longer think targeted pre-K should be the goal. It should be a way station on the path toward universal pre-K access.
Calling the federal budget “a reflection of who we are” as a nation, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey ripped a proposed Senate Republican budget on Thursday for failing children. In a conference call with reporters hours before the Senate began debate on the multitrillion-dollar spending plan, Casey blasted the budget’s cuts to the nation’s top early childhood education program, Head Start, the free or reduced price school-lunch program, food stamps, special education and Medicaid. The budget also allows tax credits that benefit the poor to lapse, he said.
While the debate rages over the federal budget and how much will go to K-12 schools, states and localities supply the biggest share of education dollars – about 87 percent on average. But is that money distributed fairly to the students who need it most?
School districts that serve the most students in poverty receive an average of $1,200, or 10 percent, less per student in state and local funding than districts with few students in poverty, according to a report released Thursday by The Education Trust (Ed Trust), a group in Washington that advocates for closing economic and racial inequities in schools. The resource gap grows to $2,200 when adjusting to account for an estimated 40 percent higher cost to educate high-poverty students, the report notes.
Alaska is failing its youth and failing its future by choosing not to add funds back into Alaska’s budget to fund pre-K education for youngsters.
A wealth of economic research shows that smart investments in early childhood education fight poverty by delivering strong academic, social and economic outcomes not just for children, but also for their families and their communities.
Other kids might soon have a chance to enter free pre-K. Gov. Tom Wolf's new budget proposes a "down payment" on early education spending, in the form of an additional $100 million to Pre-K Counts and $20 million more for Head Start next year. Pre-K, or preschool, is just one big-ticket item in a hefty $1 billion state education budget increase. While pre-K spending sometimes enjoy bipartisan support -- and has received calls to actions from the White House -- committing funds to early education is a tough sell in times of budget scarcity. But advocates hope that the long-term promise of pre-K spending will outweigh short-term budget squeamishness.
Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced an amendment to the Senate Republican Budget to expand access to high-quality preschool for low- and moderate-income three-and-four year olds. The proposal, which would be fully paid for by closing wasteful tax loopholes that benefit the biggest corporations, was blocked by Senate Republicans by a vote of 54-46.
Waterford Institute announced today that it has invested in a six-month pilot program partnering with three preschool centers in South Carolina. Last week, 70 preschoolers began using UPSTART, Waterford's in-home school readiness program, at home. The pilot will run through August, at which time the children's learning outcomes will be assessed.
One of the best outcomes of the 2014 gubernatorial election was that both candidates made a priority issue of what's best for children too young for Kindergarten. Now the Legislature is grappling with competing pre-K plans. The upsides are that both plans would raise the state's investment in pre-K education and that passing one or the other is more likely than rejecting both. It helps that no one is disputing the value of pre-K. Research shows that it prepares children to read at their grade level at third grade. A local school administrator interviewed by Nadia Tamez-Robledo of the Caller-Times identified third grade as the turning point at which children make the jump from learning to read, to reading to learn. Gov. Greg Abbott was right to declare pre-K a top priority for the Legislature. It's the foundation for his commendably ambitious goal to make Texas the nation's leader in education.
In recognition of the challenges presented by a lack of funding in childhood care, leaders in early childhood care policies and Steinhardt Educational Leadership program hosted a panel to discuss child care in New York City on Monday.
Panel member Lorelei Vargas, the deputy commissioner for early care and education in the Administration for Children’s Services, said such conversations are part of a larger movement toward reform.
“It’s an exciting time because there’s a lot of commitment from the current administration to support early childhood development,” Vargas said. “It’s something new because we haven’t seen that in a long time.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has proposed spending nearly a fifth of his state’s budget surplus on creating a universal preschool program for Minnesota’s 4 year olds. That would make it one of just a handful of states to offer universal, full-day pre-K.
At a visit to a preschool classroom on Friday, Dayton called on state lawmakers to pass $348 million in new spending for every public school in the state so they can create preschool programs. That would represent about a fifth of the state’s projected $1.9 billion surplus and is the biggest general fund increase he’s put forward this year. He’s currently focusing on access for all of the state’s 4 year olds, although he said he would be open to more funding for younger ages.
The governor’s administration estimates that 47,300 preschoolers would be covered in the first year of the program, which would expand to 57,000 after that. Minnesota currently ranks 50th nationally for its share of students attending full-day preschool and 40th for 4 year olds’ access to programs.
The House GOP bid would nearly flatline total state spending in the coming two years, compared with 2014-15. It would devote all — and then some — of a forecast $1.8 billion surplus to unspecified tax relief; divert $612 million from the state’s general fund to transportation purposes; whack a whopping $1.15 billion from forecast human services spending; and give all of education, from preschool to college, a spare $200 million increase over forecast growth. The GOP plan likely is too lean to fund universal preschool, a higher ed tuition freeze, a state spur to broadband development, pay raises for home health care aides and many other items on lobbyists’ wish lists. The separate transportation plan GOP House leaders unveiled on Monday would freeze Metro Transit operating funds for the foreseeable future and, in all likelihood, end the build out of the metro area’s light-rail system.
There may be limited appetite in Sacramento for making all of these investments at once. But if we truly believe in the California dream, if we truly want to provide opportunities for all our kids, we must recognize that the real economic constraints on families means that we have a greater responsibility than ever to increase opportunities for children through investments in child care, our schools and our communities.
That argument is mostly grounded in an understanding of the significance that early childhood and family environments play in predicting educational and life outcomes. A rash of data, including both a key longitudinalstudy conducted by University of Chicago economist James J. Heckman, and findings from the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, argue that parenting and home enrichment matter as much as, if not more than, what happens in the K-12 classroom, especially in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality in the years before children start school.
“I guess the most important thing [the studies show] is that the education gaps don’t have to be there,” said Dr. Larry Schweinhart, an early education program researcher and an author of the HighScope study. “That they are at least partially controlled or influenced by public policy.”
Schweinhart, who advocates for quality childcare and universal preschool, says the preschool group he studied demonstrated dramatic decreases in crime and significant increases in all positive measures compared to a control group. That, he insists, not only makes early intervention programs a smart social investment but it makes blaming public schools similar to shortsighted attitudes he’s seen in criminology.
Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, recently renewed his call on Virginia to invest more money in preschool education.
During a cable television discussion in Reston, Plum said, "We’ve got 40 years of study now that show that, with a good preschool start, you’re less likely to be on public dole. You’re less likely to be in prison. You’re much more likely to be a good productive citizen.That money spent up front saves money in the long haul."
The value of a preschool education is a hot topic among early childhood education experts, gaining steam in 2013 when President Barack Obama proposed expanding publicly funded programs to include all 4-year-olds who come from low and moderate-income families. Much of the research has focused on whether preschool provides lasting gains in the thinking and social skills of low-income children.
The social and emotional development of 3- and 4-year-olds transitioning from toddlers into school-age children is as important as her cognitive and physical development. . .
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), problems occurring socially and emotionally during early childhood have been associated with problems later in life, including persistent physical aggression, high-school dropout rates, adolescent delinquency and antisocial behavior. Researchers believe that development of poor social and emotional skills can lead to negative interactions with teachers and rejection by peers, which causes the child to dislike school and learning in general. Encouraging appropriate social and emotional development during the preschool years can help prevent this downward spiral from forming.
Gov. Mark Dayton is continuing to double down on his efforts to dramatically expand funding for early childhood education. Dayton wants to use $348 million from the budget surplus to fund universal preschool for Minnesota’s 4-year-olds. But critics say the money would be better spent on scholarships for at risk preschoolers.
We support legislative efforts to expand high quality prekindergarten in Texas, but doing it on the cheap is not adequate. It was encouraging to see Gov. Greg Abbottmake good late last month on his campaign promise to make early education one of five emergency legislative issues this session. The move means pre-K bills will be fast-tracked and likely to pass. However, HB 4, the legislation filed by Rep.Dan Huberty, R-Houston and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, does not go far enough. It does not expand pre-K eligibility or provide funding for full-day programs.
In recent years, early education has been on federal and state policymakers’ radar more than ever before. The Obama Administration has introduced several early learning initiatives, from Preschool Development Grants and Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge, to the ambitious Preschool for All proposal. Meanwhile, a growing number of red and blue states across the country are taking the initiative topilot and expand public pre-k programs for four-year-olds without the help of the federal government. Early education advocates welcome these pre-K developments since research repeatedly affirms that high quality pre-K programs improve child outcomes, especially for children from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds. But it’s important to remember that pre-K cannot stand alone– the years before and after pre-K are equally important to children’s development. That’s why the Early Education Initiative at New America is part of The PreK-3rd Grade National Workgroup, a consortium of organizations dedicated to strengthening the full PreK-3rd grade continuum, which includes pre-K, kindergarten, 1st through 3rd grade, and the transitions from one year to the next.
On Thursday, 12th March 2015, the Minister and a team of Education Officials visited the James A. Pinder Primary School in Sandy Point to officially commission the Preschool unit. Making good on his promise to increase access to preschool education not just in New Providence but throughout the Family Islands, the residents of South Abaco expressed their appreciation and gratitude for having a preschool attached to the primary school. The Minister of Education, Science and Technology highlighted the importance of preschool education and made reference to research regarding the benefits of preschool. “According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) children who attend a high-quality preschool enter grade school with better reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills that those who do not.” He further emphasized than the beauty of our preschool environments is that children are given the opportunity to explore, create, imagine, observe, listen, ask questions, try new things and very importantly, practice the skills they learn.