Early Education in the News
Education may be the great equalizer, but not every child in Alabama has an equal opportunity to quality education. Expanding Alabama's state-funded First Class Pre-K program to 100 percent of the state's four-year-olds could be part of the answer. The program already serves 12 percent of children and is one of only four programs to meet all of the National Institute for Early Education Research's quality standards. The program needs $13.2 million in additional funding each year from the state for the next eight years to become fully funded and accessible, according to the Alabama School Readiness Alliance Pre-K Task Force.
Education is a major issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign. Understandably, the discussion has centered on funding and spending. But once we get over the political palaver, the next governor must decide how best to spend whatever money is available. I have a suggestion: early education. . .
The materials Pre-K for PA has gathered are compelling. Research has determined that by age 5, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed. If children are to reach their potential, education and training must start very early in life. The benefits build as the child grows. High-quality early-education programs lead to fewer students requiring special education programs, reduce grade repetition, and increase the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment. This adds up to lower costs and greater returns from our education spending.
Wisconsin was eligible to apply for up to $15 million. The actual amount of our application, though, will be $0. The state is passing up the grant — in this round, anyway. . .
Here’s the background. Wisconsin received a similar federal grant for $34 million under a program called the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. That grant started in January 2013 and will be active through December 2016. It’s a big, complicated program. The state’s Department of Children and Families, Department of Education and Department of Health Services all have a hand in administering it, and it’s touched everything from attempts to spur private investment in early childhood programs to aligning YoungStar, the state’s child care ranking system, with the curriculum needs of 4-year-old kindergarten. In sum, the state is using that $34 million to help advance a number of initiatives that will help make sure Wisconsin kids get the support, love and education they need from birth.
It's been a year of long-overdue momentum for preschool in Indiana, with the state's first investment in it and major pushes from the city of Indianapolis as well as corporate and philanthropic organizations. Then came Thursday, and word that Gov. Mike Pence's administration had made the surprise, last-minute and largely unexplained decision not to apply for a federal education grant that could have brought Indiana up to $80 million more to spend on preschool programs for low-income students. That would have been several times more money than the state has committed to spending under a Pence-led pilot program.
Science and politics shared the stage Wednesday night as two nationally known researchers discussed how a baby's brain is primed for learning from the moment of birth, and politicians underscored the need for a greater state commitment to early-childhood education.
"The Case for Early Learning," a panel discussion at Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, drew hundreds of parents, policymakers and education advocates interested in furthering state and local commitment to preschool education.
University of Washington brain scientists Patricia Kuhl and Andrew Meltzoff, co-directors of the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) described how the timing and quality of play, stimulation and interactions with adults can help mold the developing mind, for better and for worse.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray explained why one of the most important initiatives of his administration is the passage of a pre-K pilot program to bring early-childhood education to low-income children.
"In a city that's so committed to issues of equality," said Murray, "I don't know anything else that is more important for us to do."
The Oct. 14 deadline for the state of Alaska to apply for federal funds under the U.S. Department of Education's Preschool Development Grants program has come and gone. Alaska would have been eligible to apply for $10 million but did not submit an application. Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of Alaska choosing not to reclaim some of the federal tax dollars we pay and use them to increase early childhood opportunities in our state. Alaska is falling further and further behind when it comes to early childhood investments. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, in the 2002-2003 school year, Alaska served 22 percent of its 4-year-old children in either Head Start or special education or state pre-kindergarten programs. A decade later, in the 2012-2013 school year, the picture remained the same -- 22 percent of Alaska’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in one of these three programs.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration wants nearly $70 million in federal funding for Nashville and Shelby County to expand early childhood education, but it won’t go toward expanding the state’s current prekindergarten program. If awarded the full amount requested, Metro Nashville Public Schools plans to add 1,600 pre-K seats by 2018. The Shelby County Consortium would add 3,580 seats over the same time period. With matching local public and private funding, there will be $109 million committed to opening 2,230 new preschool programs and improving a total of nearly 3,000 existing seats, according to the grant application.“We would welcome any extra funding for pre-K,” said Joe Bass, a spokesman for Metro Schools. “Pre-K is one of the biggest things you can do to help student achievement.”
The White House on Thursday will announce a new initiative to encourage technological and research support to combat the word gap, a learning curve many low-income children face in their early years before entering school. Research has shown that children from lower income families on average hear 30 million fewer words in the first three years of their lives than those from wealthier families. Proponents of closing the gap say it’s important for parents to talk, read and sing with their children, but that low-income parents often don’t have the time or the resources to do so. The Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Museum and Library Services will partner to encourage more organizations to develop technologies and research that can help better spread information to the communities that need it, the White House will announce.
Seattle voters have a big decision to make next month regarding universal preschool for families in the city.
Voters must choose between two competing preschool propositions. Prop 1A, which is supported by a number of unions and Prop 1B, which is backed by Seattle's mayor and city council.
Voters will have two questions to answer. First, should either universal preschool measures be enacted into law? Second, regardless of whether you voted yes or no, if one of these measures is enacted, which should it be? Prop 1A or Prop 1B?
Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) unveiled his new early childhood education proposal this week; he says it could eliminate the wait lists for preschools across the state.
The governor visited the Early Family Learning Center at Skyline in Great Falls on Tuesday, where he read to pre-K students. Afterwards, he spoke with parents, teachers, and administrators about Early Edge Montana, his proposal to publicly fund early childhood education.
Bullock plans to ask the legislature for $37 million over two years to fund the program: "We're proposing that we end up giving block grants to the school district that can go through and both either have classes in the district, work with head start or community-based providers."
Likely voters in Georgia were asked whether the state should hold the line on taxes and spending or make sure that there is sufficient funding for needs such as education. More than two-thirds (68 percent) said it was more important to ensure adequate funding while 28 percent prefer holding the line on taxes. Majority support to fund education held true for every party affiliation.
Asked if they would support using a portion of lottery funds to provide voluntary Pre-K programs for 4-year olds, 87 percent were supportive compared to 83 percent four years ago. At the national level, Georgia voters were asked if they favored a Congressional plan to expand access to early childhood programs. There was 74 percent support for the Congressional plan to improve early childhood education.
Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, gave Georgia an aspirational goal–to reach every child with a high quality program.
“Georgia does better than most states,” Barnett said. “But its not in the top tier. With a few small changes, Georgia could move in the top tier states–reducing class size like North Carolina and Alabama." . . . “Georgia can do better,” Barnett said. “It could once again be the national leader in Pre-K–make high quality the norm; make sure every classroom is high quality; and make sure there’s a reliability of state funding. All of these things could be done by 2020. Georgia could once again be the national leader in pre-K. Georgia needs to do this for its children, and Georgia needed to do this for its future.
Early childhood education -- both kindergarten and prekindergarten -- should be mandatory in Mississippi. Until then, this state will continue to struggle to educate children who are simply not ready to learn when they do have to start school...
Children without the benefit of pre-K and kindergarten instruction are entering the primary grades without the most basic of learning skills and comprehension. "We have got to have kids in kindergarten. It can't be an option," she told the Sun Herald. "To me, if we're going to improve education in this state -- and we are -- we have got to get children into high-quality learning as quickly as we can. And then have them prepared."
In the fight against childhood obesity, there is bad news and good. There are a variety of reasons that preschoolers do not show the higher rates of obesity that older children exhibit, according to medical experts. "Because they're much younger, preschoolers haven't had as much time to become obese," said Dr. Garry Sigman, medical director of Loyola University Health System's Pediatric Weight Management Program in Maywood, Ill. "The energy imbalance that causes obesity doesn't happen right away, it takes weeks and weeks and years and years." Furthermore, Sigman said that a number of positive health messages have been disseminated over the past 10 years that are helping to get preschoolers on the right path and avoid becoming obese as they grow older.
Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to provide preschool to 1,300 low-income Indianapolis children next year may not be dead after all.
The Indianapolis City-County Council tonight voted to approve a $1 billion 2015 budget, and in it was a last-minute amendment that could put $1.7 million toward the mayor’s plan to cut crime and expand access to preschool.
A dispute over the Common Core education standards won’t sideline Louisiana’s application for up to $15 million in federal grant money for pre-kindergarten programs.
With a Tuesday deadline looming, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office announced that the Republican governor will agree to support Louisiana’s grant application for the money.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association is taking a stand against a proposed constitutional amendment on preschool education. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the union opposes the measure that will ask voters whether the state can fund partnerships with private preschools.
Hawaii is the only state that prohibits public funds from benefiting private educational institutions and is one of 10 states without state-funded universal preschool.
Governor Steve Bullock says it is time to give every four-year old Montana child access to a high-quality, early childhood education.
It is one of the priorities of the Bullock Administration going into the 2015 Montana Legislative session.
Bullock kicked off the "Early Edge Montana” initiative with stops today in Hardin and Billings. He'll be in Helena and Great Falls to talk about the program Tuesday, in Missoula on Wednesday, and Bozeman on Thursday. Lieutenant Governor Angela McLean will visit Browning to talk about it on Thursday.
At the Billings YWCA, he told school officials pre-kindergarten is a voluntary program where communities and parents would retain control.
East Aurora School District is seeking a $1.1 million annual grant that would allow the district to offer full-day preschool to five classes of 4-year-olds starting next year — significantly expanding its preschool offerings.
“It would serve a lot of kids well,” Superintendent Michael Popp recently told the school board. “We’re really hopeful on this one.”
As of last month, East Aurora had 672 children in pre-kindergarten, though the district was still enrolling preschool students when that count was taken.
Statewide, kindergarteners have the lowest average daily attendance rate of any K-8 grade; just 94.5 percent during the 2012-13 school year, according to a Hechinger Report analysis of state education data. That means, on any given day, more than 2,300 Mississippi kindergarteners are out of school. The absences are leading to both academic and financial consequences in a state where students already lag behind their peers throughout the country, consistently posting some of the lowest test scores in the U.S. The absences also are leading to students falling behind just as they start their education. One in 14 Mississippi kindergarten students had to repeat their grade in 2008 because they weren’t prepared to move on, according to the Southern Education Foundation. In addition, when students don’t show up, schools lose money, as state aid is determined by average daily attendance. Plott was forced to let go of four teachers in kindergarten through second grade last year. With fewer instructors in the classroom, class sizes at Neshoba Central have increased; kindergarten class sizes grew from about 18 or 19 students last year to an average of 24 or 25 this year.
At about $13,000, the average annual cost for full-time infant care in Colorado exceeds the price of most in-state college tuition and fees. Not far behind is the average price for preschool-age care in Colorado, at nearly $10,000 a year. Beyond the money parents hand over for the early care and education of their children are the impacts to businesses. Child care issues can result in lost productivity, absenteeism, decreased focus and a reduction in qualified workers because it's cost-prohibitive for some women to return to work after having a baby, said Gloria Higgins, president of Denver-based Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, or EPIC. Research shows that safe, stable and stimulating early childhood experiences are crucial to success as youngsters progress in school and on with their lives, she said. According to her organization, children who do not attend preschool are 50 percent more likely to require special education and 71 percent less likely to graduate high school. . .
Organizers are urging business leaders to start a grass-roots effort to help promote quality early childhood care and education. "I don't know that this community doesn't understand, but it hasn't coalesced on the issue and embraced it," Higgins said.