Early Education in the News
Ohio legislators did the right thing in approving a major increase in funding — about 50 percent over current levels, for pre-K programs. Now it is up to the state Department of Education and local districts to make the money go as far as possible to improve the programs, aimed at 3- and 4-year-olds in the Buckeye State.
At least nine states are increasing free pre-kindergarten enrollment this year, but Libby Doggett, director of a national early childhood advocacy program called Pre-K Now, said Oregon's expansion is one of the biggest. [Governor Ted] Kulongoski and the Legislature chose Head Start expansion this year over full-day kindergarten, relying on research indicating it has a bigger payoff in achievement, graduation rates and even reduced crime.
Parents of 4-year-olds across the state will have a chance this fall to give their children a jump-start toward success in school, a boost that is showing positive results in classrooms in the parishes where an innovative program exists. The program, started as a small pilot initiative by the late state Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard solely with federal funds, has gained national recognition and is being used as a model by other states.
Prekindergarten teachers can earn professional development hours for free thanks to a state grant received recently by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
A group that advises Gov. Timothy M. Kaine about pre-kindergarten issues says Virginia needs a state-level office for its early childhood programs. Aspects of early childhood education currently fall to more than one state department, including the departments of education and social services.
Start with the focus on 4-year-olds. Last month, a report on New Jersey's preschool program for children in high-poverty districts suggested that children do better when they have two years of preschool, according to researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research. So it could make more sense to offer preschool seats to 3-year-olds.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's $50-million preschool initiative, passed in 2006, has not yet brought universal preschool education to needy cities such as Santa Ana. Despite being flush with new state money, Santa Ana still lacks the buildings, open space for playgrounds, parents who can afford the schools, and qualified providers to create a successful citywide preschool program.
The sociological and educational benefits alone justify a public investment in preschoolers. The Brookings Institution projects that if universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds were now offered nationwide, it would increase the gross national product by $2 trillion by 2080.
Though Ohio established a "pre-K" state program in 1990, it has been very slow in getting off the ground. In comparison to many other states — even West Virginia, where funding for education is even more limited — Ohio has not done at all well in building the program.
Retired Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. won't reconsider his ruling in a long-running dispute over school funding. Cooper on Thursday affirmed his December 2005 findings that South Carolina provides its public school students a "minimally adequate education" but should do more to offer help to children from the time they are born until they reach the third grade.
Parents struggling to choose the best preschool or day care for their children soon could get help as Minnesota begins testing a way to rate early education programs. The Department of Human Services will rate providers on a point system based on a variety of areas, including staff experience and qualifications, family education, adult-child interactions and the progress of children in the program.
Universal prekindergarten in Virginia would pay for itself in 11 years through higher incomes, reduced crime, and savings on government services, according to a study this week by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank. An unrelated report, released Wednesday, called on Virginia and other states to open government-financed prekindergarten programs to children in military families.
In a report released Wednesday, the Military Child Education Coalition and the group Pre-K Now are calling for all states to take steps to provide the program for all military children. In Kansas, the state began a pilot program in 2006 that provides money for Geary County and five others to offer pre-kindergarten for children of military families and youngsters deemed at-risk for reasons including poverty.
The $75 million in prekindergarten funding will provide services to about 11,000 3- and 4-year-olds in both public and private programs, including public schools, Head Start programs, private child-care centers, and nursery schools. That will almost double the number of children in state-funded programs, from about 12,000 last school year.
It has been proven over and over that high-quality preschool has long-term benefits. Studies have shown preschool influences academic success, high school and college graduation, lifetime earnings, even health.
Millions more in state grant money will allow Terrebonne and Lafourche public schools to roughly double the number of public pre-kindergarten classes each system offers for local 4-year-olds this fall. Part of a sweeping $700 million education package signed Thursday by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the money is funneled to the districts through the state's LA4 Early Childhood Education program.
The large-scale, statewide study was based on 2,300 children who attended preschool in New Jersey's poorest districts. It found that students who attended preschool in Abbott districts "fared significantly better as they moved through kindergarten."
In their new (albeit court-ordered) definition of educational adequacy, legislators had the wherewithal to include kindergarten. That means the handful of holdout school districts, mostly in southern New Hampshire, where no public kindergarten is offered will finally be forced to get in line with the rest of the state and the rest of the country.
West Virginia has until 2012 before all county school systems will be required by state law to have preschool, or pre-kindergarten, programs for 4-year-olds. Statewide, the number of programs continues to grow, with about 10 counties already serving all children without a waiting list, up from five this time last year, state education officials said.
The business community launched the [Minnesota Business for Early Learning] initiative out of concern that only half of the state's new kindergartners are "fully prepared" to learn, according to state assessments conducted annually by kindergarten teachers. Business folks reasoned that these results were not nearly good enough to fill a pending workforce shortage in the next decade.