Early Education in the News
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said one of the top priorities of her education policy will be increasing emphasis on early education programs such as pre-kindergarten, all-day kindergarten and other early literacy efforts.
Conflicting studies have been used to argue for and against the effectiveness of Head Start, which has provided educational, medical and social services to about 20 million disadvantaged children in its 38-year history. Edward Zigler, Sterling Professor of Psychology at Yale, said it's unfair to compare Head Start students, who must overcome the disadvantages of poverty, to middle class students.
Most studies of Head Start have shown that it provides a brief boost in academic performance, but that the effects fade out by third grade. If that conclusion is correct it means every dollar of the billions spent on Head Start since its beginning have been wasted.
Without changes to the programs, the cost of HOPE and pre-k will near $1 billion annually by the fiscal year that begins in July 2006, according to state estimates. Georgia Lottery President Rebecca Paul said she doesn't expect lottery revenue for education programs to top $800 million in the near future.
Critics predict the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act could also help power a new wave of costly lawsuits against the states challenging the allocation of state education funds, and in turn by the states against the federal government. Chief among the law's requirements are annual student testing, training and hiring qualified teachers, and school accountability, which come as states are grappling with their worst fiscal crisis since World War II.
Senate Democrats and a Republican are offering separate proposals for revising the federal Head Start program, neither of which adopts the most controversial change in the version the House passed last week: permitting eight states to take over the program. But it carries a hefty price tag, raising the authorization to $16 billion by 2008, more than double the $7.4 billion spending cap the House bill authorizes for 2008.
On July 24, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law the formation of a statewide early childhood council that brings together agencies and organizations that focus on early childhood education statewide.
Over the last five years, the number of pre-kindergarten programs in Maine public schools has increased from 27 to 78 programs.
Even Head Start's most ardent supporters concede that the educational component of the federal early childhood program needs strengthening. In Georgia, the most efficient and effective way to do that would be merging Head Start with the state's pre-kindergarten.
With more and more children already exposed to classroomlike settings through preschool and day care, the Philadelphia School District has decided that there is a need to acclimate those entering kindergarten without such experience. The district has started a six-week program this summer, called Pre-Kindercamp, for children who have had little or no preschool experience.
As the Bush administration's embattled plans for Head Start reform move to the Senate, this much remains largely undisputed: Hiring better-trained teachers and encouraging staff to pursue higher degrees should benefit the program's more than 900,000 preschool children. That's the way to ensure that the building blocks of literacy and math are taught using up-to-date techniques known to help children deprived of the basics at home.
Preschoolers in Massachusetts and across the country are being squeezed by the fiscal crisis, according to a report that says budget cuts now will require more spending later, when those children are forced to repeat grades and take special education classes. The report, issued last week by the National Institute for Early Education Research, found that preschool programs in the vast majority of states surveyed had been cut or kept at the same level of funding in annual budgets.
Kentucky was among at least eight states that likely would have qualified to conduct pilot programs allowing them to take over the federal program and merge it with their preschool and child-care initiatives.
Research indicates that all young people experience significant learning losses during the summer break from school, and that the magnitude of these declines varies by grade level, subject matter and family income. For example, low-income children show greater academic declines than do their more affluent peers.
After a rough road through the House, the remaking of the Head Start program is heading to the Senate, where leaders must decide whether they, too, want to shift preschool power to some states. The House put its mark on the landmark education program early Friday, voting by a hair-thin 217-216 margin to give up to eight states control over Head Start so they can coordinate it with other programs.
An upcoming public vote on whether to levy a 10-cent tax on "designer coffee drinks" is producing a debate of caffeinated intensity in what is supposed to be an easygoing city. The measure, on the Sept. 16 ballot, seeks to boost funding for prekindergarten programs with all those dimes, which proponents say will total $7 million annually.
Rhetoric on both sides is overblown, says Steve Barnett, head of the National Institute for Early Education Research, a nonpartisan think tank at Rutgers University. Head Start teachers should be better-qualified, he said, but also should be paid more.
A nation that does not promote the parenting skills of its young families, particularly in the face of economic hardship and limited education, undermines its own future. This requires good parenting, which can be taught, and reliable and competent care from other adults when parents are at work, which can be assured through a child care and early education system that has strong quality standards.
The New Jersey Supreme Court gave the state 30 days to provide the districts with preliminary budget figures for the 2003-04 school year.
The commission that distributes money collected under the Proposition 10 cigarette tax agreed Tuesday to use $100 million to begin providing preschool programs for the state's estimated 3.5 million children under age 5. Calling the allocation historic, commission Chairman Rob Reiner said it represented a "down payment" on what panel members hope will expand into a statewide program to reach children in every urban center and rural hamlet of California.