Early Education in the News
Opinion: The experiences a child has up to this point — at home, in preschool, in child care — shape his trajectory for life. We are creating human capital, and we only get one chance per generation to do it right. There is no rewind button for the first five years.
Hillary Rodham Clinton put early childhood education at the front of her agenda Monday, pledging that as president she would work to make preschool available and affordable for every American child.
Clinton, who started her career as an advocate for the Children's Defense Fund, has long lobbied for expanding the availability of child care and preschool. At a day-care center here, she outlined proposals, including a substantial boost in federal spending to help cover the cost of schooling for 4-year-olds from low-income families.
In backing expanded preschool, Clinton is advocating a policy that is popular with liberal Democrats even though some experts warn that the benefits have been oversold. President Obama rolled out a similar proposal in 2013, and Clinton said she would build on that plan if voters sent her to the White House.
"It's time we realize once and for all that investing in our children is one of the best investments our country can make," Clinton said, according to a transcript of her remarks released by the campaign. The event was partially closed to reporters. "It's hard enough to pay for any preschool or child care at all, let alone the quality programs that help kids develop and flourish. Funding for these opportunities has not kept up with changing times and rising demand."
Families of about 140 children who applied for child care and pre-kindergarten classes at Nuestros Ninos in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, got a surprise recently when the city told them their 42-year-old neighborhood institution would not be an option for the fall. The news came well after the application deadline.
"I was hoping she would stay here since I was one of the first ones to apply," said Jahayra Jimenez of her daughter Leah.
Executive Director Myriam Cruz said the impact spreads even farther, with families of another 200 infants through toddlers also in limbo because they're served by homecare providers affiliated with her agency. The future of Nuestro Ninos is in question largely because its landlord wants to raise the rent. Officials announced late Monday that the city, who holds the lease, secured the space through January, 2016, while it tries to reach a deal.
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton made her first high-profile education policy pitch Monday: universal preschool.
Specifically, Clinton wants to give every 4-year-old in America access to high-quality preschool over the next decade.
It's clear that Clinton, the former secretary of state and U.S. Senator, thinks she has a winning issue here. After all, there's been a lot of bipartisan interest in early education at the state level. But congressional Republicans, some of whom are seeking the GOP nomination, have been reluctant to invest big federal money in the policy, in part because of concerns over runaway federal spending.
The district will continue to restructure special education services so more students are going home to their neighborhood school, she said.
In May, GRPS announced plans to include all children with disabilities in pre-kindergarten classrooms side-by-side with peers without disabilities this fall to enhance student learning and development.
The 23 eliminated positions are tied to that change, which would affect 319 GRPS Early Childhood Special Education students enrolled in the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), Michigan's state-funded preschool program for 4-year-olds.
"Our focus on inclusion with special education is research backed and shows that these changes will positively impact student achievement while also presenting a cost savings," Neal said.
A number of studies suggest that young children who enter pre-kindergarten programs develop their learning skills more effectively than those who don't.
That's one reason why state lawmakers recently decided to examine and reform the Virginia Preschool Initiative. One of the underlying issues is making sure that low-income children have access to—and take advantage of— those programs.
Some of the reasons why children don't enroll include lack of affordability, eligibility, and other challenges.
Lori Connors-Tadros with the Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes says most states do have publicly funded pre-K programs and some do target families in poverty, but low-income children gain more when they're in economically diverse classrooms.
Minnesota's House of Representatives has passed a beefed up public school budget bill, Dayton's top priority that triggered a special session.
Dayton vetoed the Legislature's bill with an additional $400 million for Minnesota schools, citing his desire for more funding and a prized preschool initiative. Sensing there wasn't enough support among lawmakers, the Democratic governor dropped his insistence for a half-day preschool program and settled for bringing up the new infusion to $525 million.
The state’s largest school district is considering expanding its transitional kindergarten to more 4-year-olds – a move that could affect other districts statewide.
Los Angeles Unified School District lobbyists are seeking legislation that would change the birthdate required to enter transitional kindergarten – which provides an extra year of schooling for some students – and open the program up to more children at an earlier age. With the law change, the district is trying to find a way to save preschool slots that may be eliminated in one of its current programs, the School Readiness Language Development Program.
Transitional kindergarten is designed for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2, those students who previously were eligible to enroll in kindergarten. In 2010, lawmakers changed the required 5th birthdate to begin kindergarten from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.
Now, the Los Angeles Unified School District wants to offer transitional kindergarten to any 4-year-old, as long as they turn 5 sometime during the school year.
Economic segregation is a problem in preschool classrooms across the country. Decades of research show that poor children do much better academically in economically mixed classes than they do if they attend school only with other poor children. Research also shows that well-off children are not harmed academically by going to school with poor children.
Yet the funding sources that support public preschool often come with restrictions that undermine economic integration. The federal Head Start program is generally limited to very poor children. Most states restrict access to pre-K to low-income families or children with disabilities. Only Oklahoma, Florida, Vermont and the District of Columbia offer universal pre-K classes that enroll more than 70 percent of their 4-year-olds.
New York City has the potential to become a leader in creating economically integrated preschool classrooms. Rich and poor often live a few blocks from one another, and as the researcher Jennifer Stillman has demonstrated, middle-class parents are more likely to take a chance on sending their child to a high-poverty school for pre-K than for older grades.
One of the many tools the nation has to support low-income families and their young children is the Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP. Managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, and administered by states and nonprofit groups, CACFP provides snacks and meals to more than 3 million children at child care centers, family day care homes, Head Start programs, after-school programs, and homeless shelters. In 2014, the program funded nearly 2 billion meals; the vast majority of these went to children younger than 5. Subsidizing meals defrays overall child care costs for parents and contributes to children’s ability to thrive and learn. Beyond this, CACFP also has a track record of supporting healthy and safe child care environments.
The Mayor's Office of New York City has shared a video of some preschool students offering their words of wisdom to future 4-year-olds. The youngsters also attempt to set the expectations of future students, should their parents decide to enroll them in the program.
According to one source, there are no monsters. This adorable video also reminds parents that “pre-K lets children develop strong math and reading skills early on.”
I suggest the following as ways to improve early education. First, all states should set a goal to serve all 4-year-olds in high quality pre-K within 10 years. Many states could reach this goal more quickly, but every state can do this in a decade. Second, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that every preschool teacher have a BA degree and specialized training in early childhood education. States should set a goal to have a fully qualified pre-K teacher in every classroom within five years. Finally, the federal government should offer financial incentives for states to set and meet these goals, and it should reform its own programs - child care subsidies and Head Start – to more directly support and integrate with state funded pre-K at the same high standards.
Few public investments have the solid evidence base behind them that exists for quality pre-K. I published my first paper on the high economic returns to public pre-K 30 years ago. The evidence has continued to pile up since. This year more than 1,200 researchers signed an open letter to the public and policy makers saying there is a broad scientific consensus that “Access to quality early childhood education is essential” and that “early learning can benefit middle-class children as well as disadvantaged children.”
School leaders and policymakers trying to improve academic results for disadvantaged children need to look outside the classroom at social and economic conditions that directly affect a child’s ability to learn, according to a new report released Wednesday.
The paper, written by Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, focuses on five factors that new research suggests hinder the achievement of poor children: parenting practices in low-income households, single parenthood, irregular work schedules of parents in low-wage jobs, poor access to health care and exposure to lead.
According to the Washington Post, a new paper by University of Maryland’s Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College’s Philip Levine finds that students who watch Sesame Streeton a regular basis are more likely to keep up with their grade level. The effects of the show were most pronounced in boys from black and other disadvantaged communities.
After Sesame Street was introduced, children living in places where the show was broadcast saw a 14 percent drop in their likelihood of being behind in school. Levine and Kearney note in their paper that a wide body of previous research has found that Head Start, the pre-kindergarten program for low-income Americans, delivers a similar benefit.
However, that doesn’t mean Sesame Street should be used as a substitute for education. Levine and Kearney argue that TV should only act as a supplement to the classroom, as Head Start offers “family support, medical and dental services, and development of emotional skills that help kids in social settings.”
Reading during the rinse cycle? Singing during the spin dry?
Why not? asks Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, two nonprofits that have made early-childhood education a focus of philanthropic efforts. On Tuesday, the Coin Laundry Association announced that it will be asking its members to hang posters and distribute pamphlets that encourage parents to use laundry day as an opportunity to talk, read, and sing to their children.
At Willow Creek State Preschool in Santa Rosa last week, site supervisor Paula Schaefer and one of her teachers organized piles of books, supplies and other classroom items as a construction crew worked nearby.
The city-owned building that houses the preschool needs a new roof and other renovations to accommodate the 48 preschoolers who will attend morning and afternoon sessions when school resumes in August. Repairs are underway, thanks to a one-time building fund that Sonoma County established this year to fix up aging preschool buildings.
Also last week, in neighboring Marin County, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 100 people, including local government and school officials, parents and other supporters of early education, gathered at a movie theater in downtown San Rafael to promote plans for a countywide ballot measure that would raise Marin’s sales tax by ¼ cent to expand preschool access for children from low-income families.
The counties’ contrasting approaches to funding early education programs highlight the efforts of local governments across the state to expand access to preschools.