Early Education in the News
Gov. Mike Pence spent Wednesday morning highlighting the work of an Indianapolis preschool as he made a final pitch for an early education voucher plan that has foundered in the Legislature.
In a classroom of 4-year-olds at the Shepherd Community Center, Pence stressed the need for a pilot program that would use state money to help children attend preschool.
For years, parents have been told that preschool provides kids with a crucial jump-start on kindergarten, but unless a family’s income is low enough to qualify for government help, they must pay for it themselves.
Now, amid growing national momentum for government-paid preschool for all, Burgess is proposing an ambitious plan to make high-quality preschool free for Seattle families earning up to twice the federal poverty level, or about $47,000 for a family of four. Others would pay on a sliding scale, giving parents a break on an annual expense that can cost as much as college tuition.
“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping. This report comes on the heels of previous CDC data that found a significant decline in obesity prevalence among low-income children aged 2 to 4 years participating in federal nutrition programs,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a press release. “We’ve also seen signs from communities around the country with obesity prevention programs, including Anchorage, Alaska; Philadelphia; New York City; and King County, Washington. This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic.”
Cincinnati's business and corporate community should get behind a universal preschool effort because it will lead to improved schools, more jobs and a better prepared workforce. That's the pitch Strive Partnership Executive Director Greg Landsman, whose group works to improve student achievement, is making as he builds support for the eventual tax increase probably needed to make it happen.
"One, more and more kids are going to show up to school prepared and they're going to be successful. Two, parents are going to be able to get back into the workforce. Three, If you make the subsidies strong enough, more and more families – talent – will stay here and move here," Landsman said. "It is a talent attraction and retention strategy."
But early childhood supporters said Arkansas can't come from behind in salaries if they don't invest in Pre-Kindergarten programs. Funding for early childhood programs increased for sometime but have remained stagnant since 2007. Supporters said this impacts the workforce later on.
"If children don't have the opportunity for positive interacting during the first five years, they could start kindergarten three years behind their friends," said Genia Dickey of Invest Early.
Spending on childcare assistance last year fell to the lowest level since 2002, according to a report from the policy organization CLASP. The primary source of funding for subsidies that help low-income parents afford childcare is the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and spending on that grant was at a decade low. States can also contribute to subsidies with matching funds as well as by using federal funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. Federal TANF funds were at the lowest level since 1998. In total, $11.4 billion was spent on childcare subsidies, down from $12.9 billion the year before.
"During the pre-K years, children are developing the foundation for language in particular and their dispositions and habits," said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "It's a period in which there's rapid growth and the child is more influenced by the environment."
It's not that the kids can't catch up later, Barnett said, "it's just more expensive to do that later."
Oklahoma often is held up as the national poster child for offering early childhood education to many students. But, according to state officials and educators, the system has a serious weakness: Data about each student’s academic profile is not shared between early childhood education program providers and school districts, or between providers. That prevents kindergarten teachers from being able to immediately target students’ learning needs when they arrive, officials say. It also prevents providers from doing the same when a child transfers from one program to another or is enrolled in more than one program. Oklahoma State Department of Education plans to roll out a pilot program in eight school districts this spring meant to help districts and early childhood education programs share student data with each other.
A Pittsburgh child’s access to high-quality early-childhood education should not be an accident of birth. It should be available and affordable for all Pittsburgh children. . . . There are approximately 5,700 three- and four-year-olds living in our city. If we want to see our children and our city thrive, we can’t wait for Washington or Harrisburg to act. We must work together to give every one of those children access to a free, high-quality preschool education.
Members of the National Governors Association Education and Workforce Committee chaired by Governor Steven Beshear (D-KY) discussed early childhood education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan talked about how the federal government and states can work together to expand early childhood education. Then state education officials used PowerPoint presentations to talk about the success of early education programs in Alabama and Maryland.
This was a session of the National Governors Association 2014 Winter Meeting, held February 21-24 at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, D.C.
Several studies from the National Institute for Early Education Research indicate "strong preschool education programs can meaningfully enhance early learning and development and thereby produce long-term improvements."
As state lawmakers debated the future of Gov. Mike Pence’s preschool bill Wednesday, local leaders gathered to discuss the importance of early childhood learning. More than 140 business, education and community leaders attended the Early Childhood Learning Summit in Fort Wayne. The summit included a live webcast with Robert Dugger, founder of ReadyNation, a business partnership that focuses on the link between early childhood education and economic success.
A report released yesterday by the Early Childhood Data Collaborative suggests most states need more support in using and linking data on early childhood education so that officials can get a clear picture of what services are available for young children, the quality of those services, and if they are helping them prepare for school.
Last week, Steven Dow, executive director of Community Action Project (CAP) of Tulsa, the state’s largest anti-poverty problem that was involved in establishing pre-K as state policy, testified in front of the New York City Council on how Oklahoma’s program works.
Dow joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss Oklahoma’s pre-K program.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, proposes to expand the state's voluntary pre-kindergarten grade in public schools to all 4-year-olds within five years. His Senate Bill 837 is a good start for discussion on this important issue.
Many details remain to be worked out, not the least of which is how to pay for it.
As discussions about the merits of early education continue nationally, a push for more preschool programs in California hit the road Tuesday when state Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson launched a bus tour from San Diego to Sacramento with a rally for increased funding.
“Right now students from poverty and from English-learner backgrounds come to kindergarten a year and a half to two years behind their peers,” Torlakson said at a “Gap Busters”-themed kick-off event at Chollas Mead Elementary School in San Diego. “We’re aiming at helping our students achieve, get a solid grounding in preschool and early-learning, and then go on and be successful in elementary school.”
The proposed constitutional amendment to tap New Mexico’s $13.1 billion land-grant endowment to help fund early childhood education appears dead. A mix of Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee stopped the initiative Monday night on an 8-2 vote. Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, said the bill was “temporarily tabled,” but even the measure’s die-hard advocates concede that the odds of it passing now are minuscule. . . . During Monday’s two-hour hearing, proponents of early childhood education said the program could turn around New Mexico’s economy by creating more success stories. Infants and preschoolers who receive a quality education would be much more likely to become wage earners than dropouts, they said.
On a quiet strip of St. Bernard Avenue, a New Orleans neighborhood is rebuilding. Among the building blocks is a remarkable cornerstone, a pre-school center where a combination of charities is spending more than twice the Louisiana norm to prepare low-income children for kindergarten. . . . "Part of our challenge is it's very difficult for low-income kids to catch up," Gerry Barousse Jr., a founding member of the Bayou District Foundation. "Our ability to ensure that children in the Bayou District and across the city (whom) we can impact arrive at kindergarten on grade level is obviously hugely important."
Using videos that claim to teach toddlers, or flash cards for tots, may not be the best idea. Simply talking to babies is key to building crucial language and vocabulary skills — but sooner is better, and long sentences are good. So says research that aims to explain, and help solve, the troubling “word gap”: Children from more affluent, professional families hear millions more words before they start school than poor kids, leaving the lower-income students at an academic disadvantage that’s difficult to overcome.
That gap starts to appear at a younger age than scientists once thought, around 18 months, said Stanford University psychology professor Anne Fernald. And research being presented this week at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science suggests that it’s not just hearing lists of words that matters as much as rich, varied language with good grammar that trains babies’ brains to learn through context.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said this week he was happy to see Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendations for early learning, but wasn’t sure how much the House would allocate for the programs. “There’s been a tremendous amount of data and science that has shown that investing in early childhood education pays huge dividends to your state,” Weatherford said. “Particularly in the last 10 years, the data that has come back has been pretty overwhelming.”
Scott’s recommendations include a one-time $30 million boost to the school readiness programs, which served 223,000 children last year. Florida has long had a waiting list for the school readiness programs, which haven’t had a significant funding increase in a decade. Best estimates are that 60,000 to 70,000 children are waiting for a place. Scott is also calling for an increase in per-pupil spending for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, in which more than 174,000 children are enrolled. Currently the state spends $2,383 per child; Scott has asked for an increase to $2,483 per child, or $929,000 overall. The national average was $3,841 in 2012, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.