Early Education in the News
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has a sweet idea to boost early-childhood education in his cash-strapped city. In his first budget address, the freshman mayor proposed a 3 cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks that he says would generate $400 million over the next five years, more than half of which would be allotted to universal pre-kindergarten in the city. “There is simply nowhere else to find this revenue. We all know we can’t raise property taxes again,” said Kenney in his March 3 address.
Philadelphia’s proposal to expand pre-kindergarten is just one of several ideas percolating among city and state leaders around the country during this legislative year. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 450 bills with some tie to early childhood are pending in 46 states. At this early stage, it’s unclear how many of those proposals will be enacted into law. But if local and state lawmakers follow the trend of previous years, many places will see increased early-childhood investment.
The promise of the city of Seattle’s new subsidized preschool program — to bring low- or no-cost preschool to three- and four-year-olds across the city — is facing a challenge as the city struggles to find space and providers for the second year. Voters approved the four-year pilot program in 2014 as a way to help get kids from low-income families ready for kindergarten. While there are other government-subsidized preschools, like Head Start, wait lists are long, and only a small percentage of eligible children have seats.
The contentious battle over how best to educate Minnesota’s youngest learners is shifting in a new direction after Gov. Mark Dayton for now abandoned his bid for universal state-paid preschool. A bipartisan group of legislators is pressing for a cheaper option of expanding the state’s early-learning scholarship program.
State Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, wants to expand the age of children served by scholarships beyond 3- and 4-year-olds to kids as young as birth. The program also would prioritize children who are in foster care or child protection, or who have teen or homeless parents. The overall aim is to reduce disparities in kindergarten readiness for children of color or those in low-income families. . .
Group members aren’t saying how much they are seeking this year, but they say that fully funding their initiative eventually would cost $500 million.
Facing financial constraints and the specter of last year's failed push, Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a new, scaled-back proposal on Tuesday for a statewide preschool system in Minnesota.
The governor's supplemental budget includes spending $25 million in the next year for a voluntary prekindergarten program that would allow about 3,700 more 4-year-olds to attend preschool. His budget also proposes $100 million for the program in the next two-year budget cycle.
The pared-back plan is a recognition of the limitations posed even by a seemingly large budget surplus and the political difficulty his push for universal preschool faced last year. That broader proposal was rebuffed by GOP lawmakers and Democrats alike, citing concerns about space requirements, costs and demand by parents.
Chelsea Clinton promoted increased access to affordable child development centers during a roundtable discussion about early childhood education Monday morning at the UCP Heartland Child Development Center in Columbia. . .
Chelsea Clinton shared her mother's stance on early childhood education by emphasizing the importance of accredited child development facilities. The Columbia development center, a nonprofit organization, offers counseling, summer camps and child care. Many communities lack access to high-quality centers such as the one in Columbia, Clinton said. That's why Hillary Clinton supports organizations such as Head Start, which helps low-income children achieve school readiness, Clinton added. Clinton also supported expanding research on development after children exit kindergarten. "We know what's right and necessary in the early years," Clinton said. "We need to know what's right and necessary in the later years."
A new report shows that Cincinnati might get as much as a 4:1 return on its investment in preschool.
The RAND Corporation study, released Friday morning, examined 15 full-scale preschool programs throughout the U.S. One of the programs was nationwide, 11 were state-funded and three were district-level.
Among the highlights:
High-quality preschool programs deliver an economic return of anywhere from $2 to $4 for each $1 invested, the programs were successful under a range of varying designs – whether they were universal or for a specific group of students; part-day or full-day; or for one or two years prior to kindergarten, all children could benefit from high-quality preschool, but the impact is typically larger for those from poorer families.
After years of effort to implement transitional kindergarten, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to eliminate the requirement that school districts offer the program, which provides an extra year of public school for 4-year-olds with fall birthdays. His proposal would also allow districts that offer it to charge enrollment fees for parents who aren’t low-income.
The proposal, which is part of the 2016-17 state budget, creates uncertainty for the future of transitional kindergarten. Many early education advocates saw it as a first step toward establishing a publicly funded program for all 4-year-olds. Just this past year, legislators allowed districts to expand the program to younger 4-year-olds, with some funding restrictions. And a recent research report found the program was effective in preparing students for kindergarten.
“The governor’s proposal comes squarely in the face of a fully implemented program that no one wants to give up,” said Erin Gabel, deputy director of external and governmental affairs at First 5 California. “Eliminating it as an entitlement with a stable funding source is a step backwards.”
Brown wants to combine funding for transitional kindergarten and for low-income students attending state preschools into one $1.6 billion early learning block grant that must be used to provide pre-K programs for low-income students. The amount is the same as in last year’s budget with an additional 3 percent cost-of-living increase.
One of the great questions of our time is how our nation invests in the next generation. We believe one of the smartest financial commitments we can make for our future is investing in early childhood education so all children have a strong start in life and can reach their full potential.
High-quality early childhood education is the foundation for thriving communities and healthy economies. Research has shown that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the time he or she reaches the age of five. Children left out of early childhood education and quality child care find themselves at a distinct disadvantage and may struggle to catch up for the rest of their school years.
Investing in early learning is especially crucial for disadvantaged children; it has been shown to be the most effective way to break the cycle of poverty in our country. When we don’t provide support for programs like pre-K, we leave far too many children behind. We leave their potential unharnessed and deprive the world of their passion, heart, and drive. . .
In Washington state, we have taken several positive steps to ensure more kids have access to high-quality early childhood education. Last year, the Legislature passed the Early Start Act to give more early learning providers the resources they need to improve the quality of care for the children who need it most. As a result, more kids will be ready for kindergarten.
The education achievement gap starts appearing well before children enter kindergarten, several studies have shown. Now, a new report says the solution for providing quality and meaningful infant and early toddler care for families across all socio-economic levels in D.C. is straightforward: A whole lot more funding.
The study from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute and D.C. Appleseed — two local public policy non-profits — examined the discrepancy between how much government funding pre-kindergarten centers and families receive and how much it actually costs for each child to receive quality early childhood care. The study found that since D.C. started providing universal free pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds about a decade ago — which pulled the older toddlers out of these private centers and into the public school system — the private facilities have been struggling financially in their efforts to care for the city’s youngest children. Infants and young toddlers require more supervision, driving up costs.
There are about 7,610 total available early childhood care slots for children in the District, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Of the 22,000 children under the age of three in D.C., 42 percent of them are in low-income families.
Before he was speaker of the California Assembly, Anthony Rendon ran preschools for low-income children in Los Angeles. He felt first-hand the sting of the state’s budget cuts during the recession years, watching the rate his preschools received per child from the state drop from $31 in 2008 to $17 in 2012. Very little of the $1.3 billion that was cut from the early education budget has come back to the field in subsequent budget years.
Early education advocates now hope Speaker Rendon will change that. The issues they've already raised include the need for more funding for early childhood education and – a perhaps even more urgent concern for advocates – worries over Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to pool all of the state's current disparate early childhood programs into a single fund.
Hundreds of early childhood professionals gathered in Montpelier Wednesday and heard Vermont’s four candidates for governor make their pitch for the state’s top office. Each of the candidates say quality childhood education is key to the state economy, but they offered different ways to go about improving it.
Former state transportation secretary Sue Minter said parents' inability to access affordable childcare is stalling workforce development. Former Windsor County senator Matt Dunne called for reforms in childcare subsidy programs in state government. The Republican candidates, meanwhile, said they’d seek to improve childhood education, and access to affordable childcare, by way of institutional changes in the way government operates.
Most people probably thought the child care crisis in Illinois had been solved last fall after Gov. Bruce Rauner backed away from harsh eligibility restrictions and the Legislature cleared the way for federal funds to flow again into the program. The child care providers, families and advocates who gathered here Wednesday would tell you that’s hardly the case.
With the financial repercussions from Rauner’s temporary rules changes still being felt — and with no revenue increase in sight to adequately fund the program in the future — government-subsidized child care and its companion, early childhood education, occupy a world that still regards itself as very much under siege. About 80,000 fewer children are being served by the state’s Child Care Assistance Program than in the previous year, according to the advocacy group Illinois Action for Children, which met here this week.
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a plan to expand access to early learning programs for Minnesota’s neediest children, but it is unclear if the compromise can win enough support to move forward.
Minutes before the 2016 Legislature opened, House and Senate members detailed the “A Better Chance” or ABC Act, which would expand the reach of Minnesota’s popular preschool scholarships to the state’s most at-risk children from birth to age 5.
The bill has the support of MinneMinds, a coalition of 100 groups that sees expanding access to early learning as an important tool for closing the state’s achievement gap between poor and minority children and their peers. Research shows that gap is evident well before a child reaches kindergarten and that high-quality early learning programs can help.
A proposal to expand public preschool offerings for Utah's youngest students is on its way to the House after getting unanimous support from a committee of lawmakers Monday.
The bill also received financial backing from legislative leaders last week as they pieced together a final budget proposal for the state.
Lawmakers hope more than $11 million set aside in SB101 will help an additional 3,000 to 4,000 preschoolers develop foundational academic skills, especially if they show early signs of struggling in school.
It's hard to think of another education reform idea that has garnered as much support among advocates of various ideological stripes as early childhood education. California and New York liberals support it, and so do conservatives in Oklahoma and Florida. A 2015 national poll showed that 76 percent of voters support the idea of spending federal money to expand public preschool, and the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act includes more funding for early childhood. Helping the idea along is decades of research (which continues to pour in) that suggests effective preschools can benefit all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. "We have better evidence that preschool works and has long-term effects than we do for any other social policy," David L. Kirp, one of our country's leading experts on early childhood education and a professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, told Mother Jones.
But can we identify what a good preschool looks like and make that accessible to the kids most in need? That topic has been debated fiercely by parents, preschool advocates, and policymakers all over the country. This week, early childhood education experts and city chiefs of preschools came together in Sacramento, California, to talk about the latest research. As presenter Abbie Lieberman, an early-education policy analyst at New America, put it: "When we step into a preschool, how can we tell what is actually learning through play and what is true chaos?"
California’s system, which has assessed the quality of early education sites throughout the state in the past year, answers for the first time a longstanding question for parents with children in child care: How can the quality of their kids’ programs be measured in a meaningful way that parents can understand? The San Jose center’s top-tier rating, and the ratings of more than 3,000 other sites across the state, have been posted publicly, online and at many childcare sites. Parents now can discern how their center stacks up against others, what improvements are needed and whether they should look for another program that may better suit their child’s needs. After these initial scores, each site will be rated every two years.
Provider participation in the rating system has exceeded expectations. As of Feb. 24, nearly 3,300 programs have been rated. The latest numbers surpass the state’s target by 33 percent, and are likely to increase in March, said Cecelia Fisher-Dahms, an administrator in the state Department of Education, which is leading the effort with help from nearly four dozen counties that are sending experts to visit and rate sites.
In 2012 and 2013, California received $75 million in two grants from the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program to build a rating system to help improve the quality of childcare and preschool programs. Research has shown that children in high-quality programs are likely to do better in school, have higher incomes as adults and avoid high-risk behaviors. Other studies have found that for low-income students in particular, one or two years of early education are not enough to sustain achievement gains, and current statewide efforts are emphasizing improvements in programs that serve those children. In California, 90 percent of low-income children live in 45 of the state’s 58 counties, which is why the state is focusing its quality-rating efforts on those counties.
Hillary Clinton, the first big-ticket Presidential candidate, supports universal Pre-K completely. Like President Obama, she believes that families should have no-cost access to early learning initiatives and that putting this necessary building block in place is not something that should be reserved for those who can afford it. Clinton has a little more oomph when it comes to this push, though, as she also sees universal pre-K as an affordable way for more woman to be in the workplace.
Bruck said that the group looked at college readiness, recovery and dropout prevention, and early childhood initiatives, and determined that “getting all children in San Antonio ready for school would make the most impact.” At the time, and still today, many independent school districts in the city and throughout the state could not afford to offer full-day pre-k because the state only funds half-day programs. . .
The difference is two-fold, according to most supporters. First, Pre-K 4 SA offers full-time instruction, which most districts working within the confines of state funds cannot afford. Second is the intentional location of the centers at the city’s four quadrants to try to reach as many underserved communities as possible. Experts argue that geography has a lot more to do with education than people are willing to admit.
“It’s really coming down to kids getting educational opportunities based on the zip code that they live in. And we don’t offer an equitable education system across the state. It’s not just Baxer County that that’s happening in; it’s reflected in the entire state,” Kring Villanueva, who has offered testimony on the issue, said. She said districts only have to offer pre-k if they identify 15 kids who meet certain criteria—being low income, English language learners, in foster care, and other “at-risk factors.” But because districts have recognized the value of early education, and especially the value of a full-day program, more of them are taking matters into their own hands.
Since 2007, Iowa has offered voluntary preschool throughout the state. The initiative has helped prepare more students to be successful learners.
Iowa has a uniquely high need for quality childcare and preschool offerings because 77 percent of Iowa children under 6 have all available parents in the workforce. We want all kids to get a year of state-funded preschool, if their families want it.
This week, the Senate approved SF 2009 to expand the statewide preschool program to include 5-year-old children who haven't yet had a chance to enroll in preschool. Some students aren't ready for preschool at 4, and aren't ready for kindergarten at 5. When parents decide to wait an extra year before sending their kids to school, they often miss out on preschool because the state's largest public program is only for 4 year olds.
A package of bills that would expand and improve early childhood education and services in the state got a boost yesterday in the state Senate. But it also became clearer that the wide-ranging proposals face daunting real-life challenges going forward.
As expected, the state Senate’s education committee easily passed the package of a half-dozen bills, most notably one that includes the expansion of state-funded preschool programs across the state and another requiring full-day kindergarten in every school district. The package got an extra boost from Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who used his parliamentary powers to substitute on the committee and vote in favor of every bill.
But predicting when – or if -- any of these things will actually happen is far trickier, as questions arose during the two-hour hearing over where funding would come from and exactly how the new programs would work.