Early Education in the News

February 2, 2016

Governor Bush’s plan calls for converting 529 college savings accounts into Education Savings Accounts that would allow families and individuals to save for any level of education, tax-free. While incentivizing families to save for their children’s futures is a sound proposal, families struggling to make ends meet often don’t have the resources to save for high-quality pre-K, K-12, or higher education, let alone all three. This recent US News and World Report article states that the median 529 college savings account size in Alabama is $6,500. This isn’t enough to cover even one year of schooling at any age in most states, and this amount is likely accumulated by parents over up to 18 years of savings before a child heads off to college– not just the three or four years before they begin pre-K.

Bush’s plan offers a solution to jumpstart the Education Savings Accounts for low-income families: he would allow states to directly deposit $2,500 per year of federal funding into families’ Education Savings Accounts for children under the age of five in states that are willing to opt out of the existing 44 federal programs (a misleading number often referenced by Republicans) that currently support early education. This would essentially be a voucher that parents could use for the early education and care of their choosing. We have many questions about how this would work, but our two main concerns relate to access and quality.

Research shows that $2,500 is not enough money to provide high-quality pre-K, especially for working parents who often need access to full-day programs. According to NIEER, the average state spending on pre-K is about $4,100 per child per year. High-quality programs like New Jersey’s Abbott pre-K program cost over $13,000 per child. Bush explains that states, districts, and parents would be expected to supplement the cost of care, but he does not offer ideas on how this would work in a way that is effective and equitable.

February 1, 2016

Preschool helps kids. It helps them read better. It helps with motor skills. It helps with socialization and behaving around other kids. And it prepares kids better for kindergarten. But how much? Who does it really help? Do the benefits last? And is it worth the money?

That's where the consensus breaks down and the debates start.

In the last few years, the national discussion has focused not on whether preschool is a good thing, but on how necessary it is for all kids. With President Obama setting a goal of offering preschool to all children, opponents have lined up both behind and against his planned expansion.

Critics say that while preschool may help children from poor backgrounds - from families with low education, from households where there is not much reading or activity to engage their minds - it is not worth the cost for kids from educated and affluent families.

The Atlantic
February 1, 2016

Fancy preschools in Silicon Valley abound. There’s Action Day Primary Plus,ranked the area’s No. 1 preschool by Bay Area Parent, whose “Tiny Tot” dance classes, weekend sports programs, and other activities “promote enjoyment and confidence through movement.” There’s Galileo Preschool, “which provides an innovative, project-based learning environment for children” and a curriculum that includes everything from American Sign Language to community service. Or there’s the Children’s World Bilingual Montessori School, where kids are exposed to both English and Mandarin on a daily basis as they learn the decimal system, Chinese culture, gardening, and more. The sticker price for enrolling full time in one of these preschools? $1,365$1,320, and $1,200 a month, respectively.

These price tags are hardly surprising; private preschool is really, really expensivealmost anywhere you go. But they mean that even in the nation’s tech hub, where the poverty rate is significantly lower than the U.S. average, the young children of lower-income parents often miss out on the benefits of early-learning opportunities. According to a recent report from the Urban Institute, Silicon Valley tends to mirror the rest of the United States when it comes to early-education inequality. About three quarters of 3-year-olds from poorer families aren’t enrolled in preschool, but a majority of their wealthier counterparts are. Among 4-year-olds from lower-income families, nearly 40 percent don’t attend preschool, compared to only a fourth of upper-income families. “Even in a place of incredible wealth, we’re finding similar gaps,” said Erica Greenberg, one of the study’s authors.

Washington Post
February 1, 2016

It is widely agreed that while we do not seek equal outcomes in America, we do aspire to equal opportunity, at least in theory. We have, however, never come close to that ideal, particularly as regards minorities and those with few resources. A great way to correct that is to invest more national resources in early childhood education.

Moreover, given rising economic inequality, the rationale for this idea is more pressing than ever. Other advanced economies, as you will see, are way ahead of us on this point.

As inequality has risen, the barriers to opportunity to the least advantaged have risen as well. Much data supports this case, both statistical and anecdotal. Robert Putnam’s recent book has both. Economist Raj Chetty’s highly touted research shows strong, negative correlations between kids growing up in poor neighborhoods and their outcomes as adults.

As private resources become more unequal and thus, as I show below, relatively less available to children growing up in opportunity-constrained situations, we need to devote more public resources toward improving their life chances. The fact that we are not doing so is the most portentous public policy mistake we’re making.

Star Tribune
January 29, 2016

Minnesota’s statewide teachers union is renewing its push for universal access to preschool, releasing a report Thursday that supports the expansion of early-learning programs offered through public schools. The report, by a new think tank, said Minnesota should offer universal preschool on a voluntary basis, ensuring that all families have access to early-learning programs. A copy of the report can be found here.

Education Minnesota and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who lobbied heavily for the plan last year, have been met with firm resistance by House Republicans, who are instead focusing on a proposal to expand an education tax credit in the upcoming session. Republicans also note that last year, Dayton approved an education budget with $525 million in new spending, including about $80 million for early-learning programs. The renewed push for early-education funding will set up a fight at the Capitol, where House Republicans have sought to put new money toward education scholarships that give parents control over where the money is spent. Senate Democrats last year chose to fund existing prekindergarten programs, which vary in their availability across school districts.

The Intelligencer
January 29, 2016

Pre-kindergarten students might not have to go to school on Fridays next year if the West Virginia Legislature votes to amend a law requiring all counties offer five-day preschool classes. A law passed by the Legislature in 2013 mandates that counties begin offering five-day pre-kindergarten programs by the fall of 2016. Registration for this session of preschool classes already has started across the state.

But the state Senate is slated to have its third reading today on Senate Bill 156, which would drop the five-day weekly requirement in favor of a minimum requirement for instructional time. Under SB 156, schools would be required to offer at least four days of instruction per week and provide at least 1,546 minutes of instruction during the week. Pre-kindergarten students could attend classes for six and a half hours four days each week, or under a second option they could go five hours a day, Monday through Friday.


Center for American Progress
January 29, 2016

 A new report on preschool-to-third-grade, or P-3, alignment from the Center for American Progress examines the extent to which race and socioeconomic status affect a child’s access to high-quality early education and whether exposure to classrooms with teaching practices that build on and strengthen that early foundation vary for children from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. CAP’s research finds that among children with access to center-based prekindergarten programs, Hispanic children are more likely to access high quality than black children, and children from middle-income families have the least access to high quality. The report is the last in a series of three from CAP on P-3 alignment. Prior research examined state and local efforts around P-3 alignment and aligning access to teacher quality.

The Courier
January 28, 2016

Progressive advocates want presidential candidates to talk more about policies that help working families get affordable child care.

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa joined others at a news conference Tuesday calling on presidential candidates to detail policies that would help families deal with the rising cost of child care.

“Child care is completely out of reach for too many American families, and for too many children of low income, it means their growth and their development is stunted from the start,” Harkin said. “Too many children are just being denied getting up to that starting line. It’s hurting them, it’s hurting the economic well-being of their families and, quite frankly, it’s hurting the economic well-being of America.”

Education Commission of the States
January 28, 2016

For the fourth year in a row, both Republican and Democratic policymakers are making significant investments in statefunded pre-k programs. In the 2015-16 budget year, 32 states and the District of Columbia raised funding levels of pre-k programs. This increased support for preschool funding came from both sides of the aisle – 22 states with Republican governors and 10 states with Democratic governors, plus the District of Columbia. In contrast, only five states with Republican governors and three states with Democratic governors decreased their pre-k funding. Overall, state funding of pre-k programs across the 50 states and the District of Columbia increased by nearly $767 million, or 12 percent over 2014-15.

January 27, 2016

An Ohio initiative seeks to boost access to mental health consultants in an effort to curb the number of children expelled or suspended from kindergarten, preschool and other early childhood education settings. Officials set aside $9.1 million for the initiative in the state's two-year budget, which will benefit 75 counties, according to the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The funds allow for up to 64 mental health consultants who will work with teachers and at-risk students in programs such as Head Start, preschool and child care settings. Some consultants already are in classrooms. Preschoolers and kindergartens are expelled at a higher rate than high school students in Ohio, which is in line with the national trend, said Dr. Valerie Alloy, who leads the department's early childhood mental health initiatives.

Idea Stations
January 27, 2016

House Republicans rolled out their education agenda today at the State Capitol, with many of the bills focusing on school choice. Several bills would aim to expand access to early childhood education, but not universal Pre-K. Republicans will offer a mixed delivery model which will take advantage of public, private and faith based opportunities.

January 26, 2016

Nearly three-fourths of Utahns want the Legislature to extend early education efforts, a new UtahPolicy poll shows. But they are less certain about extending the current half-day kindergarten to a full day, finds pollster Dan Jones & Associates.

The Legislature has been talking for years about the benefits of early education, with most local and national experts saying some children are ready for formal education at 3 and four years old while others say five-year-olds can take a full day of kindergarten – now offered at half-a-day in most Utah public schools.

Jones finds that 73 percent of Utahns want early childhood education programs at least offered. Twenty-two percent oppose that idea. 

Getting Smart Blog
January 25, 2016

When Maurice (“Mo”) Green became superintendent of North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools nearly eight years ago, one of the first things he did was to embark on a “listening tour,” in which he visited schools, held meetings, and traveled throughout the community to gather insight. How did stakeholders feel about their schools? What ideas or concerns did they have? What issues were most important to them?

Wherever he went, he heard the same message over and over again: Focus more on parent engagement. Teachers, administrators, and community leaders agreed this was critical to improving achievement, yet—at the time—it was something that didn’t get enough attention in the district.

With this advice in mind, Guilford County has created a comprehensive model for engaging and informing parents through workshops, videos, and even free online tutoring to help their children with homework. These efforts are coordinated by the Guilford Parent Academy (GPA), a program within the Guilford County Schools created in 2011 under Green’s leadership, and they align with the goals of the Smart Parents project—ensuring that parents are involved, informed, intentional, and inspirational.

January 25, 2016

Researchers across the country will study policies and practices of early childhood education that help close the achievement gap in a $6.5 million project led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The Early Learning Network, part of a $26 million U.S. Department of Education initiative, will study how education policies differ in rural and urban areas for children in pre-kindergarten through third grade to learn how educators can close the achievement gap for at-risk students.

Susan Sheridan, who will lead UNL’s efforts as well as the network at large, said the research will combine efforts of the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, as well as NU's Buffett Early Childhood Institute and Public Policy Center.

“We’re learning a lot about what works and what really matters and how we can prepare students as they move in to more formal schooling,” Sheridan said. “Our research has, for many years, focused on understanding and creating conditions to optimize young children’s learning, particularly at-risk children.”

The project will track children over time to study how changes in the educational environment -- including the move to new classrooms and different instructional approaches among teachers -- impact the transition through the early elementary years.

January 25, 2016

One group is asking you to keep early childhood education in mind when selecting your candidate on caucus night.

Save the Children Action Network, or "SCAN," for short, is on a state-wide campaign to get both Republicans and Democrats talking about early childhood education. SCAN has two focuses; internationally, it's focused on preventing infants and mothers across the world from dying of preventable causes. Domestically, it's focused on supporting legislation that improves the quality of early childhood education, as well as the access people have to it.

"We feel like it's one of the most important issues that's not talked about," said E.J. Wallace with SCAN. 

January 22, 2016

Investing in early childhood education is a bipartisan national priority, a poll recently released shows.

For the first time in three years, the most important issue in the poll is to make sure children get a strong start in life, followed by the need to improve the quality of public education. Jobs, which in earlier polls occupied the top slot, fell to third place. The bipartisan team of Public Opinions Strategies (R) and Hart Research (D) conducted the poll. The poll was released by the First Five Years Fund in partnership with the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. Fortunately, I am part of a company that has long prioritized investments in early learning. In 2004, PNC launched Grow Up Great, a $350 million, multi-year early childhood education initiative that’s making a difference for children throughout our footprint. While significant, it will take the support and financial investments of others to make more impact.

US News & World Report
January 21, 2016

Severe poverty is a threat to young children's health and development, a new study suggests.

"Deep poverty, which affects approximately 3.9 million young children, clearly makes large numbers of U.S. children vulnerable to health and developmental problems that limit their life opportunities," said study senior author Sheila Smith. She is director of early childhood at the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

January 21, 2016

Even as nearly hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles County preschoolers miss out on formal early education because there are simply not enough licensed seats, Los Angeles Unified school officials said this week that its preschools are not at full capacity.

There are 400 unfilled Early Transitional Kindergarten (ETK) spots at district elementary schools, said Dean Tagawa, head of early education for LAUSD. And, Tagawa said, the district's other preschool programs also have spots that have gone unfilled this year.

The gaps exist because -- although not enough seats exist for all of L.A.'s young students -- even families who could access seats sometimes don't because they don't hear about the programs.

January 21, 2016

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall are calling on state lawmakers to improve child wellbeing in New Mexico.

Following the release of a report on Tuesday that indicates New Mexico has the highest child poverty rate in the nation, Udall and Heinrich sent a letter to legislators asking them to pass a measure that would allow voters to amend the state constitution to invest more of the Land Grant Permanent Fund in early childhood programs.

Boston Globe
January 21, 2016

A day after Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh pleaded with the state to increase funding for early education, saying it can make or break a student’s scholastic success or struggle, Governor Charlie Baker issued a noncommittal response.

“Well, look, every good mayor, every good city official has a set of interests and concerns that involve what I would describe as initiatives and issues that we work with them on,” Baker said.

Walsh, during his 2013 campaign for mayor, had pitched universal preschool for 4-year-olds — a milestone that New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, elected in the same cycle, has already achieved. But DeBlasio did so with significant funding from the state government, and Walsh similarly sought the support of state leaders in his State of the City address Tuesday night and in an opinion column published in the Boston Globe on Wednesday.

“We’ve stretched municipal and community funding as far as they can go,” Walsh and Boston Public School Superintendent Tommy Chang wrote. “We need help.”