Early Education in the News
Today, Louisiana is one of only eight states with legislation to provide pre-K for all children, one of only 15 states with a quality rating system for child care centers, and is among the top states in ensuring health coverage for low income children. In other states, the economic development leaders are blazing the trail in support of their young children.
The Gem State is one of only 12 states in the United States that does not provide state funding for pre-kindergarten classes, according to a 2007 study completed by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. While federal dollars are available for pre-kindergarten classes with special needs children, there's nothing in place for all youngsters under 5 years old.
Pennsylvania children perform better in elementary school if they have attended full-day kindergarten, according to a report released Wednesday by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. Schools with students attending full-day kindergarten in 2004-05 improved their third-grade reading scores on the 2007-08 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests twice as much as schools where students did not attend full-day programs, according to the report.
Academics from three universities in 2004 and again in 2007 concluded, in a research project called the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) that, in pre-school settings with a high proportion of teachers, children made better progress in intellectual development and sociability. They found this was particularly true in those from deprived backgrounds.
Advocates say investing money in children early will pay dividends later in reduced remediation costs and a better educated population. Throughout the week, 24 different cities and towns are having events to encourage a focus on early childhood education.
Nationally, the results of prekindergarten programs are proving a wise investment in the lives of children. A recent study from Oklahoma found that children enrolled in the program, which is similar to Georgia's, had higher pre-reading and pre-writing skills than children who did not attend the program regardless of family background or economic circumstances.
If upheld, the new formula would essentially void the earlier Abbott mandate that the state provide extra funding to the poor districts, including Camden, to bring them up to par with wealthy districts. The Education Law Center, which represents the poor districts, has raised valid concerns that after-school, tutoring, and pre-school programs mandated under Abbott could be lost if that ruling is voided.
The science on early brain development confirms that the preschool years is the ideal time to begin preparing successful students, both academically and socially. This extremely brief window of opportunity can be lost with unprepared instructors who aren't able to quickly diagnose the source of the behavioral problem and find a resolution that effectively gets the child back on track.
Part of that requirement includes educating special-needs students in the "least-restrictive environment," which means alongside peers without disabilities. The idea is that students with special needs and those without learn from each other and enrich each other's education, school officials said.
Virginia's state budget for pre-kindergarten education grew by 13 percent to $60 million this fiscal year. The two-year budget includes another increase to $68 million next fiscal year. But with a state budget shortfall that some estimates put near $1 billion, it's unclear whether that funding will be trimmed.
Kansas falls short in helping children before they reach kindergarten but is making gains, according to a report released Wednesday. Pre-K Now ranks Kansas as one of the five worst states in the nation for parents seeking a high-quality, state-funded pre-kindergarten program. Neighboring Oklahoma ranked among the best in the nation.
Responding to reports of serious problems caused in family life by repeated deployments, the Department of Defense has expanded a Missouri early childhood program to a dozen military installations and could expand it much further. The Heroes at Home program takes the pre-existing Parents as Teachers program, which uses trained parents to help mentor families of new parents and teach them parenting skills as well as identify programs, and modifies it to apply to specific stresses of the military lifestyle.
Pre-K Now, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, released "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2009," an annual state-by-state analysis of legislative support for pre-k, showing that despite worsening economic conditions nationwide, the majority of states increased their investment in pre-kindergarten programs. Thirty-two states added $316 million to early learning budgets, allowing about 46,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds to have access to pre-k.
Despite a 150 percent increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs in the past three years, Colorado still ranks near the bottom in program quality and enrollment, according to a national report released Wednesday. The Colorado Preschool Program, which focuses on children from low-income and at-risk families, in 2007 enrolled only 15 percent of 4-year-olds and 3 percent of 3-year-olds who could benefit from the early educational help, according to Pre-K Now, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.
Follow-up studies of children who have been through a Head Start program have shown immediate and significant improvement in intelligence, an advantage over children of similar backgrounds who did not attend Head Start. Head Start has made real differences for 25 million children in 40-plus years, but if it is not followed by continuing support for at-risk children, its effects will not be as profound as they could be.
Research indicating that learning two languages stimulates intellectual development was also behind Kathryn and Riccardo Stocco's decision to raise their children bilingual. Some area schools do offer languages to preschool-age children.
Studies show that young children who experience high quality early care and education are more likely to have good physical-emotional-mental health, have higher self-esteem, have greater speech and language skills, succeed academically and attend college, have higher earnings as adults, own their own homes, and contribute to Maine's tax base. Students who experience high quality early care and education are less likely to experience emotional and mental health problems, require remedial education, drop out of school, become teen parents, engage in criminal behavior as teens and adults, abuse drugs, and become dependent on welfare.
Gov. Jon Corzine has asked the court to essentially remove Abbott from the state's laws and mandates, including court-ordered requirements in the 31 so-called Abbott districts for preschool, instructional reforms and extra services such as counselors and tutoring.
In New York City, a decentralized enrollment system, along with a tussle between the city and the state over spending rules, could cause the city to forfeit millions of dollars in state pre-K funding – despite strong demand for services. One problem is that state money comes with restrictions that make it difficult to use, according to city education officials and child advocates.
Hedge fund managers, CEOs and chamber of commerce presidents may not seem like obvious advocates for the expansion of social programs, but they've become perhaps the most enthusiastic and effective supporters of preschool. They see the issue in dollars and cents, and they're meeting in Telluride to hone their economic argument as government budgets tighten and policymakers face tough choices about what to fund.