Early Education in the News
A universal pre-kindergarten program won preliminary approval from the Florida Senate on Wednesday, but it provides only half the classroom time first envisioned by proponents. The Senate plan would allow parents to choose between a 540-hour program offered by public, private or religious schools during the school year -- three hours a day for 180 school days -- or an intensive, 300-hour summer program.
Experts agree that in an age of increased testing and accountability, kindergarten isn't as easy at it used to be, which can create problems for some children. Because kindergartners must master more skills before they advance to the first grade, more students are being held back.
"There is nothing more important than investing in our youngest citizens," said Suzanne Clark Johnson, president of Voices for Virginia's Children. "If we fail to make an investment in our youngest citizens, we will pay the cost later."
If lawmakers in Tallahassee fail to give voters the high quality pre-kindergarten program we asked for two years ago, they will make it much more likely that one day you or someone you love will become a victim of crime and violence. By giving kids the right start in life, through programs such as high quality preschool, we can help ensure that they don't grow up to be violent criminals.
When Floridians voted to mandate "high quality" prekindergarten education for all of the state's 4-year-olds, the state became the first to hold a successful referendum on this issue. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is reminiscent of nothing so much as a political version of "bait and switch."
Early childhood education is probably the finest long-term investment a state can make. Evidence from other states and other decades suggests that the Blandin project will pay big dividends for central Minnesota.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle believes more districts will adopt 4-year-old programs.
As the state's extra federal welfare cash disappears, lawmakers must choose among items such as literacy and work training programs and the highly touted free preschool program for poor children. The portion of the pre-K program [Louisiana Governor Kathleen] Blanco proposes using the $43.5 million in welfare money, plus another $4 million in state education money, to continue the preschool program at its current level.
The Escondido program is just getting off the ground but excitement and expectations are high for the multipronged support system devised to help parents build school readiness among the neediest young children.
A program to expand early-childhood education programs throughout Vermont and pay for them with tax dollars has won unanimous approval in the Senate. The Senate plan, which now moves to the House for review, encourages school districts to take part in a little-used state program that funds preschools associated with a public school system.
With Gov. Jeb Bush's blessing, state House leaders unveiled a revamped pre-kindergarten proposal Wednesday, adding some of the program standards critics had accused them of ignoring. The initial proposal by House pre-K sponsors had been assailed by children's education advocates because it did not require accreditation, teachers with specific credentials or small classes.
And according to a study released last week by the Early Learning Improvement Consortium, progress is what New Jersey is getting, even though the gains have been painfully modest. Most significant, children who reach kindergarten through the court-ordered program are showing better language and literacy skills than before, despite the fact that they still rank far below the national average.
Instead of condemning all community programs, the answer must be stronger accountability and sound fiscal management.
Children who attend preschool for two years are twice as likely as children with no preschool experience to have the language, literacy and math skills needed to be ready for kindergarten, a state study to be released Monday says. The aim [of the study] was to determine how many children in the state's poorest school districts entered kindergarten with the necessary skills.
About 40,000 3- and 4-year-olds are in the programs this year, costing the state about $400 million.
PNC Financial Services Corp. made a pledge last fall to invest a jaw-dropping $100 million in early childhood education over the next 10 years. In the first phase of the project, a dozen early childhood education programs in five states, including two Head Start programs in Pittsburgh, will share $503,000 in grants this year for programs that help children enter school ready to learn.
Most of the benchmark studies -- including the Perry Preschool and another classic, gold-standard study called the Carolina Abecedarian Project -- have included only poor children. W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, a New Jersey think tank, said that while the research does show greater preschool benefits for poor children, studies indicate that better-off children benefit as well.
Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday the House blueprint for Florida's new pre-kindergarten program falls short of his requirements. Last week, a House committee approved a pre-K bill that would give parents a scholarship, or voucher, they could use to pay for a three-hour-a-day or a summer program at private, public or religious schools or a book- or computer-based program for teaching children at home.
Constructing a system of quality care and education for Hawai'i's young children is our state's next great educational challenge. True, the obstacles are often daunting; parents lack affordable options, and preschools struggle to hire and retain degreed teachers who make $10 to $12 an hour.
The proposal passed by the Florida House of Representatives does not set teacher qualifications or require school accreditation.