Early Education in the News
After more than a week of back-and-forth negotiations — and on the same day nearly 9,500 layoff notices went out to state employees — Minnesota’s political leaders found a way to break an impasse that threatened to shut down parts of state government.
On Monday, House Republicans and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to spend $525 million more on education over the next two years. That’s about $125 million more than the Legislature initially allocated in its education budget, which Dayton vetoed, but less than the $150 million Dayton insisted on in the 2015 session’s final days. The agreement takes leaders back to where they were in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session, when that $25 million difference was the sticking point in trying to work out an 11th-hour solution.
At a recent budget hearing, a state senator asked, "If you were to advise us as to an investment that we should be making in another agency, in another part of government, that would impact what you do, change the outcome of what you do, what would you recommend?"
My answer was easy: early-childhood education programs.
As I see it, every time we talk about corrections reform, it really must begin with the realization that improving the chances for children, especially those in our most disadvantaged communities, is not just a great investment financially, but our responsibility and the true answer to improving criminal justice in America.
If we want to be the Education State again, preschool (universal or scholarship) needs our attention. We have a great higher-education system in Minnesota that has served us well, spawning great jobs and leading industries. But we were late to universal kindergarten as a state. Let’s not be late to embrace the importance of preschool for all of our children.
Brian Maher walks through the hallways and classrooms he built, unnoticed by the babies, toddlers and preschoolers who are playing, singing, coloring, building and doing all the other things that kids do when they learn. Maher put up $5.5 million to build the 6,500-square-foot addition to the school, but that is just part of his commitment.
While the school extension he financed is for babies, toddlers and children up to 3 years old, Maher is also behind a drive to increase public preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-old kids statewide.
Pre-K Our Way (prekourway.org) was launched earlier this year and has enlisted former governors Tom Kean and Jim Florio, and Florio's wife, Lucinda, to open up the conversation – and, hopefully, some wallets – for statewide preschool education. "Preschool education is the one area of education that everyone agrees on," Kean said. "All the research shows that it gives children a tremendous advantage as they go through school. Brian wants to make a difference that is very important, and I'm behind it all the way."
Expanding preschool might be key to improving the Springfield City School District’s performance, but it comes with a hefty local price tag as Ohio lags most states for early education funding. But district leaders, including incoming Superintendent Bob Hill, said the added cost now will pay dividends later in terms of better test scores and savings from reduced remediation. It’s part of a larger, nationwide movement to get more 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in quality pre-kindergarten programs as studies have repeatedly shown it improves student achievement and quality of life down the road. . .
uring the 2013-14 school year, Ohio ranked 36th out of 41 states with public programs for enrolling 4 year olds, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. That’s down from 19th in 2002 when the institute started tracking state pre-kindergarten programs. The state spent about $4,000 per student last year, ranking 21st.
Despite a state budget flush with extra billions for education, Gov. Jerry Brown is receiving criticism from some early education advocates for a “strikingly minimal” approach to early education funding.
In response to the growing body of evidence of the importance of preschool, a coalition of academics, lawmakers, community leaders and business leaders has created the Right Start Commission, whose goal is to help California find a blueprint for providing universal early education to the state’s youth.
A recent report by the National Institute for Early Education Research found that California lags behind most other states in the quality of its early education programs and serves only 18 percent of the state’s four-year-old children.
The commission said it will offer recommendations that will help make California a leader in early education.
New research shows parents across the UK are spending an average of £35,000 on their children by the time they get to five years old – and that’s not a small amount, by anyone’s calculations. On average, that works out at around £6,990 a year or £586 a month across the UK. . .
There is good news in that many of these parents with youngsters under six have made financial plans for their children’s futures, with more than half (52%) having opened a savings account in their children’s names, while 37% have opened a junior ISA or a Child Trust Fund.
More than one out of every five school-age children in the U.S. were living below the federal poverty line in 2013, according to new federal statistics released Thursday. That amounted to 10.9 million children — or 21 percent of the total — a six percent increase in the childhood poverty rate since 2000.
Childhood poverty rates were on the rise for every racial group, ranging from 39 percent for African Americans and 36 percent for Native Americans, 32 percent for Hispanics and 13 percent for Asians and whites. . . . This year’s report included a focus on kindergarten students and found that poor children start kindergarten with fewer “positive approaches” to learning and struggle academically compared to more affluent children.
“Positive approaches” include persistence in completing tasks, eagerness to learn new things, ability to work independently, adapting easily to changes in routine, keeping belongings organized and following classroom rules.
California's state-funded pre-K program serves just 18 percent of 4-year-old children and lags on numerous quality indicators, according to a recent study by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state spent $4,298 per child enrolled in the 2013-14 school year, an amount that has remained largely unchanged over the last decade.
"The Golden State has not made the financial commitment necessary to improve quality or serve all the children who need quality pre-K," institute director Steve Barnett concluded.
Over 200 new grants will provide over 3,600 additional Alabama 4-year-olds with access to high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten.
“The most important part of a child's education is a good, solid foundation at a young age, and our First Class voluntary pre-k program provides that,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “All children, regardless of where they live, deserve the opportunity to excel. A high-quality, voluntary pre-k program improves their chances of success in school long-term. This is a wise investment that will benefit children and families throughout Alabama.”
So, what can we do? We should invest in evidence-based programs, starting before birth and extending through high school and the college years. If we provided an effective home visiting program, high quality pre-k, and comprehensive school reforms in elementary and high school, it would make a difference in children’s lives, according to rigorous experimental evidence.
Officials with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute were in the Panhandle last week to examine the picture of early childhood education in the Panhandle.
Samuel J. Meisels, director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, and other officials with the institute visited Scottsbluff and the Panhandle last week. During the visit, they met with officials from area school districts, the Educational Service Unit and other officials who work in early childhood education.
Meisels said the intent of the visit was to come to the Panhandle and learn more about early childhood education in the Panhandle and the resources available.
Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced over 200 new grants that will provide over 3,600 additional Alabama four-year-olds with access to high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten. The grants announced by Governor Bentley will expand Alabama's First Class voluntary pre-k program to more schools, faith-based preschools, child care centers, Head Start locations, and other new and expanding pre-k sites across the state. Grants were awarded based on several criteria including local needs, local demand and assurances of high quality standards at the new and expanding pre-k sites. Local match funding of 25% will be required. Remaining grants will be allocated to additional sites based on various needs in the near future. . .
Alabama's First Class program is nationally-recognized for its quality. Alabama is currently one of only four states in the country to meet all 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The benchmarks include teacher training, staff-child ratios, support services and more. First Class has now met all of these benchmarks for nine years in a row.
Since he introduced his $33.8 billion budget nearly three months ago, Gov. Tom Wolf has toured the state, visiting schools to press his plans to spend heavily on education. On Tuesday, Wolf continued that publicity tour at a different venue — a prison. The first-term Democrat was outside Camp Hill Correctional Institution near Harrisburg touting his plan to spend an additional $120 million on preschool education as a way to reduce future prison costs of adults. The money would serve 11,600 more children through the state's own PreK-Counts program and 2,400 more low-income children through the federal Head Start program. . .
Quality early childhood education is a crime-fighting tool, Wolf said, that all political parties and taxpayers should embrace as evidenced by the Republican county prosecutors who stood with him in the prison parking lot.
When Gov. Mike Pence signed On My Way Pre-K, the state’s first preschool pilot program, into law ast year, the goal was to get more low-income children enrolled in high quality preschool programs to help their overall education over time. But another result of creating a program like this means more high-quality programming will emerge, and that’s exactly what the state is seeing happen.
Angie's mother, Maria Delfina Zuniga, said Olegine's lessons on how to develop her child's vocabulary and motor skills through daily reading and play have made a big difference. Angie has already mastered several words — far ahead of her older children when they were at that age — children she did not regularly read to before kindergarten.
Such information may be pro forma for parents who know to fill their home with music and books, frequently read to their children even before birth and pore over baby-raising bibles like "What to Expect When You're Expecting." But such practices are far less common in places like Lake Los Angeles in the greater Antelope Valley, where half the 12,000 residents are Latinos, many Spanish-speaking, and a quarter live in poverty.
Yet decades of research show that what children learn between birth and 5 years old makes a major difference in their ability to perform well academically later in life. According to the U.S. Department of Education, children's language skills by age 2 are predictive of their pre-literacy skills at age 5, and low-income students start school up to 14 months behind their more affluent peers. Children who attend high-quality preschool programs are less likely to need special education services, be retained in their grades or drop out of high school.
Last week, after two months of back-and-forth, House Bill 4 won its final passage in the Texas legislature. The bill, which provides state funding for public prekindergarten programs, is now ready to be signed into law.
In its finalized form, House Bill 4 provides for $130 million in grants to public prekindergarten programs which follow state guidelines on curriculum, employ teachers who are certified in accordance with the bill’s provisions, and report to TEA on student outcomes. The grant will be parceled out in increments of up to $1,500 per student for eligible districts, which will be enough to improve existing half-day PreK programs, but not enough to convert half-day to full-day programs.
Florida voters established free, voluntary prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds in 2002, but our elected officials failed to follow through with the proper funding and standards.
Now, like so many other issues in our state, it’s up to local communities to pick up the slack.
A new report ranked Florida third in the nation for preschool access. Nearly 80 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded VPK, according to the report from the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Yet Florida ranked 36th in per-child funding for pre-K programs. The state spends far below the national average, the institute found. Florida also ranked among the lowest in the nation in quality, meeting just three of 10 standards.
Gov, Mark Dayton proposed a tax cut in return for a scaled-back version of his plan for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds.
After vetoing two budget bills Saturday, Dayton offered a $260 million, one-year temporary income tax cut if lawmakers approve $250 million in additional money for public schools, including $100 million for preschool that would go only to districts that choose to apply for it.