Early Education in the News
For many parents, putting a kid in daycare costs more than the rent. And the price continues to climb. The expense of childcare, which includes both daycare and nursery school, has outpaced inflation since the recession, according to data from the Department of Labor. From 2009 through 2016, the overall Consumer Price Index increased about 12 percent while the childcare and nursery school index (yes, there is one) jumped more than 21 percent, according to data provided to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, people are shelling out a lot more cash on their kids than on anything else.
The prevailing theory is that staffing daycare centers is expensive and there's no way to make it cheaper. Taking care of kids is labor-intensive while increasing the productivity of workers difficult. One person can only look after only so many kids, and regulations demand certain adult-to-child ratios for safety and quality reasons. But those explanations don't answer why it's getting so much more expensive. What could possibly be pushing the prices so high? What is it about caring for children that has gotten so costly?
West Virginia is making gains improving its graduation rate, while earning more praise for its dedication to early learning. The report, "Gauging Progress, Accelerating Pace" from the Southern Regional Education Board, details West Virginia's efforts to improve standards and student success as well other states in the SREB's region.
The report details the fact that West Virginia's high school graduation rate exceeded the national rate.
"This is a result of State Superintendent Michael Martirano's five year plan to get the state's graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020," said Kristin Anderson, executive director of communications and partnerships. "This is a reflection of the trend working toward that goal."
The SREB report also shows that West Virginia is one of seven states that serve more than half of its 4 year olds in state-funded PreK. West Virginia's PreK program was one of six national programs that met all 10 of the National Institute for Early Education Research for standards of quality. The Learning Policy Institute recently recognized West Virginia's PreK program in a report calling it the anchor of the state's early childhood efforts.
In a first for the U.S., Vermont now requires communities to offer 10 hours a week of free preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds.
Funding for "universal" preschool has been available for some time in Vermont, but until July 1 it was up to local districts to offer it or not. Many did, and Vermont is one of the states with the highest rates of public preschool attendance among 4-year-olds, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
The free care is still optional for families. That is, though it must be offered, attendance is not mandatory. (Kindergarten attendance isn't mandatory in most states either.) Still, 10 free hours of care can make a big difference to the monthly budget, even for middle class families. The average weekly cost of child care for a 3- or 4-year-old in a licensed center in Vermont was $192, according to The Vermont Department for Children and Families.
When enrolling a child in preschool, there are multiple factors to consider to ensure the best early learning experience possible.
Studies show children who receive a high-quality early education develop a solid base for success in school and their future careers.
According to the report, research shows that high-caliber teachers are the most important factor in preschool because they serve as role models and foster language and literacy skills. A high-quality learning environment correlates directly with an exceptional workforce down the road, according to the report. A successful preschool program should not only prepare children for the transition into kindergarten, but should also incorporate the appropriate amounts of play time and creativity.
Various factors may impact a child's preschool experience, including teacher compensation and education level, school funding, price ranges and different educational philosophies.
In June, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) won a vicious and public battle against difficult odds. In his fight, the mayor positioned himself on the side of all that is just and right, a champion of the more than 17,000 low-income three- and four-year-olds in Philadelphia who lack access to quality public pre-K. The foe? The American Beverage Association, the Goliath to Kenney’s David, who spent almost $5 million since March to defend the soda empire. The City Council supported Kenney’s campaign in a 13-4 vote, passing a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and diet sodas that the administration says will be used, at least partially, to fund a universal pre-K program. This adds a $2.16 tax on a twelve pack of Coke, raising it from $4.00 to $6.16, an effective 54 percent tax.
Many assert that Kenney succeeded in passing a soda tax where others have failed because the reason for levying the tax was more popular. Kenny and his supporters sold the tax as a viable source of revenue to fund pre-K for the city’s youngest learners, rather than a big-brother(ly love) initiative to force health upon the masses. At first, the issue seems clear cut. A happy-ending tale where the good guy defeats the bad! But upon deeper investigation, the black and white of right and wrong becomes more gray.
When these children enter school, they have unique needs. Many are ill-prepared for the social, emotional and academic rigor that is anticipated and required. Conversely, many schools are not prepared to handle the needs of children who have been victims of poverty, trauma or who have special education needs. Preschool experience could help prepare children for learning in academic, social and emotional spheres of elementary education. In my role as a clinical professor of law and director of the Education and Health Law Clinic at Rutgers Law School, it is not uncommon for me to represent parents of young children who have been suspended or have had a history of being suspended as early as preschool or kindergarten. . .
According to the 2016 OCR report, black boys were at greater risk for preschool suspensions. Even though preschool boys represented almost 20 percent of enrolled preschoolers, they represented 45 percent of male students receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions. Even more problematic were the statistics for black girls. Although they represented 20 percent of female preschool enrollment, they accounted for over 50 percent of female students with one or more out of school suspensions. A national pre-kindergarten study conducted in 2005 identified similar disparities with respect to these vulnerable children. That study, conducted by Walter S. Gilliam at Yale University, concluded that preschool children were expelled at a rate of more than three times that of students in K-12. According to the same report, African-American children attending state-funded preschools were about twice as likely to be expelled as Latino and Caucasian children. More than 10 years has passed since this study, and the problem still persists.
Using new data by the National Institute for Early Education Research, The Hechinger Report built an interactive map that shows where preschool access and quality intersect. Of states offering a public preschool program, the largest category, with 18, are states that have a high-quality program but only offer it to a small percentage (less than 30 percent) of their 4-year-old population. Another five states offer preschool to more than 46 percent of their 4-year-old population, but at a fairly low-quality standard. . .
"Access to real quality is pretty darn low," Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, told me for an article I wrote about the state of preschool in the U.S. that accompanied the map.
Idaho is among five states nationally that don’t fund preschool despite the proven benefits it can offer. Though the Legislature did boost education funding by $107 million last session, preschool was ignored. There have been many legislative efforts as recent as 2015 to introduce public preschool to Idaho, but none have grown past ideas. Last year’s bill didn’t receive a hearing. And the 2017 legislative agenda doesn’t include a state-funded preschool-related bill, said Idaho State Board of Education Spokesman Blake Youde.
Supporters consistently run into two legislative objections:
1. Idaho doesn’t have enough money for its own public education system and needs to put dollars there, some legislators say.
2. Preschool education is a role for Idaho families, say other lawmakers.
In the midst of an angry and polarized election, 90% of voters agree on one thing: Congress and the next president should work together to make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income families. That includes 78% of Trump supporters and 97% of Clinton supporters. The First Five Years Fund’s annual national poll shows that early childhood education is one of the best ways for candidates to connect with voters because it is one of their top priorities–regardless of party.
In fact, the fate of all children is largely determined by their first years on this planet. Forming healthy relationships with adults early on lays the foundation for future healthy relationships. Exposure to language through stories, songs and conversations sets the stage for academic achievement. Playing outside to master gross motor skills, creating art to master fine motor skills, pretending to be a doctor, chef or firefighter to learn teamwork, building a tower of blocks to learn basic physics lessons — all of these activities are critical preparation for a successful school and adult life. The most straightforward way to ensure all children have such experiences is to provide free or affordable high-quality preschool for them when they are 3- and 4-year-olds. The idea is not as radical as it sounds. The U.S. has even provided universal public preschool before, for a few years during World War II. That program ended in 1946. Since then, a growing body of research has demonstrated the value of high-quality preschool for both children and their communities. Nearly every industrialized country has recognized that value and begun offering a version of universal public preschool for its children. Not the U.S. . .
But though many have acknowledged the need for forward motion on preschool expansion, the overall pace of change has been glacial. “At the current rate, it will be another 50 years before states can reach all low-income children at age four, and it will take 150 years to reach 75 percent of all four-year-olds,” writes Steven Barnett, director the National Institute for Early Education Research, in his introduction to the 2015 State of Preschool Yearbook.
The battle for quality Pre-K education in Indiana continues as the November election draws near. Governor Mike Pence had pushed for a pilot program called On My Way Pre-K, but then rejected millions of dollars in federal funding. Pence is in a tough battle for re-election, and has expressed renewed interest in the federal money. State Superintendent of Schools Glenda Ritz, who's also running in November, is the only Democrat elected to statewide office in Indiana. She wants a universal Pre-K education program that would offer free preschool to all students, regardless of family income. Ted Maple, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana, said right now Hoosier children are missing out on quality education.
On My Way Pre-K began in 2015 in Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh counties. Pence has said he wanted to make sure it worked before applying for federal funds. Ritz said Indiana is "years behind" because of Pence's "political showboating."
Programs such as Disney’s are offered throughout the Gem State. But placing your child in one can be expensive. Idaho is among five states nationally that don’t fund preschool despite the proven benefits it can offer. Though the Legislature did boost education funding by $107 million last session, preschool was ignored. Idaho has the highest rate of preschool-age children absent from the classroom: 69 percent, according to the 2016 Kids Count Data Book. And only 59 percent of Idaho’s K-3 children — 52 percent of kindergartners — hit the Idaho Reading Indicator benchmark in the fall of 2015. Many early education advocates believe that number could be improved if more children were enrolled in preschool.
At Kids Korner tuition runs $115 per week, which can be a burden for many families already struggling to make ends meet, especially if they’re enrolling more than one child. And for some preschools, tuition doesn’t even provide enough funds to hire qualified teachers. “I think Idaho is behind almost all the other states by at least three to four years in early childhood education,” Disney said. “To work at a preschool you don’t even have to technically be a teacher.”
Vermont has become the first state to provide publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs to all 3- and 4-year-olds as of this month, state officials say.
The law requires Vermont communities to offer at least 10 hours a week of free, high quality preschool for 35 weeks per year to children in that age group. Previously, some districts offered publicly funded preschool voluntarily.
The 10 hours of free preschool has helped parents, like those whose children attend Annette’s Preschool, in Hinesburg.
Adam Charlton and his wife wanted their then-4-year-old son, Oliver, to be in a school-like environment before he entered kindergarten. But, they said they couldn’t have afforded it without the extra help.
“He learned a lot,” Charlton said. “It’s a great program and I’m super glad the state decided to pass that law. It’s definitely helpful.”
The office of Gov. Peter Shumlin says more than 70 percent of Vermont children under age 6 have working parents, so universal pre-K is critical to supporting working families.
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has created an overview of the criteria with which preschool teachers need to be equipped for assisting the country’s youngest children in getting a good start.
Hannah Putman, Amber Moorer, and Kate Walsh of the council have written Some Assembly Required: Piecing Together the Preparation Preschool Teachers Need. The authors report that some studies note that kids who attend preschool have lower rates of requiring special education services, receive higher test scores, attend and graduate from college at higher rates, and are likely to have fewer health problems.
Other studies, according to the NCTQ, have shown that the cost of preschool programs outweigh the benefits since the gains fall away after a few years, resulting in some students who attended preschool doing even worse than their classmates who did not.
"Everyone wants their children to have a good head start,” said Holyfield. It's a goal that is becoming more and more attainable for three and four-year-olds in our state. Recent studies show that West Virginia is a step above the majority of other states when it comes to providing early childhood education. "The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University has established a set of quality benchmarks for looking at the different states' universal pre-K programs. We are one of six states in the nation that actually meet all 10 of those quality benchmarks,” said Monica DellaMea, executive director of the Office of Early Learning for the West Virginia Department of Education.
Officials from the West Virginia Department of Education said it's been a 15-year journey. "We took 10 years to build the system, and starting in 2012-2013, the state required that legislation required that every four year old who wanted a space, whose family wanted a space for them in the state's universal Pre-K program, would have a free space, and every three year old who had an individualized education plan, would also have a space as well,” said DellaMea. Legislators began by making sure both quality and access were addressed in state policy, which helped to lay the foundation for this program.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is shrinking the projected number of children the city’s preschool program will serve during its trial period, he said Thursday. Before Seattle voters approved a $58 million property-tax levy in 2014 to pay for the program’s first four years, city officials had projected about 280 children would be served in the 2015-2016 school year, then ramp up to about 2,000 children in 2018-2019. Now Murray is projecting the program will reach 1,615 children by its fourth year. That’s because the city will begin paying the program’s preschool providers more money per child, he said.
Officials are having trouble recruiting additional providers to join the program, said City Councilmember Tim Burgess, a leader in the push for city-funded preschool. “This is why we first launched the Seattle Preschool Program as a pilot program that would allow us to make adjustments,” Murray said in a statement Thursday. “The big lesson learned after year one is that we need to make it more attractive for providers to participate in the program, including reducing barriers and enhancing the providers’ financial incentives and the per-child investment,” the mayor added, saying quality instruction is his priority.
Nearly half of child care workers in Illinois are part of families that rely on public assistance, according to a new report that calls for long-overdue action to improve the wages of the people tasked with caring for kids in the earliest years of their lives. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley on Thursday released the first of what they expect to be a biennial state-by-state analysis assessing the workforce conditions in early childhood education. Despite growing recognition of the importance of early education in kids' development and efforts to improve quality of care, there has been spotty progress in improving the quality of early childhood educators' jobs, the report said.
"Poor employment conditions, not unlike those identified 50 years ago, remain the norm," Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, said on a conference call with reporters. In Illinois, child care workers earned a median hourly wage of $10.50 in 2015, up 1 percent from five years before. Forty-six percent of them are in families on some sort of public assistance, including more than a quarter that are on food stamps.
Preschool teachers earned $13.79 an hour, flat from 2010. Kindergarten teachers fare significantly better, earning $23.42 an hour, up 3 percent from 2010 and close to the median elementary-school wage of $26.60. Illinois is in line with much of the nation, where hourly wages for child care workers range from $8.72 in Mississippi to $12.24 in New York. Nearly 36,000 people are in the early-childhood teaching workforce in Illinois.
Early childhood education in the U.S. is a disaster, and policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia do little to address the low wages and economic insecurity among teachers and the lack of affordable, high-quality services for children. Those are the findings at the heart of a new report released Thursday by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley – the first comprehensive state-by-state analysis of early education employment conditions and policies.
"Early educators’ skills, knowledge, and well-being are inseparable from the quality of children’s early learning experiences," said Marcy Whitebook, director of the Berkley center and one of the study’s authors. "But states are failing to provide the combination of appropriate compensation, professional work environments, and training teachers need to help children succeed."
Among many other things in the 120-page report, early education policies across the U.S. fall short on a number of measurable indicators, including pay, professional development, paid planning time, paid sick leave, and other policies that impact the ability of early educators to teach effectively and remain on the job.
The state has awarded 578 school districts and charters more than $116 million in grants to boost their prekindergarten programs in the upcoming school year.
Ten Central Texas school districts, including Austin, Round Rock and Leander, received some of the funds. House Bill 4, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature laws passed last legislative session, promised to make funds available to boost the quality of early education across the state.
Awarded districts will see an extra $734 per prekindergarten student on top of the $3,600 in regular state funding.
To qualify for the grant, school districts had to promise to hire teachers with multiple credentials, improve family engagement and to report in detail academic performance.
It’s past time to boost our investment in early childhood education. Educators who care for our children from birth to third grade have a pivotal role in preparing our children for school, but as a society we’re letting them down. A recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that low wages in the early childcare workforce are undermining the quality of early childhood education. Across the country, teachers are underpaid, but the data from the report highlight what early childhood advocates know to be shockingly true. Pay for the early childcare workforce is shameful.
A childcare worker trying to support a family of three would be earning below the poverty level in 32 states, according to the report. How can that be? How can we tout the value of early education while paying some of our educators little more than a parking garage attendant? The research on the value of high quality early childcare is clear. Children with positive early experiences are more likely to demonstrate long-term success, both socially and academically. This is especially true for economically disadvantaged populations, for whom early learning experiences may be particularly critical. Yet the financial investment needed to support this effort is glaringly absent.