Early Education in the News
"We have one of the best education systems in the country here in Minnesota,” said Smith. “But one of the challenges that we struggle with is not every child does the same, we have gaps."
To close the achievement gap Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's budget is proposing to pour $695 million into preK-12 education.
Nearly half of it would be used to fund free, all day pre-kindergarten programs for all children.
"We know from research that the most important thing we can do to help make sure that every single child in Minnesota is ready for school, is ready by 3rd grade is gonna be ready to graduate from high school,” said Smith. “The most important thing we can do is make sure they're ready for kindergarten."
Friends and acquaintances often ask me for the low-down on what preschool quality looks like as they make these decisions. Recently an anxious neighbor asked me for guidance and I gave her my spiel: Find a place that works for your family; teacher education is important; interactions with people are more important than stuff. I talked for a while, but then confessed that I couldn’t get my own child into a decent program. Her anxiety resurfaced and she said, “If YOU can’t get good child care, there’s no hope for any of us!”
In a way, she is not wrong. Individual parents cannot create an affordable, high-quality system of preschool, yet we’re all on our own, each of us trying to get our child the best care we can. Some of us have specialized knowledge, having spent careers researching preschool quality. Many parents have not.
“The sooner the better” is the perfect tag line for early childhood education. There is no magic bullet to ensure a lifetime of self-fulfillment in personal and career terms. But rigorous research shows that high-quality early childhood education is an extraordinarily powerful means to promote continued success in school, in the workplace, and also in social and civic realms.
It may seem surprising, but the experiences of children in their early years have disproportionately large impacts relative to experiences during their school years and beyond. If children lag in those early years, chances are that they will never catch up. Remediation of deficiencies in learning of all types is far more difficult and expensive than learning early on. The good news is that high-quality programs focused on early childhood years can have powerful long-term impacts for all racial and economic groups across the country.
Head Start launched in 1965, initiated by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration and considered a weapon in his war on poverty. So far, 32 million low-income children nationwide have gone through Head Start.The national program overseen by each state costs about $1 billion annually. It offers free preschool, education, nutrition, health screenings, family support services and support for children with disabilities. Families earning no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines qualify; for a family of four, that’s about $31,000 annually. “It really is to try to get these kids on a fair playing field,” said Sally Aman, a National Head Start Association spokeswoman.
Standing behind a growing movement for pre-kindergarten, local school officials advocated at the Statehouse on Tuesday for a bill that would create pre-K programs in underperforming districts throughout the state. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Alice Peisch and state Sen. Sal DiDomenico, would phase in funding for Level 3, 4 and 5 school districts throughout the state. It would use a mixed-delivery system of public and private providers. The bill also has program requirements, including a student-to-teacher ratio of 10-to-1 and a class-size limit of 20 students. Districts would have two years to adapt the pre-K program. The bill could have a substantial impact in Leominster, a Level 3 district where parents can pay for a pre-kindergarten option. Some spots are also reserved for students with special needs.
“You don’t say to preschoolers, ‘What do you know?’ because then they think there’s supposed to be something already in their heads. You say, ‘What do you want to find out?’ ” said the co-director of the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting at the University of Illinois.
“What do you know?” emphasizes academics, including the rote memorization of the alphabet, where a teacher provides a sole correct answer. “What do you want to find out?” requires a child to find his own path to one of many answers through investigation or play. How preschoolers will be taught becomes an increasingly critical question in the wake of President Barack Obama’s recently announced Preschool for All Initiative and Gov. Tom Wolf’s allocation of an additional $120 million, an 88 percent increase, to early childhood programs in his proposed state budget.
Standing behind a growing movement for pre-kindergarten, Lowell school officials advocated at the Statehouse on Tuesday for a bill that would create pre-K programs in underperforming districts throughout the state.
The bill could have a substantial impact in Lowell, a Level 3 district where about 45 percent of the current kindergarten class couldn't get into a pre-K program.
"What matters to me in Lowell is a need to get more young children into our schools. There is no doubt about that," Superintendent of Schools Jean Franco told a crowded room of parents, legislators and early-childhood advocates.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Alice Peisch and state Sen. Sal DiDomenico, would phase in funding for Level 3, 4 and 5 school districts throughout the state. It would use a mixed-delivery system of public and private providers.
New research from UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) reveals high-quality early education is especially advantageous for children when they start younger and continue longer. Not only does more high-quality early education significantly boost the language skills of children from low-income families, children whose first language is not English benefit even more.
"These findings show that more high-quality early education and care can narrow the achievement gap before children reach kindergarten," said Noreen M. Yazejian, principal investigator of FPG's Educare Learning Network Implementation Study. "Children from low-income families can improve their standing relative to their middle class peers."
Four-year-olds are not usually the first group of people who we think of as social activists.
As such, it often helps when there is someone to speak up for their interests, especially when that person has some type of political influence or power. That is exactly what Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton did for over 47,300 of these young children.
On March 20th, as he sat in a preschool classroom, Governor Dayton called for the state’s lawmakers to pass a measure that would use almost a fifth, or $348-million, of a $1.9-billion budget surplus on a universal preschool program, effectively making Minnesota one of only a few states to offer a universal and full-day education program of this sort. While this particular measure would work towards ensuring that every four-year-old is guaranteed the opportunity for education, the Governor has also expressed interest in funding for children of younger ages as well.
Bulman was one of dozens of pre-K advocates that rallied at the Alabama State House during the second annual Child Advocacy Day, which was sponsored by VOICES for Alabama’s Children. Last year, the National Institute for Early Education Research recognized the state’s pre-K program as the best in the United States for the eighth year in a row. Melanie Bridgeforth, executive director of VOICES, said the day was focused on bringing education advocates to the State House so that they could express their concerns about early childhood education, giving them “a place at the table.”
It's a bold initiative by Dayton who has proposed $348 million in new state spending to provide universal preschool in every public school district. It should be no surprise that Dayton is all in for universal preschool. This initiative is reminiscent of the all-day kindergarten legislation that passed in 2013, which he frequently touted during his re-election campaign as one of the major successes of his first term.
"We have already seen the tremendous successes of all-day kindergarten, which got underway just this year," Dayton said. "But we have a lot more work to do to narrow Minnesota's achievement gap and provide excellent education for every student in Minnesota. That work has to start now, and it must begin with our youngest learners."
Rhode Island has been awarded $3.3 million in federal funding for early childhood education programs. The congressional delegation announced the funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
Low-income parents would no longer have to turn down pay raises for fear of losing all of their child care assistance under a bill advanced by lawmakers Monday.
Legislative Bill 81, introduced by State Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha, cleared first-round consideration on a 28-0 vote.
Cook said the bill would eliminate the subsidy “cliff effect,” under which parents who make more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level lose all child care help.
The clearest message researchers gained in a year of polling and listening across the state is that most Missourians want to support early childhood education.
Less clear, but still reassuring to the Raise Your Hand for Kids campaign, is that they think enough people would be inclined to vote for a 50-cent increase in Missouri’s tobacco tax to help make it happen.
But campaign organizer Erin Brower knows the fight to raise Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax gets complicated very quickly after that.
Head Start truly changed the trajectory of my life, and it changes the lives of thousands of children in Minnesota every year.
That’s why this budget matters. Along with additional provisions in the human services and health budgets, the governor’s blueprint for early success has the power to transform young lives in the same way mine was transformed. It has the power to begin breaking the cycle of poverty that has trapped families for too long, to empower parents and instill hope where before there was none. It has the power to spark our state’s next generation of innovators and thinkers: CEOs, community leaders and commissioners.
If Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has his way, all 4-year-olds will soon be going to school within their school districts, all day, every day. The creation of a universal pre-k system throughout the state would cost roughly $348 million and would be funded through the state’s surplus.
Although it’s questionable that the proposal would pass, given it is a Republican-controlled House right now, the goal is not likely to die even if it’s shot down this year. The idea behind this proposal would be to provide a free pre-school education to all 4-year-olds across the state, thereby attempting to even the playing field for all children heading into kindergarten, including those who currently do not receive a pre-school education.
Backers of universal preschool in Cincinnati are zeroing in on a plan to pay for an ambitious program they say could lift thousands out of poverty, create a more competitive workforce and result in fewer criminals crowding prisons. Four tax proposals are still under consideration, but momentum is building around a city property tax increase through a school levy or a ballot initiative in fall 2016. The program would make Cincinnati first in the nation to fund two full years of preschool for virtually all children living in the city.
“I support expanded public investment in early childhood. But I don’t support universal pre-K. Pre-K spending should be targeted to low-income children, not subsidize middle-class families who can afford it.” It’s a common theme in debates about early childhood education. And I used to agree with it.
I still agree that, in a context of limited resources, incremental public investments should focus first on the most disadvantaged kids. But, after a decade of working on pre-K policy and seeing the practical realities of income-targeted preschool programs, I no longer think targeted pre-K should be the goal. It should be a way station on the path toward universal pre-K access.
If you believe in karma — the good kind, that is — then you’ll believe it was working for Head Start pioneer Edward Zigler two years ago. He was preparing to undergo hip surgery when he became the direct beneficiary of the educational program he helped form 50 years ago.
Zigler’s wife and colleague were at his side at Yale-New Haven Hospital when the anesthesiologist, John Paul Kim, realized that he was about to care for the man who started the program that helped educate him as a child growing up in poverty in New York.
Calling the federal budget “a reflection of who we are” as a nation, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey ripped a proposed Senate Republican budget on Thursday for failing children. In a conference call with reporters hours before the Senate began debate on the multitrillion-dollar spending plan, Casey blasted the budget’s cuts to the nation’s top early childhood education program, Head Start, the free or reduced price school-lunch program, food stamps, special education and Medicaid. The budget also allows tax credits that benefit the poor to lapse, he said.