Early Education in the News
Early education has emerged in 2015 as a more frequent talking point among those pushing government investments and a potential wedge issue between Beacon Hill Democrats and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
As annual budget deliberations shift to the Senate this week, backers of bigger investments say poll results they commissioned show that voters agree that early education should be a bigger priority within the roughly $38.1 billion budget that’s being assembled this spring.
The poll of 605 Massachusetts voters, conducted March 17 through March 22 by Anderson Robbins Research, found 67 percent favored investments to expand access to pre-kindergarten services. Support for expanded early education was even stronger among women and Latino voters.
Rhode Island’s new state-funded preschool program is expensive, but it may be high quality. That’s according to a new study from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
The study finds Rhode Island is one of several states investing more money in preschool. The program serves only a tiny percentage of the state’s 4-year-olds, putting Rhode Island near the bottom for access. But the study praises the relatively new effort as one of just five that meet a series of quality standards.
Louisiana ranks 15th in the United States in providing access to publicly funded preschool programs, with 32 percent of 4-year-olds participating, a recently released report from the National Institute for Early Education Research finds. Authors also noted that Louisiana is 16th in the nation in preschool spending.
Louisiana's preschool participation rate is higher than the national average of 29 percent. At a budget of $4,565 per child, the state also spent more than other states did on average.
A new report on state-funded pre-kindergarten programs says that funding, enrollment and quality was up somewhat in 2014 but that the pace of progress was way too slow and that wide disparities exist in states across the country. Just how slow is slow? If the 2013-2014 growth in enrollment continues, it would take 150 years to reach 70 percent enrollment.
Quality early childhood education — recognized as a key element in preparing children for school – has become a priority of the Obama administration, which last year announced a $1 billion public-private spending initiative. The annual report on the state of preschool, published by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers Graduate School of Education University, says that total state funding for pre-K increased in 2013-2014 by more than $116 million across 40 states plus the District of Columbia — a 1 percent increase in real dollars. Per child, that was a $61-dollar increase from the previous year, $4,125.
“The benefits of high-quality early education to children and taxpayers are well-established as indicated by a consensus letter to the public now signed by more than 1,200 researchers,” said W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, in an email. “Unfortunately, too many policymakers continue to see only the cost of providing preschool education while they are blind to the much higher costs of not effectively educating our young children. This requires well-qualified teachers and reasonable class sizes. What most families can afford and what too many politicians think is alright won’t produce the results.
“Other states are making strong new investments – including Ohio and Michigan,” Barnett wrote. “With each new year, Indiana falls further behind its neighbors. Down the road fewer children will succeed in school and life. Fewer businesses will locate in Indiana. And, in the long-run Indiana’s taxpayers will pay more rather than less.”
There’s growing support for funding preschool in Idaho, but it’s too early to tell if legislators will take action in 2016.
The Gem State is among only a handful of states without state-funded preschool. Without it, many children are unprepared for kindergarten and struggle to catch up, education experts say.
“With students going into kindergarten, it’s not a level playing field,” said Ted Popplewell, elementary programs director for the Twin Falls School District.
Idaho public schools chief Sherri Ybarra told the Times-News she’s more supportive of community-based preschool programs — not a mandatory approach. Conversations about moving forward have been “really positive,” she said, noting there’s a will among legislators to find a solution. “Folks are willing to look at the research now and they actually want to see that,” she said.
What? Yep. It’s looking very possible. Democrats are feeling confident that they can blame the GOP for a shutdown again and the Republicans are in no mood to see billions more in new taxes after a DFL-fueled 30 percent increase over the past four years. The S word (shutdown) is being whispered by DFL legislators at the capitol.
The Governor is loudly proclaiming that, with nothing to lose (he can’t run again) he is going to insist on getting his way on choice ideological items on his wish list. Specifically, he has dug in his heals on a 50 percent increase in automotive fuel taxes and universal preschool for four-year-olds. The fuel tax would placate the noisy transportation lobby and the pre-school plan would vastly bloat membership in the public employee union that is the biggest contributor to DFL campaigns.
Child poverty has long-term costs to Oregon and to the United States. These costs have been well documented, with economists calculating the economic losses associated with child poverty to be nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product. To put this number in perspective, the total amount the federal government spends on poverty outside of Medicaid is less than 2 percent of GDP. Needless to say, there are also more important costs that go beyond GDP. These involve children’s development as independent and happy people, able to be part of and contribute to their community for life.
What can we do about this? The evidence is pretty clear. There are two primary factors that have significantly reduced child poverty in other countries: high-quality early childhood programs and paid parental leave.
As attention has been drawn to the importance of early childhood education at both the state and federal level, a new University of Montana program is set to help advance training for teachers and others in the field.
The Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s Master of Education in early childhood education is the only degree program of its kind in the state and focuses on children from birth to age 8, during which time they rapidly develop.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called universal preschool one of his big priorities, and last year state lawmakers approved a large grant program that provided $340 million a year for five years to increase full-day preschool slots. That grant was just approved for its second round, but the first year brought mixed results. . . . There is such a thing as free preschool. In New York, many public schools run free programs with state money. Much of that money is from the so-called “universal pre-k” push. Despite the name, free preschool is far from universal. In fact, whether you can get it or not depends in which school district you live. Full-day programs are even rarer.
Without such an opportunity, she could have ended up paying more than $10,000 a year to put her four-year-old in a daycare center. Families who don’t qualify for Head Start –- they have to live below the poverty line –- or can’t find an opening can sometimes get subsidies to cover the cost, but spending on those subsidies is at a decade low and there are longwaiting lists in many states.
That high-quality, stable source of care changed their lives. “When it’s continuous support, every day, you know your kid has a place to go, that really makes a difference,” Israel said. “I used that time to push myself, to work, and try to get somewhere.” That support and his wife’s extra income meant he could focus on striking out on his own. “I was more relaxed. When you’re so tense, you can’t really think,” he said. “I didn’t have the weight of [wondering] where are my children going to be… It allowed me to think clearly and to actually plan something.”
Jason Kloth handed me a memo with the numbers — numbers making clear the wisdom of the city’s new investment in preschool.
“They are incredible,” Kloth, the Indianapolis deputy mayor for education, said. “This is a demonstration of the overwhelming demand for high-quality preschool in Indianapolis. And it is an affirmation of common sense.”
He was talking about the number of low-income families that signed up for the city’s new preschool scholarship program. More than 5,000 applications for scholarships arrived before the April 30 deadline. Almost all of them — 4,967 — qualified for the program, meaning they came from families with incomes of 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level. That’s the level that qualifies children for free-and-reduced school lunches, a general indicator of deep financial struggles.
Recently, New America published an article suggesting that it is time to re-envision elementary education. Authors Lisa Guernsey and Laura Bornfreund argue that the current school structure, with preschool education ending at pre-kindergarten and elementary education starting at Kindergarten, no longer makes sense (if it ever did). They believe that the K – 5 model starts too late, leaving elementary school teachers disconnected from early care and education providers.
In fact, early childhood education is a continuum that begins at birth and runs through age eight. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides resources for parents, childcare providers, and educators working with children up to eight years old. Their mission is to promote high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research.
Parents applauded the $695 million in new school spending proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton, but were careful not to praise how he wants to spend the money. Roughly half the new money would be spent on universal preschool, which school leaders worry will force them to build costly classrooms and hire more staff.
Hobbie delivered a letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, asking them to put a high priority on increasing the per pupil funding formula schools use for general operations.
"If not now, in a time of surplus, then when?" Hobbie wrote. "This is the question parents are asking?"
When legislators worked out a last-minute agreement on Friday that might maintain current funding levels for Preschool Open Doors, it ended months of suspense for low-income parents and early childhood education advocates.
The negotiations to find $6 million for the program — which helps low-income families pay for preschool — came near the end of a legislative session that saw little action on early childhood education.
Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s push to expand access to early childhood ed largely collapsed in November with voter rejection of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to spend public funds on private preschools.
Research shows preschool builds a foundation for literacy. Oregon students who are strong readers by third grade graduate 77 percent of the time. If they’re not? The Oregon graduation rate is 53 percent.
“Kids who are in high-quality preschool — particularly low-income kids — are far more likely to graduate from high school,” said Swati Adarkar of the Portland-based Children’s Institute. “They’re far more likely to go on to college, they’re far more likely not to need special education as they go on in the elementary grades. These are all huge game-changers.”
State senators are likely to pass Gov. Greg Abbott's "gold standard" pre-kindergarten legislation into law, but not before the chamber's far-right conservatives make clear they question its necessity. On Thursday, the Senate Public Education Committee approved House Bill 4 by Dan Huberty, R-Houston, an Abbott-backed bill that would funnel $130 million to certain pre-K programs that meet additional quality benchmarks based on teacher training levels, child improvement measures and more. HB4 does not expand existing state-sponsored pre-k, which is offered currently just to four-year-olds from homeless, military and non-native English speaking families. In the House committee, most lawmakers discussed the positive impact full-day pre-K would have in Texas, if not for insurmountable political and fiscal barriers.
According to a study by researchers at the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, Columbia University, states doubled their funding for preschools between 2003 and 2013, when 1.3 million three- and four-year-olds were enrolled at a cost of $5.4 billion. Despite these efforts, most classrooms were found by researchers to be economically segregated.
"A lot of programs are not high quality, and low-income children are most likely to be in low-quality programs," Jeanne Reid, who wrote the report with Sharon Lynn Kagan, told the Washington Post. It was funded by The Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, a civil rights organization.
The research is clear: The early years of a child’s life are some of the most formative for his or her cognitive and emotional development. Given the importance of early learning and the growing consensus surrounding the benefits of quality preschool programs, it’s no surprise that local, state and federal leaders nationwide, of all political stripes, have begun rallying behind efforts to expand access to high-quality early childhood programs.
That’s why last year, in order to ensure that we are doing all we can to best serve Virginia’s children, I created the Children’s Cabinet and the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success. The council is specifically focused on those crucial early years of a child’s development, and is working to assess current programs, services and public resources so that we can develop effective programs best tailored to foster the health, growth and cognitive development of children.
But while the benefits of early childhood education programs are clear, in Virginia – as well as throughout much of the country – access to quality preschool remains financially out of reach for thousands of families. As a result, many of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable individuals are starting their K-12 schooling a step behind their peers from more affluent families. It’s time to change that.
Publicly funded preschools across the country are largely segregated by race and income, and poor children are typically enrolled in the lowest quality programs, according to a new report released Wednesday by researchers at the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, Columbia University.
While states more than doubled their investments in preschool between 2003 and 2013, when 1.3 million three- and four-year-olds were enrolled at a cost of $5.4 billion, most classrooms were economically segregated, the researchers found.
“If every child could be in a high-quality program, we could all go home and not worry about it,” said Jeanne Reid, who wrote the report with Sharon Lynn Kagan. It was funded by The Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, a civil rights organization. “But a lot of programs are not high quality, and low-income children are most likely to be in low-quality programs.”