Early Education in the News
These findings add to a growing body of evidence — including long-term studies drawn from data in New Zealand and Britain — that have profound implications for educators. These studies suggest that if we want many more children to lead fulfilling and productive lives, it’s not enough for schools to focus exclusively on academics. Indeed, one of the most powerful and cost-effective interventions is to help children develop core social and emotional strengths like self-management, self-awareness and social awareness — strengths that are necessary for students to fully benefit from their education, and succeed in many other areas of life.
More than 11 million children under age 5 are in some form of child care in the United States, according to Child Care Aware of America's “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2014 Report.”
For those families, the average cost of center-based day care ticks in at $11,666 annually, or just short of $1,000 a month, reports the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.
The numbers often equal or exceed other major expenses, including the cost of transportation, food and even rent or mortgage.
The latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, that’s before Congress more formally addresses early education and adds a competitive grant program to help states align their early education system with K-12 schools.
The U.S. Senate’s version of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support (81-17), “ensures that federal funds can be used for early education,” including support for preschool teachers and English learners. In the past, districts were able to use funds for low-income students, referred to as Title I funding under the ESEA, to provide programs for children from birth to age 5, but that ability was never formally stated in the law.
The importance of early education is not disputed. Eighty percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 3, and kids born into punishing environments, who aren’t talked to and read to, are 18 months behind their peers by age 4, “a gap that almost never is going to be made up,” says Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, who considers access to quality preschool “the most important social justice question of the day.”
Politicians agree that quality preschool is good and perhaps even necessary. But when it comes to government picking up the tab, that’s where everyone falls silent except maybe Bernie Sanders, who would raise taxes to pay for lots of things. With Republicans controlling at least one chamber of Congress for the foreseeable future, if liberals want to see expanded preschool in their lifetime, they will have to get creative.
High-quality early childhood education is an investment this country needs to make in order to give all kids a strong start. A comprehensive, national early childhood education program would add $2 trillion to the annual GDP within a generation, according to the Brookings Institution.
Investing in our children will reduce poverty, change lives and strengthen our communities and our economy. Our next president, regardless of which side of the aisle he or she may come from, must invest in kids.
Gov. Mark Dayton is already laying out his priorities for next year’s budget session – saying he won’t sign any tax cut proposals from Republicans without an increase in funding for early childhood education programs.
Dayton, a DFLer, pushed lawmakers in the just-ended legislative session to approve hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for universal preschool for all children in the state. In the end, he got a boost of $525 million for general education funding, but very little was specifically allotted to preschool programs. . .
Dayton said making preschool available to more children is key to closing that achievement gap, WCCO reports.
“I want to lay down the marker that we’re not done here,” Dayton said, according to the Associated Press, although he didn’t provide any specifics about the new funding he would seek.
The deck is already stacked against children living in poverty, and now, there's growing evidence that living in poverty can negatively affect children's brains.
A study by researchers from universities in Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina found poverty can diminish the brain's gray matter — the tissue that processes information.
The reduction in gray matter volume was found throughout the brain but most noticeably in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and hippocampus –– areas tied to learning. . .
They argued funding should be increased for programs that help those below the poverty line — but the effectiveness of those programs has been debated.
The Head Start program said its funding has been reduced the past few years, leading to 53,000 children being cut from the program. This year, the budget has been restored, but future cuts are feared.
For the past several weeks, much of Washington has focused on the Senate's efforts to pass a bill to replace No Child Left Behind. While the discussion has focused on many important topics, the primary education setting for 12 million children has not been part of the conversation: child care.
When policymakers discuss education, child care is rarely mentioned. And to some extent, that is understandable. Most child care in the U.S. is poor or mediocre when it comes to quality and is designed to enable parents to work rather than to educate children. At the same time, the majority of young children under five have working parents and spend a considerable amount of their formative years in child care. If we want children to be adequately prepared for success in elementary school, we must invest in helping families access high-quality child care.
From city halls to Congress, political leaders are embracing the potential benefits of early childhood education. And it's none too soon. As a nation, we're behind the curve. Just last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined two education leaders in the U.S. House – Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Bobby Scott, D-Va. – to pen an article highlighting America's weak standing (31 out of 39) among advanced countries when it comes to preschool enrollment for 4-year-olds.
What other countries know – and what we're just catching on to – is that early childhood education can yield a high return on investment. Most prominently, Nobel Laureate James Heckman has shown that early childhood investments improve cognitive development; build the so-called soft skills – such as motivation and self-control – that children need for lifelong success; and reduce the social costs associated with fighting crime and poverty.
That’s according to Charlotte Webb, coordinator of elementary education for the state Department of Education and state leader for the West Virginia Leaders of Literacy: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a statewide initiative that seeks to raise the third-grade proficiency rate among Mountain State students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to 66 percent over the next five school years.
. . .We are pleased that there is widespread bipartisan support for increased investment in high-quality early childhood education programs in this year’s state budget. Both Gov. Tom Wolf and House and Senate Republicans have proposed significant investments in these programs — $120 million and $30 million, respectively.
Such an investment would help many additional at-risk children gain access to curricula and services critical for developing into the skilled workers of tomorrow. . .
So, how do we help employers find workers to suit their needs? An important answer lies in quality early childhood education. Approximately 90 percent of the brain is developed by age 5. Tests measuring different forms of executive function skills indicate that these skills begin to develop shortly after birth, with ages 3 to 5 being a window of opportunity for the most dramatic growth.
Kindergartners who share, cooperate and are helpful are more likely to have a college degree and a job 20 years later than children who lack those social skills, according to a new study. Kids who get along well with others also are less likely to have substance-abuse problems and run-ins with the law. The research, which involved tracking nearly 800 students for two decades, suggests that specific social-emotional skills among young children can be powerful predictors for success later in life. . .
Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said the study shows that schools can’t just be concerned with teaching social-emotional skills — that’s too broad a category. The study did not find strong correlations between aggressive behavior, for example, and later life outcomes. “We’ve got to be very fine-tuned about what exactly it is we need to help kids with,” he said.
Generations of Alabamians have improved their lives through education. The primary focus on K-12 education, however, short changes children who are not adequately prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn. In recent years, we have found that school success and the foundation for adult productivity depend on an early introduction to learning.
All children deserve a strong start. But in far too many communities, children in poverty miss out. Without access to high-quality early learning programs, they fall behind. Many never catch up. . .
Just recently, Alabama's First Class Pre-K was once again recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research for meeting all 10 of NIEER's research-based quality standards. This is the ninth year in a row that Alabama has received this number-one-in-the-nation recognition for pre-k quality.
Below are seven examples of what $12 billion construction budget could cover in a world where education and social services are valued above installing fish tanks behind home plate and exclusive above-field swimming pools.
1. School lunches. According to the School Nutrition Association, the public money spent on sport facilities could cover virtually the entire cost of the federal funds that subsidize national school lunch program every year.
2. Food benefits. Ten years-worth of stadium renovations could cover a year of supplemental nutrition assistance program food benefits to roughly eight million people, based on SNAP average monthly benefits.
3. Addiction treatment. Twelve billion dollars could provide year-long methadone maintenance treatment to over 2.5 million people struggling with drug addiction, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
4. Early childhood education. According to research from the National Institute for Early Education, the amount of money allocated for sport facility renovations could cover a preschool education for every three and four-year-old living under the national poverty line.
Despite the clear benefits, for thousands of children from low- to moderate-income families in Southeastern Pennsylvania and throughout the commonwealth, access to high-quality early learning is simply not an option. According the National Institute of Early Education Research, only four of every 10 4-year-olds in America are enrolled in public prekindergarten, and almost half of all children served attend programs that were not considered high-quality.
That is why, as the Senate considers the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, I have introduced the Strong Start for America's Children Act as an amendment. My legislation would ensure that more than 3 million children in our nation would have access to high-quality early learning, including 93,000 Pennsylvanians. The amendment creates a federal-state partnership to provide access to high-quality public prekindergarten for low- and moderate-income families across the nation. This means that a family of four, earning up to $48,500 a year, would have this opportunity for their children.
That's the case elsewhere in the U.S., too. The number of family child care facilities dropped about 12 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to a recent report. Over the same period, commercial day cares also declined by about 4 percent.
Even with the recent economic rebound, the day care industry still struggles. As people started going back to work, women in particular were finding low-wage work — "shift work, hospitality jobs that weren't affording them the high price of child care," says Mary Beth Testa, a lobbyist for the National Association for Family Child Care.
In a era where restaurant reviews, hotel ratings, and other crowd-sourced information is available at a mouse click or finger-swipe, finding out information on local day cares or preschools is rarely that easy.
Many child-care and early-education providers don't have websites, and if they do, they might not list basic information, like price. If parents have more than one care option, they may weigh them on "feel" alone, rather than in addition to hard facts on factors such as adult-to-child ratios, caregiver qualifications, or inspection results.
Debate on the bipartisan reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, officially known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), will resume Wednesday on the U.S. Senate floor. . . . Another important priority for Democrats is a universal pre-k amendment, offered by Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. Casey asked for unanimous consent to call up the amendment Tuesday morning but Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) opposed it and asked Casey and other sponsors come up with a different way to pay for the amendment. The amendment would close the corporate tax inversions loophole, which would provide around $30 billion in funding.
On Tuesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will block a Wednesday vote to end debate if necessary because he wants to have time for Democrats to debate their amendments – a sentiment Murray agreed with.
“We’re going to have to have a reasonable time to debate those amendments and have votes on those amendments. Otherwise we’re not going to complete this bill,” Reid said, according to The Hill. Murray has included pre-k in the three amendments she would like to see debated.
"Mass incarceration makes our communities worse off, and we need to do something about it," President Obama declared at the 106th NAACP Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, before laying out the steps he'd like to see Washington take to address the problem. . .
Meanwhile, incarceration comes at a huge cost to taxpayers -- specifically $80 billion a year. For that much money, Mr. Obama said, "We could have universal preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old in America... We could double the salary of every high school teacher in America." Reforming the system, the president said, should happen in three areas: "In the community, the courtroom and in the cell block."
The slow progress of early childhood legislation is not surprising. It has historically moved at a gradual pace as states make small adjustments to their preschool systems.
"Everything moved in a positive direction, but if you step back and say, 'What's the pace of growth?,' it's so slow,” Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, told Education Week in May.