Early Education in the News
A county fact sheet says the defining purpose of the countywide levy, on the ballot as Proposition 1, is to invest in “prevention and early intervention for children, youth, families and communities.” The county further names a wide range of aims to be addressed, from improving the health of newborns to identifying depression in adolescents to helping stave off homelessness.
The investments, though, are spelled out only in the broadest of strokes, mainly in terms of the ages that are to be targeted.
Roughly half the money would go to prenatal care and children under 5. Thirty-five percent would aid older kids and even young adults up to age 24 — in recognition, according to the county, that early gains need to be sustained throughout the period that young people’s brains are still developing.
The remainder would help create “safe and healthy communities” as well as a multimillion-dollar evaluation system.
Critical swing voters would support a presidential candidate who endorses investments in early-childhood education.
Sixty-nine percent of Latinos, 62 percent of millennials, and 57 percent of those who identify as moderate would be impressed with a candidate who supports such investments, according to a new poll from the First Five Years Fund.
“This is an area where people clearly see a need,” said Jay Campbell, a senior vice president at Hart Research Associates, a Democratic polling team that partnered with the Republican Public Opinion Strategies polling firm to conduct the survey, during a call with reporters. Whether a person has a child makes little difference in their views.
Beyond swing voters, there is broad bipartisan support for increasing federal investments to help states bolster early-childhood education for low- and moderate-income families. Nearly 60 percent of Republicans support the idea, with 86 percent of Latinos and 87 percent of millennials also backing the proposal.
One key to successful preschool is that is has to be high quality: that means well-educated, well-paid teachers and thoughtful programs. It’s not cheap.
But it’s worth it. Every dollar invested in preschool saves as much as $17 down the road.
And while it’s expensive, we have the resources. If taxpayers with incomes over $500,000 paid between 0.1% and 1.4% more of their income in taxes (with the highest increase for folks with over $10 million in income), it would cover the president’s proposal to spend $750 billion over the next ten years on preschool for all of our children.
As a country, we pay plenty in taxes when we decide something is important. In 2014, we spent $628 billion on the military – that’s 90 times as much as we spent on Head Start.
It’s time to get serious about what families need in the 21st century: it’s time for us to recognize that preschool is essential for our kids, our families, and our economy.
In very young humans, whose brains and other internal networks still are developing, such stress can have lifelong consequences in large part because of how the stress hormone cortisol affects the brain's structure and circuitry. Long-term exposure can contribute to mental health disorders, learning problems, inability to regulate emotions and a cascade of other troubles, researchers say.
But researchers also know that nurturing relationships with caregivers can relieve such stress in children and even reverse some of the damage done by such situations.
That's why child advocates and researchers around the nation – including a team led by Jason Hustedt, assistant professor in the University of Delaware'sDepartment of Human Development and Family Studies – are looking for effective ways to help families and caregivers build healthy, supportive relationships with the children in their care. Stronger relationships may be precisely the foundational shift children need to overcome the effects of harmful stressors such as conditions of poverty, abuse and/or neglect.
The University's Starting At Home project led by Hustedt is part of the federally funded Buffering Toxic Stress Consortium, which also includes five other research projects to evaluate promising approaches to reducing high stress levels in children.
Federal funds are paying for an expansion of pre-school programs in Springfield, Massachusetts, where children from poor families have historically struggled academically and dropped out before graduating from high school.
A $2 million federal grant will open 11 additional Head Start classrooms for infants and toddlers from low- income families in Springfield. Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who announced the funding, praised Head Start as a last vestige from the Great Society programs of the 1960s.
" The legacy is millions of people across the country who got a jump start in terms of education," said Neal.
The measure by which we judge which investments are worthwhile as a citizenry is how much time we spend, energy we expel, and the amount of resources we dedicate in the hope of future benefits.
It should be axiomatic that investment in early childhood education is sound policy and will yield far-reaching economic returns. Unfortunately our underfunded preschool programs and the limited resources provided to early childhood education say otherwise.
Steve Adubato sits down with parents, educators, and administrators to discuss the importance of family education programs and being an involved parent in early childhood. Guests include Donna Pressma, President and CEO, Children’s Home Society of New Jersey; Mark Mautone, Parent & 2015 New Jersey Teacher of the Year; Veronica Ray, President, New Jersey Head Start Association; and Shannon Ayers, Associate Research Professor, National Institute for Early Education Research.
About 50 Republican legislators implored Montana's congressional delegation to reject $40 million in federal preschool grant funding in an August letter. The move left Gov. Steve Bullock literally throwing up his hands while speaking to teachers recently. Bullock pushed a failed state-funded preschool initiative this fall.
He joked that he was pretty sure Republican legislators hated him, not 4-year-olds, when they refused to add a $37 million proposal to fund a 4-year-old preschool program in the state budget while hammering out a deal in April.
After seeing the letter, "I start to worry that some of them might hate 4-year-olds too," he said.
The Pritzker Children's Initiative of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation and The Bridgespan Group released a new paper that estimates that 1 in 4 kindergarteners nationwide – 1 million total – come from low-income families and enter school not fully ready to learn. In response to this overwhelming statistic, a new guide for funders outlines numerous specific, evidence-based, early childhood investment opportunities that have been shown to help ensure children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn so that they achieve success throughout their lives.
Nationwide, there are more expulsions in preschool than any other grade level. In Missouri, one out of every 10 preschool-age children is expelled. Deeper into that statistic, African American boys are three times more likely to be expelled than other children in preschool.
“We need to have schools ready for children, not children ready for schools, particularly in preschool,” Zwolak said on Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air.” “We need to be prepared to receive children who are coming from many different backgrounds. And we need to tool up teachers on what that really means for them.”
Preschool classrooms, Mr. Deming said, look a lot like the modern work world. Children move from art projects to science experiments to the playground in small groups, and their most important skills are sharing and negotiating with others. But that soon ends, replaced by lecture-style teaching of hard skills, with less peer interaction.
Work, meanwhile, has become more like preschool.
Jobs that require both socializing and thinking, especially mathematically, have fared best in employment and pay, Mr. Deming found. They include those held by doctors and engineers. The jobs that require social skills but not math skills have also grown; lawyers and child-care workers are an example. The jobs that have been rapidly disappearing are those that require neither social nor math skills, like manual labor.
"There is widespread consensus among the business community, and growing bipartisan consensus among public officials, that investments in early childhood are the best long-term investments we can make in our workforce, in our educational system and the overall well-being of our commonwealth,” he said.
Koonce spoke at a meeting on the economics of early childhood education hosted by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce at the University of Richmond.
Virginia’s economy will need more than 2 million new workers over the next 10 years, he said. Businesses have traditionally devoted resources to training adults for jobs, he said, “but it is a equally, if not more important, for the private sector to be involved at the start of the pipeline.”
He said businesses and public officials need to consider how resources might better be allocated to serve “high-quality pre-K programs that have accountability and performance measurements in place.”
The quality of early childhood education can be linked to educational outcomes later in life, said John Weinberg, a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Now, Gates's focus appears to be getting more specific. In our email exchange, Weber described Gates's new focus this way: "Our work will have a specific focus on improving the provision of high-quality pre-K for three- and four-year-olds as well as supporting a well-prepared and compensated workforce."
This explains the foundation's recent grant for $100,000 to the Institute of Medicine in October 2014 to support a study that will "inform a national framework for strengthening the capacity of parents of young children, birth to age eight."
Another key point about Gates's ECE strategy, as Sarah Weber put it: "We do not expect to provide grants to direct service providers." Rather, the foundation hopes to work with city, state, and federal partners to develop promising programs and to couple workforce development efforts with high-quality child care options.
This intrigued me, so I asked Weber if I could get some more details. I wanted to get a sense of what the pairing of workforce development granting with ECE grantmaking would look like. But right now, the foundation is not ready to answer those kinds of questions. We will keep checking with them, though, to find out more when the picture becomes clearer.
I also wanted to know more about Gates's exemplar programs. To learn about that, Weber referred me to this study commissioned by the Gates Foundation and written by James Minervino, which describes in great detail the four exemplar programs that Gates is using to shape quality early learning. Some key findings? All exemplar programs have two adults in the classroom, and all exemplar programs have no more than 22 children in the classroom. Another key finding: Quality pre-K thrives in an environment where political leaders are active on the issue, particularly mayors and governors.
Democrat Sannie Overly promised a Jack Conway administration would spend more money on public preschool programs while Republican Jenean Hampton said it was a "non-issue" for Matt Bevin during a statewide televised debate of Kentucky's major party nominees for lieutenant governor just two weeks before the election.
"This whole issue, this is a non-issue for us. This wasn't even on our radar," Hampton said when asked if a Bevin administration would provide public preschool programs in Kentucky. "The reason the Conway camp is blowing this out of proportion is they have no other substance to offer. So they do what they always do, which is deflect attention from the real problems in Kentucky."
After the debate, Hampton told The Associated Press she meant that cutting spending for public preschool programs was the non-issue, saying "it wasn't even on our radar for budget cuts or anything else."
"I rose out of poverty. Obviously I care about kids education," said Hampton, who was raised in Detroit by a single mother who could not afford a television or a car.
In 1992, the National Bureau of Economic Research began a 10-year study of the personalities of 1,420 low-income children in western North Carolina.
When researchers revisited some of their data last month, they noticed a trend they hadn't studied before: When the financial condition of the children's families improved, so did their behavior.
In 1997, a casino opened on the North Carolina's Eastern Cherokee reservation. The tribal-owned casino distributed profits evenly to each adult tribal member. During the study, these semiannual payments averaged $2,000 and gave a quarter of the study's families a major income boost.
Every year, the researchers asked parents comprehensive questions about the behavior of their children. They used this data to identify trends in how the children's personalities evolved. They found children of parents who received casino money had a measured increase in their conscientiousness (their tendency to be organized, responsible and hardworking) as well as their agreeableness (tendency to act in a cooperative and unselfish manner).
And the change was more pronounced for children whose casino payments made the biggest financial impact.
Lawmakers are moved by the data -- studies that show children are better prepared when they start school and that each dollar invested results in a $7 return -- but they are also moved by personal, face-to-face stories of what the program did for their constituent's children or the frustration of not having it available, Poole said.
"Legislators need to hear the results, they need to hear the needs," Poole said.
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its Pre-K Task Force are leading a 10 year, $125 million campaign to fully fund First Class Pre-K by 2023. Accomplishing that will require advocates to make their voices heard, Bridgeforth said.
"There is no substitute for advocacy," Bridgeforth said. "We have to continue to urge legislators to make Pre-k a priority."
When it comes to programs designed to care for children, New Jersey is among the best in the nation in some areas, however, more work still needs to be done.
One of the state’s leading child advocates said Jersey’s preschool and child insurance programs are very good, but worries remain about the state’s rapidly rising child poverty rate and child care costs.
“In our state-funded preschool program we serve more children in a high quality program than pretty much any other state both in terms of the number of children and the quality of the program,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).
Each fall, a new crop of preschoolers sets out for their first taste of formal education. Usually, this means kids in classrooms, playing with blocks, painting, and training their bodies to sit still for what will be the next 13 years in a classroom. But right now a new experiment in early education is playing out in parks around Seattle, Washington. At Fiddleheads Forest School, three and four-year-olds will spend their whole school day outside — playing in the mud, climbing over logs, and learning about bugs and birds. Even in famously rainy Seattle, there are no buildings for this school. If there’s a storm, they take cover in a greenhouse.
The Fiddleheads “classroom” is a clearing under a canopy of cedar, fir, and maple trees in Washington Park Arboretum. Sprinkled around the clearing are different “stations” — a circle of logs to sit and eat lunch on, several more upturned cedar logs that are being used as tables for painting or for reading. The “Science,” station has laminated cards diagraming the life cycle of a preying mantis, a microscope, and a plastic terrarium to entomb the students’ captured crickets.
The $1 million of funding will be used to make sure thousands of 3-year-olds are screened for health and development issues as part of a program called Screen @ Three. The initiative will ensure that an extra 7,000 children are screened by 2018.
Generation Next officials say that early childhood screening helps connect kids to needed services at an earlier age so they are ready for kindergarten. They say the majority of 3-year-olds in Minneapolis and St. Paul are not screened.
The other $3 million will be used to help improve the quality of child care access across the two cities in partnership with an initiative called Think Small. Generation Next officials say that kids who attend high-quality child care are nearly twice as likely to be school ready as those who don’t, so the money will help prepare an additional 1,700 kids for kindergarten over the next three years.
The money will be used to offer child care providers extra training and resources.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher on Thursday provided a key victory to a coalition of parents, educators and city leaders suing the state when he rejected the state's request to exclude evidence related to preschool from a trial that will determine whether the state is spending enough on education overall.
"What is the testimony about preschool evidence with respect to how it effects primary school and secondary school education? It's hard for me to make a ruling on that until I hear evidence," Moukawsher told lawyers representing the state and those representing the Coalition for Justice in Education Funding. "I will hear the evidence and maybe it will convince me that its so tightly connected to primary and secondary schools that it is appropriate."
The state still has a long way to go before it reaches universal preschool for the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds. State officials reported earlier this year that 10,109 children from low-income families — nearly one-third of poor students — cannot afford to enroll in a high-quality preschool program. To provide universal access to preschool, districts would have to add 814 preschool classrooms.