Early Education in the News
Tens of thousands more American babies, toddlers and preschoolers would be eligible for early childhood programs under a budget deal reached by lawmakers that advocates hailed as an encouraging sign that Congress is committed to early education programs.
The percentage of kindergartners attending full-day programs has grown from about 10 percent in the 1970s to about 76 percent in 2012, with a steep increase between 2002 and 2006, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit research center. While some programs took a hit during the recession, several states have taken action recently to expand access to full-day kindergarten. Part-day kindergarten typically last two or three hours, while full-day kindergarten can range from four to seven hours.
California lawmakers are proposing a plan to create a universal free preschool for 4-year-olds in an attempt to enroll more children from immigrant and low-income families, but some Marin County education officials aren't in unanimous support of the proposal. The program would be voluntary, just as kindergarten is in the state. It would phase in over five years beginning in the 2015-16 school year and could cost the state $1 billion annually when fully implemented — adding an estimated 350,000 children to public schools.
The $65 million Gov. Rick Snyder put toward expanding preschool access across Michigan last year was the largest spending increase in the country, the Education Commission of the States said Monday. Snyder expanded the Great Start Readiness Program's budget by 59.5 percent for 2013, which was the fourth-largest percentage increase, but the $65 million allocation was the largest dollar figure expansion nationwide. A total of 30 states and the District of Columbia increased spending last fiscal year, the commission's analysis stated, while funding in seven states declined. Overall, states spent more than $5.6 billion on preschool last fiscal year, an increase of about $360 million over fiscal year 2012-2013.
Democratic and some Republican advocates for state-supported preschool Monday intensified their push for a $1.4 million, five-school pilot program they hope will eventually open the door in Idaho to broader pre-kindergarten education....Across the nation, states spent about $5.1 billion on pre-K programs in 2012. Idaho is one of 10 states without a state-funded pre-K program, according to the advocacy group National Institute for Early Education Research.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to create a universal preschool program for the city's 4-year-olds—through a tax on the city's highest earners—is the latest example of city leaders around the country taking early-childhood education into their own hands, sometimes well in advance of state or federal officials.
W. Steven Barnett, the executive director of [NIEER], says the tax proposal allows a dedicated funding stream for the program, rather than relying on the priorities of the state legislators. "If you go to Albany, they give you more money this year and take it away next year," he said. "The history in New York is that the rug has been pulled out from under programs pretty quickly."
While Connecticut's leaders have paid lip service to the value of high-quality preschool, they have not made a serious effort to address the inequity of preschool access in our state.....The truth is, Connecticut would not have had to look very far to find a successful model of high-quality preschool serving high-needs children. New Jersey's Abbott preschool program has been recognized nationally as a stellar example of high-quality preschool.
California lawmakers have embraced the idea of allowing every 4-year-old in the state to attend pre-kindergarten classes, greatly expanding a much smaller program to make what would be the most comprehensive pre-kindergarten curriculum in the country. Democratic caucuses in the Assembly and Senate this week introduced legislation on the subject and are calling universal pre-kindergarten a priority in upcoming budget talks. Gov. Jerry Brown has been silent about whether the program will be part of the spending plan he releases Friday, but advocates have made their case to the administration in recent months. . . "If you can figure out a way to pay for it, it certainly makes a lot of sense," said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "As the economy comes back, I do think you'll see more cities and states doing this."
National and state education activists made a call this week for stronger early childhood education in Pennsylvania, and some said they are preparing to sue the Commonwealth over fairer school funding. The comments came at a hearing Tuesday convened by Democratic Philadelphia legislators. ...W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, said that the achievement gap between students with different socio-economic backgrounds could be traced back to age 18 months and that high-quality preschool education achieves better cognitive development and could potentially close the achievement gap by half.
W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, echoed that argument, saying prekindergarten — still widely viewed as an optional form of instruction — would be more vulnerable to legislators’ whims. Referring to first graders, Mr. Barnett said: “If you’re 7 years old, you get to go to school. It doesn’t matter how tight the budget is.” Prekindergarten, he said, would not enjoy the same immunity.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is co-sponsoring legislation to provide transitional kindergarten to every 4-year-old child in California....Transitional kindergarten is currently available to 4-year-old students who have birthdays that fall too late in the calendar year to be eligible for kindergarten. The new bill would — if approved by legislators — expand that access to all 4-year-olds.
A top priority for the governor is a $4.5 million funding request for 32 preschool classrooms at 30 public schools in underserved or rural Hawaii communities. Executive Office on Early Learning Director GG Weisenfeld answered questions Monday about the request at an informational briefing of the state House Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The state Legislature reconvenes next week. The 30 schools where the pre-K classes will be established haven't been announced, but they will be in areas where there is limited access to private preschool programs. It's a piece of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's proposal for publicly funded universal preschool. Hawaii is one of few states without state-funded preschool.
A study by UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) shows that children who have lower English-language abilities than their classmates benefit most from programs like Head Start and public pre-k. How and why this is true are not so clear.
South Carolina has considered proposals to offer voluntary pre-kindergarten classes for all 4-year-olds, but those haven't been embraced by lawmakers. The state spent about $35.7 million to serve more than 29,000 pre-kindergartners in 2012, and the state ranked 39th nationally for its pre-K spending, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose funding full-day pre-kindergarten statewide, according to sources briefed on the governor's preparation for his State of the State address this week....One source said Cuomo would allocate $250 million for pre-K. ...The state Board of Regents proposed allocating $125 million for pre-K in its budget proposal, which asked for a $1.3 billion increase over the current fiscal year's funding level.
Only three out of 10 Washington children, ages 3 and 4, were enrolled in preschool programs that met minimum state standards last year. That is one of the widest early education gaps in the nation, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The good news is that educators and policymakers are increasingly recognizing early learning's role preparing young children for school. . . . Kids would benefit if the state could combine ECEAP and Working Connections funding into a single slot for a full day of high-quality early learning. The National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Washington's ECEAP program high for meeting nine out of 10 benchmarks for quality.
In the early 1990s, a team of researchers decided to follow about 40 volunteer families — some poor, some middle class, some rich — during the first three years of their new children's lives. Every month, the researchers recorded an hour of sound from the families' homes. Later in the lab, the team listened back and painstakingly tallied up the total number of words spoken in each household. What they found came to be known as the "word gap." It turned out, by the age of 3, children born into low-income families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.
Despite a push from prominent Indiana lawmakers who to want expand access to childcare and preschool programs, it may be difficult for the General Assembly to pass any such measures in a non-budget writing year, according to Bill Stanczykiewicz, CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. Stanczykiewicz says early childhood education will still be one of the hottest topics in the statehouse in 2014 with nearly a quarter of Indiana children living in poverty.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says he’s proud the state of Vermont is getting $36.9 million in federal grants to help improve early education programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. This is the third time these early learning grants have been issued. Fourteen other states were previous winners. In total, nearly $1 billion in grants has been distributed. Shumlin says it’s going to be the largest single investment in early childhood education in Vermont history.
Pennsylvania is getting a $51.7 million boost for early childhood education programs, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Thursday. It’s the largest federal grant the state has ever received to spend on programs for early learning, and reflects the state’s commitment to strengthening and increasing programs that help prevent students from falling too far behind by the time they reach third grade, Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said. “This is actually the next evolution,” Dumaresq said on a conference call with reporters. “This is where Pennsylvanians need to go.”