Early Education in the News
Minnesota lawmakers are expected to consider a host of spending proposals when the session starts next month, including several aimed at early childhood education, if the projected $1.2 billion budget surplus holds up. Early childhood education advocates highlighted their funding needs Thursday in St. Paul, during a conference called the Children and Youth Issues Briefing. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who pushed unsuccessfully last year for universal preschool funding, won’t release his supplemental spending proposals until next month. But Lt. Gov. Tina Smith made it clear to the group that preschool is still part of the discussion.
“I’ve talked to parents and superintendents and kindergarten teachers, and I have actually never heard anybody say that they don’t think pre-k is a good idea, an idea that we need to move forward on for every family that wants it,” Smith said. “The truth is most school districts are offering preschool right now, with inadequate funding and with long waiting lists, because that’s what families want.”
Smith also emphasized the need to enact paid parental leave benefits for state employees and to increase funding for a government-subsidized child care program. House Republicans continue to resist Dayton’s push for universal preschool.
Early childhood education is getting a further boost from the state’s Democrat-led Senate, as a new package of bills announced yesterday would offer all-day kindergarten for all and provide tax credits for childcare expenses.
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, announced the series of bills to supplement another package announced last month that called for expanded preschool for students from low-income families.
In addition the all-day kindergarten and tax credits, the latest package – some of it recycled from previous bills – also includes more funding for after-school programs and home visitations, and even calls for creation of a new cabinet-level state Department of Early Childhood. The price tag, not including the tax credits, would be about $200 million a year, according to Ruiz’s office, including $78 million for all-day kindergarten.
Children with poor language skills at age five are significantly more likely to struggle with maths at age 11, a study for Save the Children suggests.
It found 21% of pupils who struggled with language as they began school, failed to meet the expected standards in national tests when they left.
The researchers said poor language skills had an effect on all children, regardless of family background.
Factors like parents' education and poverty were also tied to attainment.
Academics at the Institute of Education analysed the progress of 5,000 children using data from the Millennium Cohort Study and the National Pupil Database in England.
Many young children grow up without supportive home learning environments. One often cited study found that by the age of four, poor children hear about 30 million fewer words than wealthy children. This fissure manifests in great differences in children’s motor, social, emotional, literacy, and numeracy skills when they first start kindergarten, gaps that persist through school and into the labor market.
Unfortunately, parenting has proven to be difficult to change. Most programs for parents take the form of short workshops that bombard parents with information and expect them to operationalize new, complex behaviors consistently over long periods of time. These workshops often conflict with childcare or work, and so it is not surprising that many parents do not show up for the workshops when offered. Even for those who do attend, there is rarely a benefit.
QUINCY -- Julie Schuckman, director of Quincy's Early Childhood and Family Center, missed Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget speech Wednesday but was pleased to hear that education will be one of his funding priorities.
"Our budget for early childhood education increases state support by $75 million, a nearly 25 percent increase," Rauner told a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate. "With that level of funding, we'd keep more than 85,000 kids in preschool and create 2,900 more full-day preschool slots."
Schuckman couldn't say exactly how many more students a 25 percent hike in state spending would cover. She knows it would be a welcome turnaround for a program that has shrunk in recent years.
"Right now our Preschool for All Grant, which is the state program, has about 190 kids in it. That's down from about 300 kids four years ago," Schuckman said.
Dollar figures help tell that story, she said. Four years ago, the state sent about $1 million a year to Quincy's ECFC. This year, the state is providing about $600,000.
Rauner pledged to reverse that downward trend. He said the $393 million proposed in his 2017 budget for early childhood education would be the highest funding level in Illinois history.
At issue is a bill proposed by the Democratic governor that would put children from homeless families at the front of the line for free child care through the Care 4 Kids program. But because the governor has not proposed providing the $1.5 million needed to accommodate the added homeless children expected to sign up, families that make over a certain threshold would not get any subsidy when more people apply than the state budget provides for.
Subsidies are provided on a sliding scale depending on income. The cap for a single mom would be $36,000 a year, 50 percent of the state's median income. The advocacy community is torn.
"We should not choose the desperate versus the poor," Steven Hernández, the director of public policy and research with the Connecticut Commission on Children, testified. "The families most in need of our assistance are the families that are homeless," testified Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
This dilemma presents itself because the governor has proposed closing a looming $570-million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year almost entirely through budget cuts and has ruled out tax increases.
In local political circles, 2016 is quietly being described as the year of the tax. Voters will likely weigh four levies in November from Cincinnati Public Schools, Hamilton County Job & Family Services, Great Parks of Hamilton County, and Preschool Promise for universal preschool.
It is unclear exactly how much taxpayers will be asked to pay. Each group is finalizing how much money it needs and how it will present that need to voters. Final plans should be released to the public in late March or April.
Everyone is talking about numbers this session. Alaska’s budget deficit is nearly $3.5 billion. The Republican-led majority threatens to cut an additional $1 billion from state government spending. More than $3 million is slated to be cut from early childhood education, which would decimate effective programs like Parents as Teachers, the Imagination Library and pre-K in Alaska. Alaska currently has a modest pre-K program. If we implemented universal pre-K, it would cost about $6,700 per student per year. The average cost of housing an inmate in prison in Alaska is a whopping $57,670 per year -- $158 per day. The Department of Corrections costs the state more than $300 million and houses about 5,000 inmates per year. In contrast, universal pre-K could serve 10,000 Alaska children for $70 million.
High-risk youth who don’t participate in early education programs are 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. In addition, they are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a pregnant teen, and 60 percent more likely not to go to college. Want more numbers? It is estimated about $2 billion could be gained by families as a result of putting their children through early learning services. Individuals who were enrolled in quality preschool education tend to earn around $2,000 more per month than those who were not.
“New York’s approach is a model for how to collect and analyze data to inform practice, to bring the system to the highest quality,” said Pamela Morris, a professor at New York University who is studying how well teachers are using a rigorous new math curriculum. The city’s preschool program scores higher than the national average on assessments of the learning environment, according to data prepared by an independent research group as well as appraisals of the all-important interactions between teachers and kids. Parents give it a thumbs up, with 92 percent rating their child’s experience as good or excellent. Not only has their youngsters’ learning greatly improved, parents report, they are also better behaved.
Early education cannot work miracles. For the gains made by these 4-year-olds to stick, there must be a smooth path from prekindergarten through the first years of elementary school and beyond. What’s more, starting preschool earlier, at age 3, has been shown to have a substantial impact, especially for kids from poor families, but at present public prekindergarten is available only to 4-year-olds.
Although universal pre-K is off to an impressive start, it’s still a work in progress. But already educators can learn a lot from the city’s having achieved the seemingly impossible: delivering good prekindergarten to so many children so quickly.
From the very first State of Preschool Yearbook, NIEER tried to be quite clear about what the benchmarks do and do not mean: “These benchmarks do not represent a high standard of excellence, but are viewed as important minimums for an educationally effective preschool program…”. We added: “This checklist should not be interpreted as implying that these are the only aspects of a program that are important for quality.” NIEER also has emphasized that the 10 are not all equal so that simply adding them up does not provide a strong basis for comparing states even on these aspects of quality.
As we continue to survey states and publish the State of Preschool we will change the benchmarks to reflect new research and the evolution of state pre-K (though it will still be possible to calculate the old benchmarks to track change over time). We are the process of considering major changes for the 2015-16 survey and report. In addition, we are examining the feasibility of introducing a fourth major element in the report: a more direct indicator of teacher-child interactions. This will not obviate the need for the benchmarks for standards–even if we had such measures for every state they also are less than perfect–but it will help focus attention on quality beyond the benchmarks. Stay tuned.
Despite additional funding in last year’s bipartisan federal spending bill, early childhood education in Massachusetts continues to be shortchanged. It’s time the state Legislature and Baker administration address the unintended consequences of well-intended actions that are producing perverse and far-reaching results.
Standards issued in 2003 by the Early Childhood Advisory Council under its then-chairman (and current secretary of education and Early Education and Care board chairman) James Peyser include the requirement that by 2017 newly hired teachers working with 3- and 4-year-old children have a bachelor’s degree. The 81-page standards document noted, “Teachers in child care and Head Start programs are not paid sufficiently to attract and retain professionals with degrees.”
When four-year-olds in the state’s low-income preschool program were evaluated in the fall of 2014, only 30 percent had early literacy skills (like knowing the alphabet) showing they were ready for kindergarten.
By the end of their preschool year, 88 percent had those skills, according to a new report from the state’s Department of Early Learning. The rate for about three-quarters of the state’s incoming kindergartners — the ones who are evaluated using the state’s WaKIDS assessment last fall — was 81 percent.
Kids in the state preschool program made even greater strides in developing social and emotional skills. Only 39 percent were deemed ready in that area when they started preschool in the fall. By the spring, 92 percent had those skills, compared with the WaKIDS average of 73 percent . The state-preschool children also showed similar improvement in language, cognitive and physical skills.
President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for 2016-17 promises more support for early childhood programs, including increased funding for child care and preschools.
The budget includes $1.3 billion toward the president’s goal of ensuring that all low-income 4-year-olds in the nation have access to high-quality preschool programs. The Preschool for All initiative would be funded by increases in tobacco taxes.
“Real opportunity begins with education,” Obama said in his budget message. “My budget supports the ambitious goal that all children should have access to high-quality preschool, including kids from low-income families who too often enter kindergarten already behind.”
This week, U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Military Child Care Protection Act of 2016. The bipartisan bill would improve standards for child care centers on military bases by bringing them in line with the standards for other child care centers that receive federal dollars.
Burr also was a sponsor of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, which put into law the highest standards for criminal background checks of employers receiving federal child care dollars.
The Santa Monica Cradle to Career initiative has singled out preparation for kindergarten as a priority as it strives to improve youth wellbeing. In June, the school board approved an agreement between the district and Santa Monica College to establish a collaborative preschool program that would serve 108 area children under age 6 at John Adams Child Development Center and Washington West Preschool.
President Obama noted the importance of pre-kindergarten programs in his last State of the Union address. A recent report by the nonprofit American Institutes for Research shows that preschool and transitional kindergarten opportunities give students advantages over their peers.
“Without access to high-quality school readiness programs, low-income children, children of color and English learners enter school at a disadvantage,” reads a statement by Early Edge California, an education advocacy group, “and those who start behind often stay behind.”
The Obama administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2017 would provide more money for early-childhood efforts through a variety of programs.
Citing the benefits of early childhood education, New Jersey lawmakers on Tuesday announced plans to seek $110 million for expanding public preschool in New Jersey. The proposal, backed by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, would allow dozens of low-income school districts to apply for state funding for full-day preschool programs.
"Budgeting is about priorities and we have to seek what our priorities are," Prieto (D-Hudson) said at a news conference at Clifton School #17. "This is something that is essential, is crucial to our children."
Prieto and the bill's primary sponsor, Mila Jasey, said that including more funding for preschool in the next state budget will be a challenge. New Jersey is struggling to keep up with rising pension and health care costs while trying to find revenue for its dwindling Transportation Trust Fund. The $110 million would come from the state's property tax relief fund, according to the bill. "It's not going to be easy," Jasey (D-Essex) said. "It's going to require cooperation across the aisle."
The first bills calling for expansion of preschool in the state – a priority for New Jersey’s Democratic leadership -- were filed last week in both Senate and Assembly. State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the Senate’s education committee, filed two bills.
The first bill would allocate $103 million toward establishing two years of full-day preschool in 17 communities, with preference given to low-income districts. The other, the Early Childhood Innovation Act, would establish a pilot loan fund through the Economic Development Authority that would allow private funders to leverage their money to establish preschool programs operated by non-government organizations.
Hundreds rallied Friday in support of the state’s public education system.
They’re advocating for a bill created by the Hawaii State Teachers Association that they say will drastically improve the school system.
Senate Bill 2586 is a 10-part education omnibus bill that focuses on . . . 10 principles [including preschool].