The gubernatorial election is heating up and as the candidates debate the issues, early education is getting plenty of well-deserved attention.
On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, it will be up to voters to pick the next governor, but once they do, we’ve got good advice for the man or woman who gets elected.
A Strategies for Children brief called, “Early Education Policy Opportunities for the Next Governor,” provides essential next steps that Massachusetts should take.
Massachusetts is a leader in early education. In 2005, the state established the Department of Early Education and Care. In 2010, the state won a federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. And thanks to years of work, the state has built a foundation for a system of high-quality early education that aligns with the K-12 system.
To keep up, however, Massachusetts must close nagging opportunity gaps so that all children have the chance to first become kindergarten-ready and go on to become proficient third grade readers who can succeed in school and life.
So, what has to be done?
“As momentum for pre-kindergarten funding builds at the federal level, state policymakers should continue to build a high-quality early learning system in
Massachusetts so we will be prepared to take advantage of federal opportunities,” the brief explains.
Some key economic and demographic facts:
• “Massachusetts has the most expensive child care costs in the nation, averaging nearly $12,000 per year for a 4-year-old.”
• “There are 752,774 children age 9 and younger living in Massachusetts, including nearly 450,000 under six.”
• “An estimated 60 percent of preschool age (3- and 4-year-old) children are enrolled in a formal early education and care program, but in our core urban areas the rate is much lower.” As our “preschool pie chart” shows, parent fees still make up a majority of the funding base for early education and care.
Among the steps the next governor should take to improve preschool:
• “Provide access to high-quality early education for all children, beginning with those from low-income families on the state’s subsidy waitlist, and the high need populations in our Gateway Cities.”
• “Ensure that all programs meet quality standards by channeling quality support funding through the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.”
To improve kindergarten readiness, the next governor should:
• “Work with state agencies, researchers, and practitioners to establish a statewide, developmentally appropriate definition of kindergarten readiness.”
• “Leverage data to monitor individual children’s development and resource connectivity through a statewide database.”
• To boost third grade reading proficiency, the next governor should:
• “Support the forthcoming recommendations of the Early Literacy Expert Panel, established in state law through An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency (2012).”
• “Establish best practices in early literacy professional development for adults working with children birth-8, so that costly efforts are aligned, research-based, data driven, and lead to continuous improvement.”
To read more about how the next governor could give the state’s children a vibrant start, read the brief. And when our new governor is elected, please tell him or her that strong leadership is essential if Massachusetts is going to have an educational system that helps our youngest children grow into capable, productive adults.