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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report, “Building a Foundation for Success,” looks at the unmet preschool needs of children in the commonwealth — and proposes three ways that Massachusetts might expand its preschool programs to create more access.

Released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), a nonprofit research organization, the report examines the number of preschool-age children in Massachusetts and the public funding streams that support their enrollment. The report costs out “a range of options for expanding and improving early education and care for these 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts.” The options proposed range in cost from $153 million to $606 million in increased annual state funding on top of what is currently being spent. This increased state funding would be bolstered by non-state sources such as sliding scale parent fees or local education funding, depending on the model used.

“Right now we have a very fragmented system and that leaves many kids without access to any early education at all,” Noah Berger, MassBudget’s president, told the Boston Globe. However, Berger added that there was a growing consensus that a wide expansion of early education options was good for children and for the economy.

Carolyn Lyons, Strategies for Children president and CEO, is encouraged by the report. “This new report by MassBudget builds upon ongoing state and local policy conversations across the commonwealth on how to pay for and structure high-quality universal pre-k. Research shows that high-quality early education has (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last month, President Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper,” a promising, new initiative to help “every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead.”

As part of his announcement for the initiative, the president highlighted early learning, touching on research on the early vocabulary gap, kindergarten readiness, and third grade reading proficiency.

For Obama, the initiative is personal. At the event launching the initiative, the president talked about growing up without a father and about his own poor choices, including drug use and taking school less seriously than he could have.

“The only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving,” the president said. He had the support of his mother and grandparents as well as encouragement from a community that gave him second and third chances. “They never gave up on me. And so I didn’t give up on myself.”

Joining the president is a group of foundations that have united to support the new initiative. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the Open Society Foundations, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — have made a $150 million commitment to “My Brother’s Keeper,” and they will be working over the next three months to design a strategy and infrastructure for these investments. (more…)

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“We know — and this is part of the reason why we’re here today — that education has to start at the earliest possible ages. So this budget expands access to the kind of high-quality preschool and other learning programs to give all of our children the same kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are getting right here at Powell.”

President Barack Obama explaining his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. The White House Blog. March 4, 2014

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budgetOn Tuesday, President Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, calling once again for significant new and ongoing investments in high-quality early education and care. The proposal closely mirrored his 2014 budget proposal for preschool. [Congress did not fund that proposal in full, but did include funding increases for early education in the final FY14 budget].

The President’s FY15 budget request includes $75 billion over 10 years — starting with $1.3 billion in 2015 — for mandatory funding for a Preschool for All initiative for four-year-olds. The budget also includes $750 million for competitively awarded Preschool Development Grants, as well as increases for Head Start, home visiting, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Strategies for Children president and CEO Carolyn Lyons applauded the president’s goals. “Once again, President Obama has made high-quality early education a priority in his budget proposal. In addition to state and local funding, federal resources are critical to ensuring that every child has the foundation they need to be successful. We urge Congress to support the president’s request.We also ask the Massachusetts Legislature to continue its support of early education so that the commonwealth is well-poised to take advantage of any federal funds that become available.” (more…)

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Massachusetts sealMassachusetts’ education governance structure — which through the education secretariat links the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) — provides an exciting opportunity to align resources and policies to address longstanding achievement gaps and improve outcomes for children. These alignment opportunities were the subject of Monday night’s first joint meeting between the boards of EEC and DESE.

Before a packed audience and members of both boards, Matthew Malone, the Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth who also serves on both boards, opened the meeting. He highlighted the importance of this joint meeting and the commonwealth’s collective responsibility to focus on children’s earliest years, birth through eight. He pointed out that there is “no better way” to close the achievement gap than “investing in early childhood.”

During the meeting, the boards heard about several promising initiatives including:

  • implementation of the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment system
  • the National Governors Association Policy Academy, and
  • the Early Literacy Expert Panel, which was created through the enactment of An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, legislation SFC helped to craft and support

(more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Last month, six states heard great news from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont learned that they would receive a combined $281 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund “to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states,” according to a press release.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.

Duncan thanked “governors, state officials, and education advocates” for their leadership, adding, “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do.”

“This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “An investment in our children is an investment in our nation’s future.” (more…)

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U.S. CapitolOn Monday evening, Congress reached agreement on federal spending through a 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The budget agreement brought exciting news for early childhood, and now we need advocates like you to take action and tell Congress to approve the budget deal.

The Congressional deal could increase funding for early childhood programs by $1.5 billion over post-sequestration levels.  It would be a welcome victory – but only if the House and Senate approve the deal. The bill includes significant increases in funding for early education, despite a very austere budget context.

Please take one minute to send an email to your elected officials and let them know you support early learning.

Phone calls help too. As the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) explains in a policy update, you should ask your representatives to “vote YES on the omnibus appropriations bill. Your calls are important to make sure that all members of Congress support the passage of the bill.”

NAEYC points to the following funding highlights and post-sequestration increases:

- $1.025 billion increase for Head Start, including:

- $400 million for Head Start

- $100 million for COLA

- $25 million for redesignation activities

- $500 million to expand Early Head Start and for new discretionary Early Head Start /Child Care Partnership grants

- $154 million increase for the Child Care & Development Block Grant

- $250 million for the preschool development grants

- $158 million total to maintain the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grants

- $18 million increase for Part C early intervention grants

- $194 million increase for WIC

In addition to allocating funds, the bill calls on the U.S. Department of Education to collect and share the best research and practices on improving public early learning settings through “planning, design, financing, construction, improvement, operation, and maintenance of safe, healthy, high-performance” facilities.

For more information, visit our partners NAEYC and National Women’s Law Center. Follow us on twitter @EarlyEd4All for additional federal updates as they develop.

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Note: Best wishes to all for a happy holiday season. Eye on Early Education will resume publication on January 6, 2014.

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“Yes, there’s a budget deal. But our work is far from over!”

That’s the message the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is sending about the deal that was made by Budget Committee Chairs Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI).

“The total deal is $85 billion. About $45 billion of that replaces sequestration cuts in 2014,” the Washington Post explains in this summary.  The deal, which has been approved by the House and the Senate, would fund the federal government for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

It’s welcome progress, but this deal only patches holes. It does not create new programs.

Now is the time to contact members of Congress and tell them that the country needs new investments in high-quality early education programs that prepare children for lifelong success. (more…)

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“In this application, Vermont seeks to apply innovative thinking to developing productive people, starting in infancy. We believe that for a child to arrive at the schoolhouse door ready to succeed in school and in life, she must enter that door with vibrant health, emotional security, social competence, curiosity and capability. We know from experience and from ever growing scientific evidence that, while this is the potential for all children, it is only realized when families, communities, public and private investors, and state policymakers collectively commit to assuring children’s safety, health, optimal development and access to developmentally beneficial early learning and development programs and services.”

Vermont’s application for a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant, October 11, 2013

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Vermont’s application has been awarded $37 million. Applications from Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have also received awards.

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This blog below was originally published on December 19, 2011. To read more blog posts about the Early Learning Challenge grant click here. 

Massachusetts, one of nine states awarded grants from the competitive federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge, will receive the full $50 million over four years for which it was eligible. The commonwealth, with 267 points of a possible 300 points, had the second highest score of the 35 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that applied for the $500 million program. North Carolina, with 269.6 points, was top scorer.

Each application was scored by five reviewers (reviewers’ comments and scores (PDF). Here is a summary of the scoring for Massachusetts (score sheet (PDF):

(more…)

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