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“Congress is moving forward with a plan that would take critical early learning opportunities from the children who need it the most – delaying their learning by a year and missing an opportunity to chip away at the educational gaps that exist for children from low- and moderate-income families. These children and their families cannot afford to wait for Washington to decide whether or not they get the right start for success.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a U.S. Department of Education fact sheet, August 17, 2015

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

“Is the most precious thing in your life worth more than a poverty wage?” The Nation asks in a recent article called, “How Childcare Actually Causes Poverty in America.”

In other words, many of America’s young children are in preschool settings being taught and cared for by staff members who earn so little that they’re among the working poor.

“Although we see good early childcare as a way to ameliorate poverty, the fact of the matter is, we are generating poverty in the early childhood workforce,” Marcy Whitebook tells the Nation. She is the head of the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

“Activists are pushing for a $15 hourly base wage for preschool teachers and childcare workers. Many are currently college grads earning poverty wages, which have basically stagnated for nearly twenty years,” the article says. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for the fall. It’s going to be a busy public policy season for early education and care. It’s also going to be a great time for advocates to remind policymakers that the evidence for high-quality early education is strong and growing.

Among the highlights of the coming months, five Massachusetts communities will be expanding pre-K enrollment with the help of a federal Preschool Expansion Grant.

In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

Several Pre-K bills will be presented, including one filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) called “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

As we’ve blogged, “The bill calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey by providing ‘access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts.’”

To help make the case for increased investments in early learning, it’s always helpful to draw on existing research. A terrific summary of recent research can be found in the 2013 policy brief, “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.” The brief was published by the Society for Research in Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Federal officials have come up with promising, new plans for improving Head Start — including longer program days and years — but this growth can only happen if Congress provides the necessary funding.

Back in 2007, Congress asked the Office of Head Start to update its performance standards.

The result is a newly released proposal, the “Head Start Performance Standards,” from the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“This is the first comprehensive overhaul of the standards since they were first published in 1975,” according to EdCentral, a New America Foundation blog. “Both the early education landscape and our knowledge of the science of early learning have changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and understandably, many of the performance standards were in need of an update.”

EdCentral adds: “These new standards give Head Start a much-needed makeover without changing the core purpose and function of the program. The proposed standards are up for public comment until August 18, 2015.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Last December, Massachusetts was awarded a $15 million federal Pre-K Expansion grant for five communities: Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield.

Now that six months have passed, we decided to check in with Anita Moeller to see how this grant-funded work is going. Moeller is the director of the expansion grant program at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

It’s a busy season of laying groundwork, Moeller explained. The five communities are working on budgets, identifying teachers, outfitting new spaces, and submitting their final plans to federal authorities.

As EEC Commissioner Tom Weber wrote last fall in the state’s application for this funding, “The Federal Preschool Expansion Grant has inspired Massachusetts to think boldly and to offer a plan that engages and leverages the strengths of the Massachusetts mixed-delivery system to reach more children and advances our goal of achieving a universally-accessible, high-quality system of early education and care.”  (more…)

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Image Source: U.S. Department of Education

Image Source: U.S. Department of Education

 

Across the country, elected officials are calling for more preschool programs. Mayors, governors, members of Congress, and the president are calling for higher quality and more access.

Despite this rhetoric, what’s missing is a strong financial investment in early education and care.

The result: “too many children enter kindergarten a year or more behind their classmates in academic and social-emotional skills. For some children, starting out school from behind can trap them in a cycle of continuous catch-up in their learning,” according to “A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America,” a new report from the U.S. Department of Education.

To rectify this situation, the report calls on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by, in part, creating “real equity of opportunity, starting with our youngest children.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

While the state waits for new revenue to significantly expand early education and care opportunities for young children, it’s important to ensure that the existing subsidy system is operating as effectively as possible.

This was the intention of state legislators in FY14 when they approved $500,000 in funding to conduct a two-year, independent study of The Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) child care access accounts. These accounts are commonly referred to as Income Eligible, TANF, and Supportive Child Care. They consist of federal funds and required state matches, and they make up the majority of EEC’s budget.

Now, two years have passed and the research results are in.

The Urban Institute, a D.C.-based policy research organization, has released its findings in a series of policy reports that look at:

• improving the efficiency of the system

• analyzing gaps in the availability of subsidies, and,

• assessing the balance between providing quality early education for children and providing workforce support for guardians

Massachusetts wins praise for its strengths and gets feedback on ways to improve its vision and its delivery of services.  (more…)

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