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Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Next year, the federal Head Start program will turn 50 years old. But the celebration and the reflection are starting now, creating an opportunity to revisit the program’s past and consider the changes it will undergo in the future.

Education Week Looks at Head Start

“Few other federal programs so fully embody the heady optimism and charge-ahead spirit of the War on Poverty as Head Start, envisioned 50 years ago as part of that sweeping presidential initiative and brought to life in the summer of 1965,” Christina A. Samuels writes in the Education Week article, “Head Start Endures, Evolves as 50-Year Milestone Nears.”

The article continues with this quote from President Johnson about the birth of Head Start: “Five- and 6-year-old children are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators.” Johnson was announcing the creation of the Head Start Project in a May 1965 speech in the White House Rose Garden. He added: “Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation, like a family birthmark.”

But as the article notes, “the seeds of questions that Head Start has faced throughout its history were in many ways contained in its ambitious beginning.” (more…)

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education

Last week, federal officials announced that applications are available for a new $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition, funding that will help states start new high-quality preschool programs or expand existing ones.

Jointly administered by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, the program is meant to help close the opportunity gap for the nation’s youngest children.

“Preschool Development Grants are not intended to simply add more seats to just any existing state-level program; there is a strong focus on program quality,” Ed Central, a New America Foundation blog, explains.

And as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a Department of Education press release, “This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in President Obama’s proposed Preschool for All program — a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low- and middle-income families.” (more…)

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“We can now make the audacious claim that Detroit is poised to become a city regarded as home to a model of early childhood education excellence.

“We can’t blame anyone for being skeptical. Headlines claim early intervention programs don’t produce lasting effects, and that nothing has changed in Detroit.

“But a new spirit of cooperation is emerging. People working together across sectors, organizations and neighborhoods is becoming the new business as usual. Replacing what was unsustainable and ineffective are new collaborative models that are breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring children receive necessary support to achieve success. A pooling of resources from federal, state and local initiatives will help establish Detroit as a model of early intervention success.”

“Detroit Can Model Early Childhood Success,” a guest column in the Detroit Free Press about the Birth-to-Five pilot for Head Start and Early Head Start services, written by Robert Shaw, CEO of Development Centers; William Jones, CEO of Focus: HOPE; John Van Camp, CEO of Southwest Solutions; and Ann Kalass, CEO of Starfish Family Services, July 29, 2014

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Parents know that early education and child care are expensive. But for a refresher on just how expensive, the Boston Globe recently featured a 50-state map of child care costs across the nation. As the Globe explains, Massachusetts is among the least affordable states with an annual cost of $12,176 for 4-year-olds and $16,430 for infants. Compared to “the state median income for married couples, Massachusetts is the fourth least-affordable state for center-based infant care in the country.”

A recent report from Child Care Aware of America, the data source for the Globe’s map, explains just how high these costs are across the country.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers 10 percent of family income for child care as a benchmark for affordable care,” according to Child Care Aware’s “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care 2013 Report.” (more…)

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Graphic Courtesy of the First Five Years Fund

Graphic Courtesy of the First Five Years Fund

Last week, the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) released findings from its latest national public opinion poll on investing in young children. The result: widespread, bipartisan support for early childhood education.

“Seventy-one percent of voters — including 60 percent of Republicans — support greater investment in early childhood education if it increased the deficit in the short-term, but paid for itself in the long-term by improving children’s education, health, and economic situations so that less spending is needed in the future,” according to a fact sheet that explains the poll results. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Early education is in the spotlight like never before… yet real progress is elusive,” according to a report being released today by the New America Foundation called: “Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education.”

“President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for increased investments in child care, pre-K, home visiting, and other programs,” the report says. “Thirty-five states entered the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grants competition, which has so far invested about $1 billion in 20 states’ infrastructure. A long-overdue reauthorization bill for the Child Care and Development Block Grant overwhelmingly passed the Senate this year, with potential in the House.”

In addition, the report notes that philanthropies, governors, and state legislatures increasingly recognize the importance of investing in children.

Nonetheless, the report says, achievement gaps have widened. There aren’t enough seamless transitions from pre-K to grade school. Too many low income children aren’t getting the support they need. And Congress isn’t providing stable funding. (more…)

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“By giving more of our kids access to high-quality preschool and other early learning programs — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their kids succeed — we can give those kids a better shot at the career they are capable of and the life that will make us all better off.

“This is one of my top priorities and I want to thank the growing coalition of researchers, nonprofits, and foundations who have made it one of theirs.”

President Barack Obama in a Too Small to Fail video posted on June 25, 2014

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