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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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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Imagine a citywide approach to helping young children prepare for school.

That’s the city New Bedford is striving to be. The city’s public school system is working with local center-based preschool providers, as well as diverse stakeholders including the New Bedford Art Museum, the city’s housing authority, and the United Way of New Bedford to develop school readiness programs.

“We’ve never really had that alignment conversation,” Diane Sullivan said in a recent interview. Sullivan is the supervisor of Early Childhood Special Education for New Bedford Public Schools.

Sullivan helps lead the Birth through Third Grade Alignment Partnership effort, which has been underway in New Bedford since fall 2014. The work is funded by the Department of Early Education and Care, using federal Early Learning Challenge funds.

Taking what Sullivan calls a “good first step,” New Bedford has decided to focus on helping preschool-age children build strong social and emotional skills.  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We know what to do; we just need to do it.

That’s the conclusion of a new report published by the Institute of Medicine called, “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation.” (We’ve blogged about the institute’s work here.)

As a brief on the report explains, “The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) were commissioned to explore the science of child development, particularly looking at implications for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8.”

“…much is known about how children learn and develop,” as well as about “what professionals who provide care and education for children need to know and be able to do, and what professional learning supports they need.”

And while “much of that knowledge increasingly informs standards for what should be, it is not fully reflected in what is—the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government and other funders who support and oversee these systems.”  (more…)

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Parents Ursula Allston-Hill and Armando Perez at the Pre-K for MA launch.

Armando Perez and Ursula Allston-Hill at the Pre-K for MA launch.

 

 

“It’s time for Massachusetts to lead once again,” Jason Williams, Massachusetts Executive Director of Stand for Children, said yesterday at a Pre-K for MA kickoff event at the State House.

Led by Strategies for Children and Stand for Children Massachusetts, Pre-K for MA is a coalition of education, business, and civic leaders who know that early education and care can help close the state’s achievement gap and create more opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Attended by parents, early educators, advocates, and several young children, the kickoff event also featured a number of state legislators including Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

Peisch and DiDomenico have co-sponsored a bill — “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education” —that calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey’s example by providing “access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts,” as this fact sheet explains. The bill would set up a grant program; and the grants would be awarded by the Department of Early Education and Care in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

As more policymakers become champions of early education, “it’s important to remember that pre-K cannot stand alone – the years before and after pre-K are equally important to children’s development,” Abbie Lieberman writes in a post on New America’s Ed Central blog called, “Why Full-Day Kindergarten is a Key Piece of the Early Ed Puzzle.”

Full-day kindergarten is important, “because research indicates that kindergarteners benefit significantly from a full-day in the classroom. In fact, studies suggest that full-day kindergarten improves academic achievement and can lessen the achievement gap.”

Lieberman adds: “more time in the classroom means more time for high-quality interactions with teachers and peers, which translates to more learning. As Alexander Holt explains in Making the Hours Count: Exposing Disparities in Early Education by Retiring Half-Day vs. Full-Day Labels, ‘Time in a classroom does not guarantee opportunities to learn, but it is a necessary doorway to that opportunity.’ In short, it’s difficult for a child attending kindergarten for two hours a day to realize the same benefits as a child in the neighboring school district who attends for six hours a day.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Federally funded home visiting programs have gotten a vote of confidence from a recent report.

Unfortunately, funding for this important program is being held up in Congress.

“The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, or MIECHV, program has supported high-risk families in communities across the country through intensive home visiting services since 2010,” according to the report, “An Investment in Our Future: How Federal Home Visiting Funding Provides Critical Support for Parents and Children.”

Released by CLASP (the Center for Law and Social Policy) and the Center for American Progress, the report is based on interviews with officials from 20 states and two tribal organizations.

Support from the States

The program has widespread local support, as a recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune shows:

“Sometimes it can be easy to forget there are such pressing needs in Utah… Our business community, economy, and government regularly receive national recognition for their well-deserved successes,” writes Kirk L. Jowers, the University of Utah’s Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

What are the nation’s governors saying about early childhood education? The First Five Years Fund (FFYF) has put together a collection of quotes “on the importance of high-quality early education from recent speeches by a wide range of governors.”

FYFF notes, “According to the Education Commission of the States, for the 2014-15 fiscal year, state funding for pre-K increased by $672 million to a total of $6.3 billion. This was the third year in a row that both Republican and Democratic policymakers made significant investments in state-funded pre-K programs.”

One caveat: “While numerous governors used their state of the state addresses and budget announcements to highlight existing and future investments in early learning, the reality is that states cannot do it alone. Increasing federal investments in early childhood education must be a national priority.”

Here’s a sampling (in alphabetical order by state) of some of the governors’ quotes:

“We’ve built better schools, raised test scores, made college more affordable, and put Connecticut on a path toward universal pre-kindergarten.”  (more…)

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