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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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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

In the latest issue of The Gateway Cities Journal, which is published by MassINC, Holyoke Pubic Schools Superintendent Sergio Páez wrote the lead article on early education. MassINC has increasingly supported high-quality early education in the Gateway Cities, as it does in its recent policy report — “The Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems.”

For today’s blog, we’re reposting Páez’s piece, courtesy of MassINC:

“The Early Education Drumbeat Reverberates in Gateway Cities”

By Sergio Páez

From President Obama and Governor Patrick to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, our elected leaders are launching into 2014 with calls for new investments in high-quality early education. Big city mayors like Marty Walsh and Bill de Blasio are fighting hard to expand preschool access. As the New York Times reported this week, Republicans and business leaders are also increasingly supportive of efforts to expand public investment in early education. (more…)

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Photo: Strategies for Children

Photo: Strategies for Children

“Tell your stories,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said yesterday to a standing-room-only crowd who gathered beneath the flags in the State House’s Great Hall for “Advocacy Day for Early Education and Care and School-Age Programs.”

Carrying signs, pushing strollers, and wearing red — the color advocates were asked to wear for the day — close to 500 early educators and advocates listened to state legislators, advocates, an early education teacher, and a parent.

The event launched with a warm welcome from Leo Delaney, CEO of Ellis Memorial and president of MADCA’s Board of Directors, who told all those assembled, “what we need today more than ever is you,” reaching out to lawmakers and asking them to invest in children’s early education and care.

Bill Eddy, executive director of MADCA, revved up the proceedings, saying “We’re going to make noise because what you do matters so much.”

“Let me begin by thanking you for your advocacy here today,” said Tom Weber, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care. “It’s very important work that you do.”

Then the crowd hit the State House halls, taking DeLeo’s advice and telling their stories to their state senators and representatives.

It was a chance to ask legislators to invest in early education and care and increase the quality and availability of these programs. Read about last year’s day here.

Advocacy Day’s 2014 sponsors are: MADCA; Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs; Massachusetts Head Start Association; Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP); Children’s Investment Fund; Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children; Alliance on Teen Pregnancy; Horizons for Homeless Children; Associated Early Care and Education; Massachusetts Child Care Resource and Referral Network; ABCD Boston; Stand for Children; United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley; Thrive in 5; Strategies for Children/Early Education for All Campaign; Massachusetts Fair Share; Massachusetts Association for the Education of Young Children (MAEYC), For Kids Only Afterschool. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Early education is getting welcome attention from local and national political leaders. President Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick are only two of the leaders who have called — as recently as last week — for expanding access to high-quality preschool programs.

This sweeping momentum is also making news, as journalists, columnists, and educators weigh in on the issue. Here’s a roundup of some recent stories and opinion pieces.

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Cory Booker: Building on the Success of the War on Poverty,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2014

“Our national investment strategy is hardly a strategy at all,” New Jersey’s new senator, Cory Booker, wrote in this opinion piece. “We are failing to invest in areas that not only produce great social returns but also reduce federal spending in the long run. Most glaring of all, we’ve got our priorities wrong: We are failing to maximize the productivity of our greatest natural resource—our people.”

“In a global, knowledge-based economy, the genius of our children is our nation’s greatest asset. Universal pre-K is a must: Based just on cost-benefit analysis, the evidence is overwhelming.”

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Pre-K, The Great Debate,” Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 29, 2014

“Against all odds, prekindergarten is gaining ground,” Kristof, a Times columnist, wrote.

“Aside from apple pie, preschool may also be the only issue on which voters agree.”

“Yet one obstacle is the misperception that early education has been debunked by researchers — when, in fact, it’s the opposite.” (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: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

New York has joined the growing list of cities that are looking for ways to expand preschool programs. The city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, raised the issue during his campaign. And now, the New York Times editorial board has weighed in – noting both the considerable challenges and inherent wisdom of de Blasio’s vision.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to offer full-day preschool to every New York City 4-year-old hasn’t yet rounded the corner from election slogan to classroom reality. But it’s moving: a public-relations campaign on Friday started blitzing the city with leaflets and emails to drum up support for the tax to pay for it,” the Times wrote in its editorial, which ran on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Times recognizes that New York City will need more space for preschool classes and suggests that to find this space the city might form partnerships with charter schools. The editorial also cites the need for skilled preschool teachers and for “classes small enough to be effective, and tightly integrate the program with kindergarten through third grade so that 4-year-olds do not lose their momentum.”

To pay for the expansion of preschool — and for a separate after school program for older children — de Blasio wants to raise taxes on city residents who earn $500,000 or more.

(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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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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