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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 Continue Reading »

State HouseIn January, Governor Patrick released his $36.4 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. The governor’s plan included $531.74 million for programs administered by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), including $15 million in new funds to provide program access to preschool age children on the state’s Income Eligible waitlist.

On April 9, the House Committee on Ways and Means released its FY15 budget. The proposal includes $515.25 million for EEC and its programs, which is less than the governor’s proposal, but still a modest increase relative to FY14 appropriation levels. Increases are distributed primarily across the traditional three early education access accounts (Supportive, TANF, Income Eligible) as well as $7.5 million in a separate Income Eligible waitlist reduction account. The Governor’s proposal for K1 pre-kindergarten classroom grants ($2 million) was not funded in the House Ways and Means budget. Services for Infants and Parents (3000-7050) which funds EEC’s Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grants was cut by $2 million.

In addition, the House Ways and Means budget provides level funding relative to FY14 appropriations for several key programs including Universal Pre-K, Head Start, Access Management, Mental Health, and Reach Out and Read.

In a State House News story, House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey said that there would be an opportunity for lawmakers to debate whether they’d like to commit additional resources to early education. He said, “We always want to do more and we did our very best out of the gate, but my good friends and colleagues behind me and those who will be debating the budget the week of the 28th will continue to try to improve upon the document and improve upon the proposal, but I think we are clearly committing to all areas of education.” The House budget debate is scheduled to take place the week of April 28.

Representatives have until Friday, April 11 at 5pm to file amendments to the House Ways and Means budget. Stay tuned for information about amendments and what you can do to support young children and families.

Below is a review of early education and related programs where funding proposals differ across House Ways and Means, Governor Patrick’s proposal, and FY14 spending:

  • EEC Administration (3000-1000)
    HWM: $13.26 million
    Governor: $13.67 million
    FY14: $12.93 million
  • Supportive Child Care (3000-3050)
    HWM: $79.73 million
    Governor: $81.24 million
    FY14: $76.99 million
  • Income Eligible Waitlist Reduction (3000-4040)
    HWM: $7.5 million
    Governor: $15 million
    FY14: $15 million (under 3000-4070)
  • TANF (3000-4050)
    HWM: $133.48 million
    Governor: $136.55 million
    FY14: $128.06 million
  • Income Eligible (3000-4060)
    HWM: $241.89 million
    Governor: $241.89 million
    FY14: $222.84 million
  • K1 Classroom Grant Program (3000-5025)
    HWM: not funded
    Governor: $2 million (new initiative)
  • Services for Infants and Parents (3000-7050)
    HWM: $16.16 million
    Governor: $18.16 million
    FY14: $18.16 million
  • Full-Day Kindergarten Grants (7030-1002)
    HWM: $23.95 million
    Governor: $27.05 million
    FY14: $23.95 million

For more information on the FY15 budget process, please contact Titus DosRemedios, director of research and policy, at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org

 

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What elements of high-quality pre-K programs help children achieve lasting academic success? The Robin Hood Foundation — along with two family foundations, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation — has financed a study to find out. The effort is part of the Robin Hood Foundation’s “poverty-fighting mission.”

Robin Hood’s research should yield new insights about how specific aspects of program quality contribute most to children’s positive outcomes.

Michael Weinstein, the chief program officer at Robin Hood, and a former New York Times journalist, told the Times, “He was interested in the promise of early childhood education to fight poverty, but unsatisfied by the existing research, which did not provide clear guidance as to which programs were the most cost effective.”

“We pride ourselves, correctly or not, in having an evidentiary basis for making the grants we do,” Weinstein told the Times. He described Robin Hood’s approach as “one of ‘relentless benefit-cost calculations.’”

“The study involving the children in Brooklyn, who attend Public School 221 in Crown Heights, will gauge whether a certain math curriculum can create lasting improvement in students’ math and language skills, as well as their likelihood to Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A new report from the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) looks at the past, present and future of education in the commonwealth and calls on policymakers to “unleash greatness.”

The plan for successfully transforming the state’s education system includes several recommendations, one of which is to expand access to high-quality early education. This call adds to the growing chorus of diverse stakeholders supporting pre-k, including business leaders, members of the military and law enforcement, and bipartisan political leaders.

The report, “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years”, sets goals for the years 2016 and 2020, so that by 2030, Massachusetts will be an innovative, global leader in education. The report was authored by Sir Michael Barber, a globally renowned education reformer who has led projects in more than 40 countries. Nearly 200 stakeholders were engaged in interviews, focus groups and workshops to provide input during the development of the report.

The report is “a comprehensive assessment of the commonwealth’s education system, sounding the alarm that student achievement has leveled off and the state risks Continue Reading »

In Quotes

“We can do better in preparing poor children for school and it can be done at considerable scale.”

Professor Richard Murnane, Harvard Graduate School of Education, in the WBUR story “With Preschool On The Agenda, Boston Attracts National Attention,” March 28, 2014

 

This blog was originally published on September 13, 2012. 

The folks at the First Five Years Fund – who brought us the fabulous “Early Learning Matters” video – have another terrific animated video in their toolkit for advocates of high-quality early education. This time it’s “Brain Builders,” narrated by Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. In the more recent video, Shonkoff uses layman’s terms to explain the complex neurological and molecular interaction between children’s early experiences and the developing architecture of their young brains.

“The healthy development of young children in the early years of life literally does provide a foundation for just about all of the challenging social problems that our society and other societies face,” Shonkoff says. “What we’re learning through exciting developments in neuroscience and molecular biology is how much early experience from birth – in fact, even before birth – how much this experience literally gets into our bodies and shapes our learning capacities and behaviors and physical and mental health. The brain is basically built from the bottom up. First, the brain builds basic circuits and more complex circuits are built on top of those basic circuits as we develop more complex skills. Biologically the brain is prepared to be shaped by experience. It is expecting the experiences that a young child has to literally influence the formation of its circuitry.”

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Can high-quality preschool programs make children healthier when they grow up? A new study suggests that they can.

“A new analysis of the Abecedarian preschool program, one of the oldest and most cited U.S. early childhood intervention programs, shows positive effects on adult health. Using recently collected data in a biomedical sweep, this research finds that children who were in the treatment group have significantly better health in their mid-30s,” according to a research summary on the Heckman Equation website.

The research was a joint project of Nobel Prize-winning, Economics Professor James J. Heckman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago along with researchers at the University College London and at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina (FPG). Their findings were published last month in Science.

The new study looked at children who attended North Carolina’s Abecedarian preschool program in the 1970s, and found lower rates of pre-hypertension for adults in their mid-30s, as well as lower risk of total coronary heart disease. In men, there were lower combinations of obesity and hypertension.

As the New York Times explains, researchers had already looked at cognitive and academic outcomes such as “whether the treated children would, for example, be less likely to fail in school. The answer was yes. Over all, the participants’ abilities as infants were about the same, but by age 3 they had diverged. By age 30, those in the group given special care were four times as likely to have graduated from college.” Continue Reading »

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