January is the month when governors lay out their priorities for the coming year, and in several states around the country they have put early education and literacy on their agendas for 2013. Among them, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin proposed the largest increase in pre-kindergarten funding in state history, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie announced a state-funded pre-kindergarten program, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper seeks to serve 6,500 additional children in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick delivers his annual address tomorrow and releases his FY14 budget proposal by January 23. Bay State readers, join our Rising Stars 2013 campaign to encourage him to increase investments in young children.
Here is a sampling from some governors around the country. It is not an exhaustive list, so please send comments if your governor is acting on behalf of young children.
- Governor Peter Shumlin (D), Vermont. “The evidence is overwhelming: The earlier we invest in our children, the healthier, more productive lives they will have. Taxpayers win, too, since every dollar we invest in early childhood education saves $7 in the future. Today I propose to make the largest single investment in early childhood education in Vermont’s history. We will redirect $17 million from the state’s Earned Income Tax Credito to make high-quality child care affordable to hardworking lower-income Vermonters,” Governor Shumlin said in his second inaugural address. “This bold action will nearly double the state’s contribution to child care for low-income families. My administration will also ensure financial support to communities that initiate publicly funded preschool programs where they do not now exist. Our budget will include resources for first-year start-up costs, after which communities offering preschool programs will be eligible for reimbursement through the education fund…. It is well past time to move aggressively on early childhood education. Words are nice. Action is better. Let’s take it together.”
- Governor John Hickenlooper (D), Colorado. “Last year, we built on this reform by passing an early childhood literacy program that is among the most innovative in the country. The Read Act identifies struggling readers early and provides interventions so that all children can read by the end of third grade,” Governor Hickenlooper said in his state of the state address. “Last month Colorado received a $29.9 million “Race to the Top” grant to support early childhood education and enhance early literacy. Early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make to ensure Colorado’s kids are competitive and prepared for the future. … With your support, we will serve up to 6,500 new kindergartners and pre-schoolers.”
- Governor Neil Abercrombie (D), Hawaii. Governor Abercrombie announced a state-funded pre-kindergarten program that, in its first phase in 2014, will provide openings for about 3,500 children who miss the new kindergarten cut-off date of July 31. “I’m pleased to say that the Executive Office on Early Learning, under the direction of Director Terry Lock, is carrying out my mandate for a comprehensive program, which will meet or exceed the best in the nation,” Governor Abercrombie said in a news release. ““We are focusing on understanding what the current early childhood development and learning conditions are and identifying how they can be improved.”
- Governor Susanna Martinez (R), New Mexico. Governor Martinez’s FY14 budget proposal includes a $5 million increase in the “New Mexico Reads to Lead” program, which would bring total funding of the program to $13.3 million. The program, currently in its first year of operation, is designed to support struggling readers in kindergarten through third grade. It includes funds for reading coaches, assessment and professional development. “When we ensure that our kids can read, we set them up for success in life,” Martinez said in a news release. “The New Mexico Reads to Lead program is all about finding struggling students in kindergarten through the third grade and focusing intently on bringing their reading skills up to speed. When a child can read, they can learn anything their heart desires, and it’s clear that they’re more likely to graduate from high school and have a successful career.”
- Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), New York. “We need more early education. Every expert will tell you that early education makes a difference and it makes the difference for life,” Governor Cuomo said in his state of the state address. “The statistics are overwhelming. Children who receive early education perform 25% better on math by the second grade, 20% better on English, 30% are more likely to graduate from high school, 32% are less likely to be arrested as a juvenile. We should provide real pre-k for all our children. Currently we have universal pre-k but it’s only provided by 67% of the school districts and on average, they only offer two and a half hours per day. We will expand the pre-k program to full-day pre-k, five hours. And we will start with students in the lowest wealth school districts. Let’s do it today.”
- Governor Dannel Malloy (D), Connecticut. “Reaching kids early is critical to success, and early childhood education had to be a central part of reform,” Governor Malloy said in his state of the state address. “We created 1,000 new school readiness openings statewide for our youngsters at a time when no one thought that was possible. That’s 1,000 more children that will show up to kindergarten on day-one ready to learn. We did that together, and we’ll do more.”
- Governor Bob McDonnell (R), Virginia. “I’m also asking you to approve a budget amendment to place one reading specialist in each school that scores below 75% in the 3rd grade Standard of Learning test,” Governor McDonnell said in his state of the state address. “I also propose… putting the algebra readiness and early reading intervention initiatives into the SOQ [Standards of Quality].”