What should President-elect Trump know about early education?
Overhauling the country’s early childhood system will take hard work and a significant investment of funds – but it will be worth it.
That’s the message in a memo released last month by the think tank Brookings. The memo – “Building a cohesive, high-quality early childhood system” — is part of a series called “Memos to the President on the Future of Education Policy.” It was written by Daphna Bassok, Katherine Magnuson, and Christina Weiland.
The next president, the memo says, “must lead the way by (1) ensuring low-income and middle class families are not forced to make decisions between high-quality and affordable care, (2) supporting efforts to transform the early childhood workforce, and (3) building cohesion within a highly fragmented system.”
Among the memo’s recommendations:
• “Substantially increase child-care subsidy spending” and direct states “to spend the increased funds on both increasing the income eligibility up to 200 percent of the poverty rate and increasing the reimbursement rates so that they are at least 75 percent of the prevailing market rate.”
• “Through a substantial expansion in child-care funding, as well as through expansions of the center-based Early Head Start program, the federal government can help build an ECE system where the educational needs of the youngest children (0-3) and preschool age children are met while also meeting the care needs of low-income working parents.”
• Improve the quality of programs by professionalizing the early childhood workforce
“Some local governments, including cities like New York, Boston, and Seattle, have made a commitment to gradually eliminating the pay gap between K-12 and public pre-K teachers. At the federal level, the increased spending on subsidies, described above, may help address this issue, particularly in the programs serving the youngest children, as would additional Head Start funding targeted to teacher salary.”
• “Proactively encourage novel approaches to systems building” by giving states the freedom to experiment.
“A cohesive early childhood system must align ECE with the K-12 system and align programs that serve infants and toddlers with those that serve preschoolers. Doing this requires breaking down longstanding, but false, distinctions between subsidized child care and more child-centered, developmentally oriented programs like Early Head Start and Head Start.”
The memo soundly concludes:
“Early childhood investments have the potential to yield great returns. In this unique moment with widespread public support for early childhood, the president has the opportunity to ‘go big’ on early childhood, not just tinkering on the edges but leading a transformation.”
It’s a transformation that would help more of the nation’s children thrive.