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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Childen.

 

What’s the best way for states to pay for pre-K programs?

Should states use grants or tap into their K-12 funding formulas?

These are the questions posed by Aaron Loewenberg in a recent New America blog post, but the answers depend on whom you ask.

 

School funding formulas

“One obvious approach is to incorporate pre-K into the existing K-12 school funding formula,” W. Steven Barnett and Richard Kasmin wrote in an article published last year in The State Education Standard, the policy journal of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Like the one used here in Massachusetts, state funding formulas calculate the cost of educating a “typical” student. The formulas then make adjustments to account for the added expense of educating students who have more needs, including students who have disabilities, come from low-income families, or are English language learners. (Massachusetts is currently debating changes to its school funding formula, and bills to do so have been filed by Governor Baker, and the House and Senate.) (more…)

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“As the 116th Congress gets underway, refiling the Child Care for Working Families Act should be on its to-do list.”

[The bill would, in part, ensure “that no low- to moderate-income family pays more than 7 percent of its household income on child care.”]

“The financial burden placed on young families seeking quality care and education for their children isn’t sustainable. In a June 2018 survey of 1,657 registered voters nationally, 83 percent of parents with children under five had “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problems finding appropriate care. At 54 percent, even most voters without young children said that finding quality, affordable child care is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem in their area.

“That’s probably why support for greater public investment in early care and education is overwhelmingly popular across political divides and party lines.

“Early Education Should Be On The 116th Congress’ Agenda. Here’s Why,” an opinion piece by Anne Douglass, WGBH

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When parents across the country can’t find child care, the economy loses a staggering $57 billion per year in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.

That’s a crisis, according to a new report — “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis” — released by ReadyNation, an organization of business executives who are “building a skilled workforce by promoting solutions that prepare children to succeed in education, work, and life.”

“The practical and economic consequences of insufficient child care are enormous, impacting parents, employers, and taxpayers.”

The report notes that parents face shortages in three areas: access, affordability, and quality. Specifically:

• “Nearly one-third of parents (32 percent) report having difficulty finding child care.”

• “The average annual cost of center-based child care for infants is more than the average cost of public college tuition and fees in 28 states,” and

• “Only 11 percent of child care nationwide is accredited.” (more…)

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“The findings are clear: The more funding that North Carolina invests for NC Pre-K (and Smart Start), the better children will fare as they get older. The benefits from that investment will not fade out but will grow over the lives of these children.”

“Benefits of Pre-K do not fade with age,” by Kenneth A. Dodge, The News & Observer, January 10, 2109

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

 

Back in 1965, the federal government launched Head Start. It was a national preschool program for low-income families and part of the war that President Lyndon Johnson declared on poverty.

Today, Head Start serves 900,000 children a year at a cost of $9.6 billion in 2017. And the program is praised by its graduates, including Massachusetts State Senator Sal DiDomenico. But Head Start also has critics who have challenged its value and suggested that over time, the program’s benefits fade.

Now a new study from the University of Michigan gives critics an answer. Head Start works. It produces lifelong benefits for children and a solid return on investment for taxpayers.

To conduct the study, researchers “used longitudinal data from children who attended Head Start between 1965 and 1980,” according to the First Five Years Fund. This data set was linked to “long-form 2000 Census and 2001-2013 American Community Surveys” as well as to birth information from the Social Security Administration. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center offers key advice to states: Focus on making early childhood systems more efficient and effective.

“This issue is important for two reasons,” the report says. “First, support for early childhood programs can only be sustained if the programs are viewed as effective and efficient in their use of public funds.”

Second, inefficiencies can create “real obstacles to access” for the very children that states want to reach.

“When families have to apply to multiple programs, housed across multiple agencies, often with duplicative paperwork requirements and inconsistent eligibility criteria, many simply give up.”

Improving efficiency is demanding work. States have to manage their own early childhood funds, and they receive child care funding from multiple federal sources including Child Care Development Block Grants, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Each funding stream has its own rules and requirements. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Across the country, parents are discovering that they live in “child care deserts,” communities where they can’t find an appropriate spot for their children.

This is a particularly tough problem for the parents of very young children, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress called, “Understanding Infant and Toddler Child Care Deserts.”

The report looks at supply and demand in nine states — Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia — and in Washington, D.C.

Nationally, child child care deserts aren’t just a problem in large, rural states, but also in the rural areas of smaller states — and anywhere where demand for child care is greater than supply. Past studies have shown, for example, that Massachusetts has a deficit of 93,119 child care slots. So when current programs are full to capacity, nearly 1 in 4 Massachusetts children is left without access to child care.” (more…)

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