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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

If we build it, they will come.

That was the attitude in Springfield, Mass., when the city received a federal preschool expansion grant to fund 196 new slots.

Only it turned out that finding children to fill those slots was much harder than expected.

An article in the Atlantic – “Where Are All the Preschoolers?” — tells the story of how tough it can be to find children because there isn’t enough solid data.

“Sally Fuller, the project director of Reading Success by 4th Grade at the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation… estimates half of Springfield’s preschool-aged children are not enrolled in programs, and she admits that number could be off by as much as 10 percentage points—which speaks to a major barrier in preschool-expansion efforts. Communities largely don’t have a handle on the exact size of the population they’re trying to serve,” the article says.

Also featured is our own Amy O’Leary, director of our Early Education for All Campaign.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Early childhood education (ECE) has strong public and legislative support. The challenge is paying for it.

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh has called for using tourism dollars to finance an expansion of preschool. Philadelphia is using a beverage tax.

Now a new brief – “Innovative Financing for Early Childhood Education” — highlights a number of different funding approaches.

Finding up-front financing is crucial, because investments in early education end up paying off. As we’ve blogged, the return on investment can be as high as $13 for every $1 spent.

“Our group proposes specific action to expand upon what is ‘right’ with existing tax policy and to create new incentives that promote state, local and private collaboration,” the brief says. It was released by the Early Childhood Education Action Tank, a coalition that includes Save the Children Action Network and the First Five Years Fund as well as financial and business institutions. (more…)

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Foreground: Representative Claire Cronin (D-Plymouth) speaking to Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Background: TeeAra Dias, Preschool Expansion Grant Project Manager, Boston Public Schools.

Foreground: Representative Claire Cronin (D-Plymouth) speaking to Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Background: TeeAra Dias, Preschool Expansion Grant Project Manager, Boston Public Schools.

 

“We now know there are more kids in more programs, but clearly not enough, clearly not enough,” Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, told the 100 participants at a meeting that was held last month in downtown Boston for the community teams from across Massachusetts that are focused on expanding preschool opportunities for children and families.

We’re including audio clips and photos from the event in this blog post.

 

Strategies for Children’s Amy O’Leary presents a brief history of state policy for early education and care.

 

Each team had received either federal Preschool Expansion Grant funds to add high-quality preschool seats (5 communities); state-funded preschool planning grants (13 communities); or both. Combined, these communities are Athol, Boston, Brockton, Cape Cod, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, North Adams, Pittsfield, Springfield, Somerville, and Worcester. (more…)

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Photo: Alastair Pike, Office of Governor Charlie Baker. Source: Governor Baker's Flickr page.

Photo: Alastair Pike, Office of Governor Charlie Baker. Source: Governor Baker’s Flickr page.

Yesterday, Governor Baker released his state budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. The $40.5 billion budget represents a 4.3 percent increase over current year spending.

Early education and care was level funded in the budget. The Department of Early Education and Care and its programs were funded at $552.62 million. This includes a $7 million rate increase for the early education and care workforce, and increases for early education access accounts. Reach Out and Read, which recently lost its $1 million in state funding during mid-year budget cuts, was not funded in the governor’s budget.

WBUR covers the budget here.

A Lowell Sun article is posted here.

Please join us for a conference call at 3 p.m. today, Thursday, January 26, to review Governor Baker’s FY18 budget recommendations. 

Email aoleary@strategiesforchildren.org to get the call-in information. 

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We’re happy to welcome two new Board members to Strategies for Children: Jill Dixon and Valerie Gumes.

Jill and Valerie will help us carry out our mission to “ensure that Massachusetts invests the resources needed for all children, from birth to age five, to access high-quality early education programs that prepare them for success in school and life.”

jill-dixon-taly-bio-photoAs we’ve blogged, Jill is president and co-founder of the Taly Foundation, which provides grants to expand children’s access to early education programs and improve program quality. A parent with more than 20 years of sales experience, Jill was inspired to start Taly after her own children enrolled in preschool programs, and she discovered how many children were turned away because their parents could afford the cost. Back then, she wrote a personal check to pay for five children to attend preschool. Today, she does this funding work through Taly.

vgValerie is a retired educator who has had extensive experience in public education as a teacher, a principal, and an administrator. She was the founding principal of two of Boston’s Early Education Centers: the Blue Hill Avenue Early Education Center and the Haynes Early Education Center. She is a board member of the Dudley Street Neighborhood School Charter School, and she was a member of Boston’s School Readiness Action Planning Team. Valerie has remained active in the early education and care community, serving as a mentor to public school principals and teachers who are creating high-quality early childhood programs that meet the standards for national accreditation.

We’re excited to move forward with Jill and Valerie’s support. They will help us work toward our goal of increasing the number of children in Massachusetts who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs and who enter kindergarten ready to learn.

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

In a new policy brief, The Center on American Progress (CAP) is calling on governors to take executive action on early education.

“Governors can become early childhood leaders by setting a vision for early learning and adopting it as a key agenda item,” the center says.

Governors’ toolkits include executive orders, state agency directives, budget proposals, and working “with their legislatures to prioritize state investments in young children.”

Consider the story of former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt who had served for two terms. In the early 1990s, Hunt was out for a walk in the woods when he saw a small child near a poor shack trying to drink from an empty bottle. “This is the child we need to be helping,” Hunt recalls thinking in the book “The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics,” by University of California-Berkeley’s public policy professor David L. Kirp. The sight of this child made Hunt wonder how the state of North Carolina could help this child. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

A new study from the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy has found that “North Carolina’s investment in early child care and education programs resulted in higher test scores, less grade retention and fewer special education placements through fifth grade,” according to a Duke University news release.

The study looked at the children who attended the state’s two flagship early childhood programs, Smart Start and More at Four, between 1988 and 2000. Researchers also examined the entire population of children “more than 1 million North Carolina public school students born between 1988 and 2000,” which allowed them to estimate “spillover effects” of the early childhood programs onto the child population at-large (more on “spillover effects” below).

One research query was whether the programs “provided long-lasting benefits for children, or if previously seen positive results diminished by the end of elementary school.” (more…)

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