Making Lemonade from Lemons
While budget analysts are scratching their heads about the budget deal that was struck in August by Congress and the Obama Administration, families in many states are trying to find funds for tuition to pay for their child to attend public school kindergarten classes for the entire school day http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2011/06/swedesboro-woolwich_to_offer_k.html. As experts are combing through the hundreds of pages of budget documents to determine what programs are cut and what may be in the crosshairs in the future, state and community early childhood program directors have the task of making lemonade out of a very big bunch of lemons. An explanation of the current state of federal budget affairs can be found at http://www.childrensdefense.org/policy-priorities/budget-watch/debt-deal-prevents-default.html for those interested in monitoring the budget situation as it unfolds.
In less than six short months we will be at another perhaps even more serious crossroads as programs serving young children will be subject to deep cuts in federal funding. The real work for young children has always been done at the local level, and it is incumbent upon us all as early childhood advocates and providers to ask tough questions of our local, state and congressional leadership and advocate for critical investments in children. If health, mental health or high quality early childhood services are threatened to be cut or reduced, the buck should stop with the elected decision makers that approved the cuts. We should ask every decision maker and candidate for office the tough questions concerning how children will meet the Common Core Standards for kindergarten if full day kindergarten is cut at the local or state level or if cuts in initiatives designed to improve the quality of early childhood programs disappear. Resources such as http://www.heckmanequation.org/content/resource/why-early-investment-matters can help make the case with candidates positioning for elected office, but the real case should be made locally when the number of jobs lost in local communities is totaled should cuts come to Head Start, early intervention programs and the Child Care Development Fund.
During the August recess, meet your congressional delegation at campaign stops, local events and town hall meetings. Tell them that protecting programs serving young children also sustains jobs and increases local and state revenue. They are in Washington because you elected them to serve you! Make your voice heard at home – and share your story with CDF and the early learning community on Facebook. Turning up the heat on elected officials and those hoping to be elected by asking tough questions is a worthy goal for the early learning community!
The State of America’s Young Children
The Children’s Defense Fund has just released the newest iteration of The State of America's Children 2011. This annual compilation is an analysis of the most recent national and state-by-state data on children in the United States. CDF finds that children have continued to fall further and further behind in many of the leading indicators of well-being over the past year.
Young children in particular face a harrowing plight in America. Research shows that the younger a child is the more likely they are to be poor. In fact, in 2009 nearly a quarter of the children across the country under five lived in poverty. While nearly 70 percent of mothers with children this young are in the workforce, finding and affording quality care is nearly impossible. There is a huge range of quality standards by states and child care for a four year old cost more than state college in 33 states. For an update on the plight of young children and children across the board read CDF’s The State of America's Children 2011 interactive report as well as Marian Wright Edelman’s recent Child Watch® Column and to share it with your network to help spread the alarming news of our children in jeopardy.
Early Childhood in the States
New York – Putting the Pieces Together, New York Early Learning Program Data Systems
States are increasingly recognizing the value of coordinated data systems to inform and improve their early childhood policies and programs. With the help of the Early Childhood Data Collaborative – a consortium of national organizations that helps states build, link, and use early childhood data systems – states such as New York are forging new ground as they develop policies and practices for their data systems. Recently the report Putting the Pieces Together was prepared for New York's Early Childhood Advisory Council to assess the status of early learning services in the state. The report is based on surveys of New York State and New York City agencies that provide early learning services to young children. It pulls together baseline information on the data each agency presently maintains on their programs, workforce, and the children and families they serve. As a first step toward the creation of a coordinated early childhood data system for the state, this report lays the groundwork for the development of a comprehensive data system. Read the entire report here.
Illinois – Linking Home-Based Child Care and State Funded Preschool
States are grappling with how to ensure that young children in home-based child care are receiving quality early learning experiences. The innovative Community Connections Program Model in Illinois started in 2005 and connects the state pre-kindergarten program with family child care providers. The Model has three goals: (1) to make state pre-kindergarten classroom experiences available to children in home-based care, (2) to extend classroom learning experiences in the home-based care setting, and (3) to support infant and toddler development in participating providers’ homes. The recently released report Linking Home-Based Child Care and State Funded Preschool describes the first phase of an evaluation of this model. Phase 1 summarizes the reactions of coordinators, center directors, center teachers, home providers, and parents to participating in Community Connections, their impressions of the model and its benefits to them and their children. The report also discusses respondents’ perceptions of benefits/targeted effects of the program and concludes with an analysis of respondents’ descriptions of the key activities of the Community Connections model specifically, as well as Preschool for All (the state funded preschool) in general, their sense of challenges facing the model, and ideas for meeting those challenges. It concludes with recommendations based on the findings for strengthening the Community Connections model and its implementation. Click here to read the full evaluation report.
Early Childhood News and Resources
Alliance for Early Childhood Finance
The Alliance for Early Childhood Finance’s Web site shares knowledge, supports innovation, and encourages the field of early care and education (ECE). The site also explores ways to re-structure, simplify and expand possibilities for financing ECE in the United States.
Our Head Start
Head Start has launched a campaign to educate policymakers, community leaders and the public about the critical role the program plays in shaping the lives of so many successful Americans. They are trying to highlight stories of successful Head Start alumni in each congressional district across the country. Click here for more information and to submit a story!
Quality in Family, Friend, and Neighbor Child Care Settings
This new report by Research Connections examines the current research on the quality of family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care including the difficulties in defining quality, the developmental outcomes of children in FFN care, and strategies to improve the quality of care.
Growing and Learning in Preschool
NIEER's five-minute video, Growing and Learning in Preschool, shows the essential features of a high-quality preschool program. You'll see how a preschool curriculum based on solid research builds school and life-related skills, why well-qualified teachers are so important, and how play is integrated into learning.
Preschool Education: Delivering on the Promises for Latino Children
The National Council of La Raza recently released a new report, Preschool Education: Delivering on the Promises for Latino Children. The report highlights research on second –language development and lists recommendations on how to improve the quality of programs serving Latino children.