Children's Defense Fund

Early Childhood News – January Edition

Promising Developments for Early Childhood But Challenges on the Horizon

FY2012 Appropriations

In mid-December, House and Senate negotiators agreed on an omnibus spending bill for FY2012 which funds the federal government through September of this year. Early childhood advocates have reason to celebrate the outcome for young children and families. In this harsh funding climate, a number of important early childhood programs and services were protected or expanded:

  • Head Start received an increase of $424 million.
  • Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) received an increase of $60 million.
  • Title I received an increase of $60 million.
  • Part C Early Intervention received an increase of $5 million.
  • Race to the Top received $550 million, which is less than last year's $698 million. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will determine how much of the $550 million will be dedicated to the Early Learning Challenge. The Statement of Managers accompanying the bill says they "expect that the Secretary will include a robust early childhood component."
  • Striving Readers received $160 million with 15% of the funding directed at birth to age five literacy in early childhood programs (community and school-based settings).

When compared to other programs that impact children of all ages, early childhood scored a big win. Current slots for Head Start and Early Head Start were maintained, including those created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In addition, the CCDBG increase came as a surprise since both the House and Senate had previously proposed no funding increase at all. We can briefly celebrate this small victory for young children because of the tenacity and hard working spirit of the many advocates across the country who spoke with legislators in their home offices, participated in call and email alerts, and spoke up at public forums. For now, let’s all take a moment to relish this recent victory before gearing up for our next fight.

Challenges Ahead

As we enter into this election year, it is important to remember that children do not get a vote and there are not many politicians who place them on their list of talking points. It will be up to us to make the needs of young children and families a priority for those who are running for elected positions. Here are a few things you can do now:

  • Participate—Attend town hall meetings and debates. Ask questions and provide information about early childhood development and the importance of investing in this youngest age group.
  • Take action—CDF, along with other organizations, will give you plenty of opportunities to email, sign-on to letters and call your legislators this year. Remember the old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The more pressure we put on legislators, the more they feel compelled to act!

Also, we cannot forget President Barack Obama will soon release his budget for FY2013. We must be the voice for the youngest citizens in our country as budget negotiations begin once again.

CDF Updates

Full-Day Kindergarten and Early Learning Race to the Top Winners

Now that the dust has settled and the state winners of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge have been announced, an analysis of the status of full-day kindergarten (Full-Day K) in these states is warranted. Since the primary goal of the Race to the Top grants is to increase the number of children entering school with the skills needed to succeed, CDF took a look at the access students have to Full-Day K in the winning states. Of the nine winners, three currently provide Full-Day K to all children as a result of state law (North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware). Four winning states require school districts to provide a half day of instruction and allow school districts to charge tuition to parents for their children to attend the “other portion” of the kindergarten day (Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and Washington). The other two winners (California and Ohio) require, at a minimum, a half day of kindergarten to be provided by school districts. This breakdown points to the need for more conversation around the wisdom of federal investments in states to improve students’ learning outcomes when access to a free full-day of learning in kindergarten is not state mandated.

Save the Date—CDF National Convening
July 23-25 in Cincinnati, Ohio

CDF’s national convening will offer a strong early childhood education track. Thought leaders, educators and advocates from all professions will come together to learn, share solutions and generate ideas that change the odds and outcomes for all children. Nationally recognized researchers and practitioners will share new information about the connection between poverty and race, health and the development and education of young children. Successful strategies for closing the gaps between what we know and what we practice will be presented. Sign-up to receive more information as it becomes available.

CDF Supports National Survey of Child Care Providers

Within the next few months approximately 30,000 child care providers will be contacted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) research unit. NORC is conducting a survey sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the survey is to collect data about the current types of early care and education available in the country and also demographic information to help the field learn more about those who care and educate our children. We encourage you to participate if you are contacted. Follow this link to learn more.

Early Childhood in the States

New Jersey—Making the Connections, Building an Early Learning System Beyond the Schoolhouse Walls

This policy brief released in the fall of 2011 by Advocates for Children of New Jersey discusses the importance of connecting pre-kindergarten education with early grades and then ensuring that those two systems are linked with local school districts and community programs to provide young students with a solid educational foundation. The brief makes the case that effective advocacy is often the conduit for an aligned system of services for young children not just research that supports a single continuum of early learning. The author highlights results of a survey of New Jersey school district administrators on PreK-3rd issues and, based on these, draws several conclusions about making connections in the early years:

  1. It’s good for children. Districts have access to comprehensive information on their incoming kindergartners.
  2. It’s good for building relationships with families. Districts are able to develop relationships earlier with parents.
  3. It provides an opportunity for consistency and higher quality programs in the community.
  4. It provides district administrators and teachers with information about future students. This connection helps to develop a system in which student information is shared between a community program and the school district.

The brief concludes with suggestions from the author on how to build strong connections in the early years. Read the publication in its entirety.

Louisiana - Quality Start Child Care Rating System

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) recently highlighted the child care rating system of Louisiana in their Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project. All licensed child care programs are included in the voluntary quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), including Early Head Start and Head Start. Family child care, which is not licensed through the state, is not included. Quality Start Child Care Rating System (Quality Start) was developed by a committee of stakeholders from various state agencies and organizations. Quality Start participants are rated from one to five stars by earning points in four areas: program, staff qualifications, administration practices, and family and community involvement. Depending on the number of points earned and in which areas, the following ratings are awarded:

  • 1 star - A one-star rating indicates that the center has a license in good standing and no outstanding deficiencies.
  • 2 stars - A two-star rating indicates that the center staff has received more specialized training, and the center has completed a self-assessment plan. Programs must also meet all the standards for 1 star and be in operation for six months.
  • 3-5 stars - A three- to five-star rating indicates the center provides quality child care based on staff qualifications and the Environment Rating Scales (ERS).

The summary details how programs attain their star ratings, the available incentives, how quality infant/toddler care helps achieve higher ratings, and technical assistance available to the programs before concluding with lessons learned. Click here for the complete summary of Louisiana’s QRIS.

Early Childhood News and Resources

Challenges Lie Ahead for Early-Learning Grant Winners

This Education Week article addresses the challenges that the nine Early Learning Grant Winners—California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington—face as they try to put into practice their pledges to set standards, improve teacher quality, assess school readiness, and expand access to more young children in their state. Among these challenges are bringing together unfamiliar stakeholders that must come to agreement on issues that they have not had to tackle before and building consensus around a definition of school readiness. Read the full article for details about the challenges for states.

Mary Church Terrell: An African-American Early Childhood Pioneer

As follow-up to a column in our November issue about the African American early childhood pioneer Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Vernessa E. Curry has drafted a short synopsis of the life and work of this educator of young children. Learn more about the life and work of Mrs. Terrell. Dr. Curry is from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has done extensive research on the kindergarten movement in America within the Black community. For more information contact Vernessa E. Curry, PhD, Instructor, ECE/ELEM Birmingham Board of Education,

2020 Vision Roadmap: A Pre-K Through Post-Secondary Blueprint for Educational Success

In 2010, President Obama set a goal for the U.S. to become the global leader in postsecondary degree attainment by the year 2020. A new study commissioned by the Schott Foundation for Public Education shows that the U.S. cannot achieve the president’s 2020 goal if students continue to drop out or be pushed out of schools. Findings from this report indicate that the United States will need to increase its high school graduation rate by 17.5 percentage points in order to reach the 2020 goal. Read the complete study here.

The Economics of Human Development

The Brookings Institute released a presentation in which Jacques van der Gaag makes the economic case for investing in young children. The presentation took place at the 2011 International Conference on Early Childhood Development in Beijing, China. He references seminal works by several Nobel laureates in economics to demonstrate how development hinges on investments in early childhood including health, nutrition and education.

2012 National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs

The Pew Center on the States along with Every Child Succeeds and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have come together to host a summit to take place on February 15-16, 2012 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. Featuring experts in the field such as Deb Daro and Joan Lombardi, this conference will offer a forum for home visiting researchers, program leaders, and policy makers to learn about the latest developments in the field. They will also be able to strategize about how to ensure that home visiting investments are supporting evidence-based models backed by strong policies and are embedded in early childhood systems.

Opportunity to Comment on Department of Education Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2011 through 2014

The Department of Education has posted its draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 on its website for public comment. From January 13-27, 2012, the Department is seeking comments on the content of the document. Any comments can be sent to before the period closes on Friday, January 27th. Check out the draft plan where early learning is presented as a major area of emphasis and warrants review and comment.

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