Children's Defense Fund

Early Childhood News – March Edition

IDEA Part C: Serving Our Youngest Who Have Special Needs

The President’s recently released FY2013 budget proposes a slight increase in funding for states through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C Early Intervention Program a critical early childhood program that serves infants and toddlers with special needs. Although modest, if the President’s budget were to pass, states would receive an additional $20 million to continue to serve this population of children who often fall through the cracks.

What is Part C?

Designed for children birth through age 2 who are experiencing developmental delays or who have a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay, Part C is one of the first steps in meeting special needs early in life. Through this program, grants are given to states to assist in maintaining and implementing systems of services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

Who Benefits From Part C?

Young children with conditions such as Down syndrome, autism, hearing deficiencies, visual impairments, and cerebral palsy benefit greatly from Part C programs. They receive specialized services and supports, such as physical therapy, speech and language therapy, special education, home visits, family support, counseling, transportation and service coordination. Early intervention services prepare infants and toddlers for school and later life and help meet family needs as well. Families benefit from the information given to them in the early intervention program about their child’s disability, positioning them to be their child’s best advocate1.

Recent Developments in Part C

New regulations published in September 2011 make changes to Part C regulatory requirements in five areas: (1) family engagement; (2) Child Find, evaluations, assessments, eligibility and initial Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP); (3) IFSP development, implementation, and review; (4) transitions (including Part C to Part B) and exiting Part C; and (5) coordination with Head Start/Early Head Start, early education, and child care programs. The Office of Special Education Programs within the US Department of Education has released non- regulatory guidance to help states and other stakeholders implement the new changes. The Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Early Childhood has also released a side by side comparison of these newest regulations with those that were already being used.

Part C is a necessary component of the overall framework that builds a complete system of services for young children and their families. While it would take much more funding than the President’s proposed $20 million to meet all of the need, these additional dollars would be a welcomed start for states that have struggled for years to keep up with demand. In fact, to supplement the lack of funds caused by flat funding, many states have had to change program eligibility or increase fees to parents for services so this increase is a “win” for young children and families.

Unfortunately, even as we celebrate the Part C increase, Part B of IDEA Section 619 (pre-school children) and Part D (research and innovation) were flat funded and there continues to be immense need. For more information read the Council for Exceptional Children’s press release on the President’s Budget.

Full-Day Kindergarten in the States-Looking at Washington State

A Kindergarten Camp-Out

A kindergarten camp-out sounds like fun-except when it is designed for parents to enroll their children for the upcoming school year to attend full-day kindergarten. Families in Mukilteo, Washington, began setting up tents Sunday morning, March 4th to get a premier spot in line for the kindergarten enrollment process that began the next day. Tuition for the full-day kindergarten sessions will be $2,764 for the year or $296 a month for nine months plus a $100 deposit at registration. The tuition will be discounted to $2,298, plus the $100 deposit at registration, if the total payment is received by September 1. Limited scholarships will be available for families that qualify for free meals under the federal school lunch program. While the fairness of this process has been questioned with respect to single parents and others who may not have many overnight child care options, the district is continuing to use this means for selection.

Seattle School Board Proposes Raising Tuition for Full-Day Kindergarten in 2012-13 School Year

Recently a Seattle School Board committee voted to significantly increase full-day kindergarten fees for next school year, taking the second step in a three-year plan to eliminate the district's subsidy of the program, School Board President Michael DeBell said. According to the Seattle Times, if the proposal is approved by the full board, families next year will be required to pay as much as $2,720 per year $272 per month for 10 months to move their child from half-day kindergarten, which all students receive, to a full-day program. The increase is about 15 percent higher than last year's rate of $2,370 and about 31 percent higher than tuition for the year before ($2,070). And tuition is almost certain to rise another 15 percent the following year, DeBell said. Students who receive federally subsidized free or reduced-price lunch still would not have to pay for full-day kindergarten, and all children at schools with a high rate of students on free or reduced lunch would get the service for free as well. The fees exist because the Legislature only provides local school districts with funding for a half-day of kindergarten. DeBell indicated it is possible that there will be another 15 percent increase in 2013-2014 since state funding for full-day kindergarten is not an option at this time.

A Tip of the Hat…

As the General Assembly in Indiana ended its final week, funding for full-day kindergarten was approved at about the same level of funding as other grades receive. The passage of the bill will allow children in Indiana to benefit from publicly supported Full-Day K next year. According to Rep. Jeff Espich (R) “the best thing we (the General Assembly) can do for K-12 is put additional funds toward full-day kindergarten.” and it was the “best education idea to come from House Republicans this year”. Read more.

CDF Updates

CDF has released the annual Analysis of the President’s Budget and What it Means for Children and Families

Overall, in these tight economic times, the President’s FY 2013 budget proposes critical investments to support healthy child development and fight poverty while taking steps towards addressing inequities in the U.S. tax code. Priorities for increased funding in the President’s budget include education, early childhood development, health and vulnerable youth. Despite this overall good news for children, there is cause for concern. A number of important programs that serve vulnerable children and families face deep budget cuts at a time when the economy has greatly increased the need for safety net services. Read a full analysis of the President's budget and what it means for children.

Register for CDF’s National Conference

Pursuing Justice for Children and the Poor with Urgency and Persistence
A Community and Youth Empowerment Conference
July 23-25 in Cincinnati, Ohio

Don’t forget to register early to attend CDF’s first national conference since 2003! Early registration discount ends April 20th. Early childhood will be featured as we gather America’s top experts, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, community advocates, service providers and most committed activists. Through cutting edge plenary sessions and dozens of compelling workshops, we will share the latest research, best policies and practices, community building and engagement models as well as community and youth empowerment strategies to close the gap between what we know works and what we actually do for our most vulnerable—children and the poor. Look for more details about the conference program and speakers to be released soon.

Early Childhood in the States

Georgia - “Who’s in the Circle?” A Study of Family Participation in Georgia’s Pre-K Program

In 2011 the National Institute for Early Education Research released a report about the Georgia Pre-K Program which offers universal voluntary prekindergarten to all 4-year-old children in the state. The report was based on a study that examined which household characteristics were related to the probability of participating in the voluntary pre-K program. It summarizes the results of a telephone survey conducted in October 2007 to parents across the state, and their reasons for either choosing to enroll or not in the program, as well as the relation between those choices, the information parents may have about the program, and mother's choices in the labor market. The study revealed that knowledge about the program varied only slightly based on various household background indicators, and that conditional on such program awareness, higher socioeconomic households are less likely to participate in the voluntary preschool program. The study also found that whether or not families take advantage of the program is closely related to whether or not the mother participates in the labor market, and whether she does so full time. In addition, the inclination to participate appears stronger for African American families, which amount to the single largest minority in Georgia. Read the entire report here.

National - State Pre-K Assessment Policies: Issues and Status

Last month the Educational Testing Service released a new report entitled State Pre-K Assessment Policies: Issues and Status. This report, which looks at states that have state-funded Pre-K programs, provides a status report on Pre-K policies related to assessing preschoolers’ learning outcomes for the 2011 2012 school year. The report identifies and describes state-funded Pre-K assessment policies and programs operating in 2012 and discusses the special challenges related to assessing young children. The broad purpose of the report is to provide a comprehensive picture of Pre-K policies that govern the assessment of children’s learning in states. Specifically the report sought to identify:

  1. Which learning outcome measures, if any are specified in Pre-K policies?
  2. Do these specified measures fall under the categories of direct assessments, observation checklists or scales, or a combination of both assessment approaches?
  3. How much choice do Pre-K providers have in selecting the measures to be used in their classrooms?
  4. How frequently are learning outcome measures to be administered and reported?

Read the entire report here.

Early Childhood News and Resources

America’s Youngest Outcast 2010

In December 2011, the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) released its newest publication entitled America’s Youngest Outcast 2010. The report documents the numbers of homeless children in every state, their well-being, their risk for child homelessness, and state level planning and policy activities. Using findings from numerous sources that include well-established national data sets as well as their own research, NCFH ranked states in four domains and then developed a composite of these domains to rank the states from 1 (best) to 50 (worst). Read the report here.

Starting Strong III - A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care

The international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development continued its focus on the importance of early childhood education during the recent high-level roundtable in Oslo, Norway. During the roundtable the new publication “Starting Strong III: A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care,” was released. This new publication aims to define and outline five policy levers within early care and education that can enhance quality. In addition, it provides busy policy makers with practical tools such as research briefs, international comparisons, country examples, self-reflection sheets, etc. The publication is for purchase but the executive summary can be read here.

Investing in Public Programs Matters: How State Policies Impact Children's Lives

In January the Foundation for Child Development released findings from the 2012 State Child Well-Being Index (CWI) in a new report, Investing in Public Programs Matters: How State Policies Impact Children's Lives. The report uses the State CWI to rank children’s well-being in seven different domains for each state and compares them across states. In addition to state rankings, this report includes new findings about the strength of relationships between state policies and selected economic and demographic factors indicative of child well-being.

Study Finds New Insight into Language Development: Babies are Lip Readers

Recently MSNBC reported that a newly released study found babies use their eyes as well as their ears to learn language. The study, conducted by researchers at the Florida Atlantic University, involved infants aged 4 to 12 months viewing videos of women speaking in the infant’s home language. The youngest infants would focus on the speaker’s eyes while older infants (those beginning to babble on their own) would watch the speaker's mouth. Once infants became more confident in their native language around 10 months old, they would again focus on the speaker's eyes. Click here to read more about this interesting study.

OCC Introduces New Website

The Office of Child Care (OCC) recently unveiled its new website. Visitors can find the latest OCC news, stories of those who have participated in programs, and links to the latest research. The website features clear navigation and resources that make it easier for grantees, child care providers, and parents to support the healthy development and school success of all children in child care. The website will also highlight Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) success stories and they are looking to collect stories about the impact CCDF has across the country. If you would like to share a story of CCDF making a difference in your state or community, please contact Tricia Haley (

1 Oser, C. and Cohen, J. (2003). Improving early intervention: using what we know about infants and toddlers with disabilities to reauthorize Part C of IDEA. Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE Policy Center.

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