Category Archives: Children

What Obama’s Pre-K Proposal Could Mean for Head Start

Source: J.M. Holland – guest post, New America Foundation, Early Ed Watch blog, June 24, 2013

…What was surprising about Obama’s state of the union speech and the plan outlined by the executive office is the focus on state and federal partnerships. This surprised me because it seemed that the president had let the idea of increased access to preschool drop from his platform in his second term election. Head Start has always been the federal initiative while pre-K fell under state early childhood policy. Collaboration between the two types of programs has always been handled on a program by program basis. Scaling up collaboration to the national level is a truly innovative idea….

…Potential changes to Head Start include:
– States and localities that use braided funding could expand Head Start slots in locations where there are not enough children to make up a full class….
– In many Head Start programs, teaching staff are not paid on par with local Kindergarten and early childhood teachers. This gap in pay leads to the most qualified preschool teachers leaving Head Start for public schools. In a public pre-K program that served both Head Start and state-funded students, teachers’ salaries would need to be raised to meet the president’s requirement of comparable compensation….
– The lowering of the average age of Head Start enrollment could also be an effect of Obama’s plan. If more slots for 4-year-olds in moderate poverty were to be available through state programs, then Head Start could have the opportunity to expand the now-open slots to 3-year-old children in extreme poverty….
– An expansion of quality rating measures for state funded pre-K would necessitate a re-valuing of Head Start’s oversight program as it is currently implemented. …
– If state-funded pre-K programs were to implement some of these measures it could increase the quality of state pre-K programs. …
– What is often overlooked, especially when Head Start is compared to state and private pre-K is that it is a comprehensive child development program which supports children and families. It builds capacity in our country in small ways through providing nutrition and health services to children, through family engagement geared towards helping parents to become stronger supporters of their children’s development, and through escaping poverty by way of job training and education. State funded pre-K programs do not typically offer the same types of services….

Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners

Source: Mary Lynn Howard, Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, June 2013

From the press release:
Libraries and museums are effective, but often overlooked resources in our nation’s effort to turn around a crisis in early learning, exposing children to reading and powerful learning experiences in the critical early years and keeping them learning through the summer months, according to a report issued today by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

The report, Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners, documents dozens of examples and 10 key ways libraries and museums are supporting young children. It provides a clear call to policymakers, schools, funders, and parents to make full use of these vital, existing community resources.

Children of the Great Collapse

Source: Jared Bernstein, American Prospect, May 29, 2013

The stimulus was great for poor kids while it lasted. Now even bare-bones aid is at risk…

…Here’s a piece of good news of which you might not be aware: The U.S. safety net performed a lot better than you thought during the recent downturn, which was the deepest since the Depression. Thanks to expansions to the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and unemployment insurance—all beefed up by the $840 billion Recovery Act—the safety net almost wholly mitigated the rise in child poverty. Even middle-income households saw most of their income losses substantially offset by tax and transfer policies that sharply ramped up to help them.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of the Recovery Act’s outlays have now been spent, and pressure to reduce deficits leaves other spending on children and families under assault….

Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation – Summer Nutrition Status Report 2013

Source: Mike Burke, Kate Sims, Signe Anderson, Crystal FitzSimons, and Jessie Hewins, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), July 2013

From the press release:
Despite a slight increase in the number of low-income children eating summer meals in July 2012, the nation’s Summer Nutrition Programs continue to fall far short of their goal to curb summer hunger. Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, an analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), found that for every seven low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2011-2012 school year, only one child received summer meals in July 2012.

2012 did mark the first increase in summer food participation since 2008, serving lunch to 2.8 million children on an average July weekday. The increase was small: 13,000 more children participated in July 2012 than in July 2011, and not enough to reverse three years of declining participation. By 2012, 99,000 fewer children were participating in the Summer Nutrition Programs than in 2008.

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report

Source: Mike Burke, Kate Sims, Signe Anderson, Crystal FitzSimons, and Jessie Hewins, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), June 2013

The Summer Nutrition Programs have an important role to play in supporting the health and well-being of our nation’s children. They have struggled to fill this role, providing meals to only one in seven of the low-income children who participate in the school lunch program during the regular school year. The July 2012 increase in participation, the first since 2008, may be a start toward rebuilding the Summer Nutrition Programs so they better meet the need and provide children the healthiest meals possible. There is a clear path forward to re-building the Summer Nutrition Programs. USDA’s increased focus on the Summer Nutrition Programs and its efforts to reduce administrative barriers to participate will move the programs in the right direction and should be continued. In addition, supporting sponsors’ efforts to feed children year-round will build stronger summer meal programs. And efforts to improve the nutrition quality and appeal of the meals that are served also will encourage more children to participate. All of these steps can be taken to some degree within the existing parameters of the Summer Nutrition Programs, but the impact of these efforts will be much greater if the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization includes a significant investment in the programs.

Environmental Exposures in the Context of Child Care

Source: Nate Seltenrich, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 121, Issue 5, May 2013

Research has proven that infants and toddlers, who spend more time on the floor and experience the world with their hands and mouths, are not merely in closer contact with many indoor pollutants2 but also more sensitive to them. Yet environmental health standards in child care settings nationwide—which can include not just centers but also private homes, workplaces, universities, and places of worship—still lag behind those of schools, where children are older, larger, and somewhat less susceptible to environmental exposures. Unlike with more uniformly regulated schools, child care licensing, permitting, and oversight occur on a variety of levels, resulting in a fractured regulatory landscape.

A host of other factors, many of them specific to child care, contribute to the challenge. For example, licensing guidelines and quality rating systems—which often emphasize infection control and cleanliness—can steer centers toward bleach or other potentially toxic sanitizers and disinfectants that are now recognized as asthma triggers, says Ellen Dektar of the Alameda County Childcare Planning Council…

2012 State Preschool Yearbook

Source: W. Steven Barnett, Megan E. Carolan, Jen Fitzgerald, James H. Squires, National Institute for Early Education Research, 2012

From the summary:
The 2012 State Preschool Yearbook is the newest edition of our annual report profiling state-funded prekindergarten programs in the United States. This latest Yearbook presents data on state-funded prekindergarten during the 2011-2012 school year as well as documenting a decade of progress since the first Yearbook collected data on the 2001-2002 school year. Tracking trends long term is key to understanding the progress of early childhood education across the country and improving educational opportunities for America’s children.

Twenty-eight percent of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program in the 2011-2012 school year, the same percentage as the year before. This stagnation in enrollment growth was compounded by an unprecedented funding drop of $500 million nationwide. The findings in this Yearbook raise serious concerns on the quality and availability of pre-K education for most of American young learners.

The 2012 Yearbook is organized into three major sections. The first section offers a summary of the data and describes national trends for enrollment in, quality of, and spending on state-funded preschool. The second section presents detailed profiles outlining each state’s policies with respect to preschool access, quality standards, and resources for the 2011-2012 program year. In addition to providing basic program descriptions, these state profiles describe unique features of a state’s program and recent changes that can be expected to alter the future Yearbook information on a program. Profile pages are also included for states without state-funded programs. A description of our methodology follows the state profiles, and the last section of the report contains appendices. The appendices include tables that provide the complete 2011-2012 survey data obtained from every state, as well as Head Start, child care, U.S. Census, and special education data.

We Can Do Better: Child Care Aware of America’s Ranking of State Child Care Center Regulations and Oversight 2013 Update

Source: Child Care Aware of America, 2013

from the summary:
Nearly 11 million children younger than age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in some type of child care setting. State child care licensing requirements govern the health, safety and learning opportunities for these children. State oversight requirements monitor compliance with state policies.

We Can Do Better: 2013 Update is the fourth in a series of reports beginning in 2007 that scores and ranks the states, including the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense (DoD) on 11 program requirements and four oversight benchmarks for child care centers. Child Care Aware® of America’s update found that states have made progress but more progress is needed.

The average score in 2013 was 92 out of a possible 150 points (61 percent of all possible points). Using a standard grading scale, no state earned an A. The Department of Defense earned a B, the remaining top 10 states earned a C. Twenty-one states earned a D and the remaining states 20 failed.
See also:
Executive Summary
Conclusion and Recommendations
Program and Oversight Benchmarks
State Rankings
State Appendix Tables
One Pager
National Press Release

Early Childhood Education as an Essential Component of Economic Development

Source: Arthur MacEwan, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, January 2013

From the abstract:
The economic development impact of K-12 and higher education is widely acknowledged, but the role of early childhood education is often given insufficient attention. At the basis of the role of early childhood education as an essential component of economic development lie two necessities: child care for children whose parents are in the paid labor force, and the increasing importance of well-developed cognitive and social/behavioral skills in the work force. Taken together, these necessities demands that high quality early childhood education is universally available.

Beyond its direct role in economic development, early childhood education is important as a tool to move toward greater social equity. The evidence strongly indicates that children from low-income families benefit substantially, both cognitively and socially/behaviorally, from high quality early childhood education, thus helping to close the achievement and opportunity gap between income groups.

While the goal of universal availability of early childhood education is often recognized, in the United States less than half of three- and four-year-olds were enrolled in preschool programs in the 2008-2010 period. Enrollment in the New England states varies widely, with 62% of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in Connecticut in this period, but only 42% in Maine.

This report argues that it is highly desirable and valuable to society for state governments to support universal early childhood education. In doing so, governments will be putting in place an essential component of economic development, a component that will provide both a long-run foundation for their states’ economic development and an immediate boost to their states’ economic progress. Moreover, they will be providing an important service to families and strengthening equality of opportunity.