The headlines are daunting. Plunging home values, skyrocketing fuel costs, declining state revenues, and a multitude of other budget worries add up to nightmares for state budget officials and school business directors. Even the most conservative observers will admit that budget cuts in most districts go beyond trimming fat and are cutting deep into the meat.
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and Labor, Press release, July 9, 2008
With Americans already feeling the strain of higher grocery costs, soaring food prices are making it more difficult for schools, child care programs, and summer food service programs to provide healthy, low-cost meals for children, witnesses told the House Education and Labor Committee today. Today’s hearing was the first held by Congress to examine how rising food costs are affecting U.S. child nutrition programs and the millions of families who rely on them.
According to preliminary results of a new survey unveiled by the School Nutrition Association at the hearing, to help cope with higher food costs in the coming year, 75 percent of school nutrition directors plan to increase school meal prices for students, and 62 percent plan to reduce staff. In addition, 69 percent of the survey’s respondents reported they will have to dip into their “rainy day funds” intended for capital improvement projects.
• Testimonies (PDFs) and archived webcast
Despite increasing demands for evidence-based early childhood services, the evaluations of interventions such as Head Start or home-visiting programs frequently contribute more heat than light to the policy-making process. This dilemma is illustrated by the intense debate that often ensues among dueling experts who reach different conclusions from the same data about whether a program is effective or whether its impacts are large enough to warrant a significant investment of public and/or private funds.
Because the interpretation of program evaluation research is so often highly politicized, it is essential that policymakers and civic leaders have the independent knowledge needed to be able to evaluate the quality and relevance of the evidence provided in reports. This guide helps prepare decision-makers to be better consumers of evaluation information. It is organized around five key questions that address both the substance and the practical utility of rigorous evaluation research. The principles we discuss are relevant and applicable to the evaluation of programs for individuals of any age, but in our examples and discussion we focus specifically on early childhood.
From the press release:
A new report from Communities for Quality Education (CQE) analyzes State of the State gubernatorial addresses between 2004-2008 and highlights specific education policy trends. The report shows that between 2004 and 2007, every governor who delivered a State of the State address stressed the importance of education to economic growth. In fact, no issue surrounding education has been focused on as much by governors in their State of the State addresses as the link between education and economic prosperity.
• Governors’ Statements
From the press release:
A national-level update of characteristics of the nation’s more than 75 million students. Eight tables include number of students by attributes such as age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, family income, type of college and vocational course enrollment. This Internet-only release comes from data collected each October as part of the Current Population Survey. The full report with analysis of the details is expected later this summer.
Source: National Institute for Early Education Research
From press release (Pew Charitable Trusts):
State-funded preschools served over one million children last year, yet public pre-K was unavailable for most 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the annual survey released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The State of Preschool 2007 ranks all 50 states on the percentage of children served and spending per child. It also compares the number of quality benchmarks each state meets for the 2006-2007 school year. The survey found that enrollment, quality and state spending per child increased.
Yet, 12 states offered no state-funded preschool education and others faltered in their commitment to the quality of their early education programs. The report showed that nationally less than half of all 4-year-olds were enrolled in government-supported preschool education programs and one quarter received no preschool. For 3-year-olds the situation was worse, with only 15 percent enrolled in public programs and 50 percent receiving no early education.
Children from wealthy families can attend expensive private preschools while the federal Head Start program and most state-funded preschool education is targeted at lower income families.
Full Report (PDF; 8.4 MB)
State Profiles (PDFs)
In February 2005, GAO issued a report that raised concerns about the effectiveness of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) oversight of about 1,600 local organizations that receive nearly $7 billion in Head Start grants. GAO was asked to report on (1) ACF’s progress in conducting a risk assessment of the Head Start program and ensuring the accuracy and reliability of data from its annual Program Information Report (PIR) survey of grantees, (2) efforts to improve on-site monitoring of grantees, and (3) how data are used to improve oversight and help grantees meet program standards. For this report, GAO surveyed a nationally representative sample of Head Start program directors and interviewed ACF officials. GAO also reviewed ACF studies on the validity of PIR data and conducted tests of data from the 2006 PIR database.