In a coincidence of timing, we published our roundup of various organizations' proposals for early childhood care and education in the stimulus package at about the same time as Pre-K Now released a letter to House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outlining their stimulus agenda for early education--so Pre-k Now's agenda didn't make it into our roundup.
Pre-k Now's first recommendation calls for state fiscal relief--an idea we've previously noted might be the best way to support early education in the stimulus, by staving of likely state cuts to early childhood and elementary school funding. Like some of the organizations we mentioned yesterday, they're also calling for $3 billion in increased funding for Head Start and Early Head Start, and another $3 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
As we've said previously, one thing for early education advocates to keep an eye on in the stimulus package is ensuring that community-based early education providers have access to any new school construction funding that the legislation provides: And Pre-k Now has kept their eye on that ball, encouraging Congress to allocate $1 billion of any school modernization package specifically for school facilities.
We also like their proposals to incorporate funds for early childhood educator training and professional development into any stimulus package. Even in the current economic climate, there's a shortage of highly skilled early childhood educators, and the current crisis might provide an opportunity to recruit talented individuals into the profession, some of whom will likely stay even after the economy improves. But taking advantage of this opportunity requires rapidly implementing high-quality alternative certification and other professional development routes for prospective pre-k teachers to acquire necessary skills and knowledge to be effective pre-k teachers. Fortunately, programs like Teach for America and states like New Jersey provide examples to show that this can be done.
The economic crisis is bad news for most American families and children, but if we're smart there are a few opportunities to make long-term investments that have the potential to improve children's learning outcomes. Investing in early education facilities and training the next generation of highly skilled early educators are two ways policymakers can make a positive difference for children.