States and school districts have begun receiving billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds for early education. One of the most important ways that the states and districts can do this is by investing stimulus funds in early education and PreK-3rd reforms to ensure that all students establish a solid foundation of math, literacy, and social/emotional skills by the end of third grade. Two new issue briefs from the New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative provide guidance and options for how states and school districts can use stimulus funds to improve access, equity and alignment in early learning for children from birth through elementary school.
Maximizing Reform in the Stimulus Bill: Supporting Effective Early Education, published in cooperation with the Education Commission of the States, encourages states to think creatively about how to use stimulus funds to maintain early education services and improve access, quality, and alignment in early education. The issue brief argues that there are multiple early education investments states and districts can make with ARRA funding that will continue to produce benefits even after stimulus dollars are gone. States and school districts must prioritize early education investments that: 1) Integrate early education investments with K-12 school improvement efforts, 2) Leverage existing programs, including Head Start and community-based pre-k providers, and 3) Build infrastructure to support quality early education programs in a systematic way. Examples of such investments include:
- Building Quality Rating and Improvement Systems,
- Providing training and support to community-based child care providers,
- Using a PreK-3rd strategy to turn around low-performing elementary schools, and
- Refurbishing or building facilitites for early education use.
This issue brief is part of a series of ECS issue briefs that provide guidance to states on how to effectively use ARRA funds to advance education reforms.
Building a Solid Foundation, a new issue brief from New America's Early Education Initiative, explains why states and school districts need to make PreK-3rd reforms -- which start with high-quality pre-k and continue with a seamless, high-quality early learning experience through third grade -- a central part of their strategy for stimulus funds. The report also offers menus of policy options for both states and school districts to use stimulus funds to put in place PreK-3rd reforms that will deliver lasting benefits after stimulus dollars are gone.
Strategies for states to use stimulus funds to support PreK-3rd reforms include:
- Ensure that State Early Learning Advisory Councils Support PreK-3rd alignment.
- Strengthen state standards in PreK-3rd.
- Adjust state school funding formulas to incorporate Pre-k.
- Allow the creation of pre-k charter schools.
- Integrate early education into state longitudinal student data systems.
- Provide incentives for districts that maintain pre-k funding or use ARRA funds for pre-k.
Strategies for districts to use stimulus funds to support PreK-3rd reforms include:
- Sustain current investments in pre-k, full-day kindergarten, and supports for teaching and learning in the early grades.
- Use new Title I funds to expand access to quality pre-k.
- Align standards, curriculum, and instructional strategies to provide a seamless early learning experience for all children from pre-k through third grade.
- Establish common, aligned standards and expectations across all pre-k programs in a community, by working with and providing professional development for teachers in community-based pre-k programs.
- Reconstitute chronically low-performing elementary schools as PreK-3rd Early Learning Academies.
- Rethink the school day to allow common planning time.
- Build or refurbish facilities used by pre-k and PreK-3rd programs.
This issue brief is the second Early Education Initiative issue brief offering guidance to states on the use of stimulus funds. In April the Initiative published an issue brief on how states can use stimulus funds to support the development of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems for early care and education settings.