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Expanding Pre-K? Check Out Washington State

August 12, 2013

Forty states operate public pre-K programs,  but 4-year-olds are far from guaranteed a seat in the classroom. Last year, the share of 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-K ranged from nearly 80 percent in Florida to just shy of 1 percent in Rhode Island, in many cases because of limited funding or capacity.

IES Report: Early Interventions and Early Childhood Education

August 7, 2013
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On July 23rd the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a report on research pertaining to early childhood education. The report describes findings supported by IES early intervention and childhood education research grants, as well as how to use these to better support improvements in early childhood education in the United States. In particular, it spotlights instructional practices and curriculum that appear to enhance young children’s development and learning and approaches for improving teachers’ and other practitioners’ instruction.

New Data Needed Despite Survey of Early Childhood Spending Across the U.S.

August 6, 2013
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This post originally appeared on our sister blog, Early Ed Watch.

States invested slightly more money into early childhood education in 2013 compared to 2012, according to a new survey of 21 states from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That’s a reassuring trend, given that most states are still treading water after the financial recession. But it may not be the whole story.

NCSL’s survey looks at 21 regionally, politically, and financially diverse states. Twelve of them increased funding for child care in fiscal year 2013 (one, Ohio, did not provide information); 10 increased funding for pre-K (one, Illinois, didn’t respond and two, Arizona and Mississippi, don’t have state pre-K programs); and 14 increased funding for home visiting programs. Thirteen states also increased funding for other early childhood efforts, though Ohio and Georgia didn’t offer any further information beyond those categories.

The increased funding for state pre-kindergarten is especially encouraging, given that the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) published an updated State of Preschool report last year showing an “unprecedented funding drop” in pre-K spending. It wasn’t all good news: Minnesota decreased pre-K spending by almost 12 percent, and Colorado’s 3 percent decline in spending adds to an ongoing three-year trend. Still, New Mexico reversed its own three-year trend with a 33 percent increase in funding.


According to the report, child care funding stabilized over the past year, too. Prior NCSL surveys from fiscal year 2010 to 2012 found that 17 of 21 states made severe cuts to child care funding. This year, 12 increased funding, and only 7 cut spending on child care. This year’s increases came in spite of a slight decline in federal child care spending, so many of the increases came from: 1) increased state spending or 2) redirecting federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars to child care subsidies.



Home visiting increases were significant, too, totaling nearly $50 million across these 21 states in 2013. But most of the increase in that category was driven by an increase in the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. MIECHV provided more money to states in 2013 ahead of its scheduled end in fiscal year 2014, though President Obama’s 2014 budget request included an extension and more funding for the program through 2025.

Unfortunately, the survey sheds no light on the effects of this year’s across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as sequestration. The report is based on a December 2012 survey of states – a full three months before sequestration was implemented in March 2013, and only three months into the 2013 federal fiscal year.

To date, there is limited information available from the White House or agencies about the systemic effects of the cuts – but it almost certainly led to declines in funding for most, if not all, of these states. It’s likely that even increases in state funding may not have been adequate to maintain their early childhood funding benchmarks for many states, especially given increasing costs in other sectors like health care. The sequester cut federal Head Start spending, home visiting funds, and the appropriations-funded portion of child care mid-year.

And this isn’t all. There are additional federal spending cuts scheduled for next year, thanks to the same law that put in place sequestration, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). With states still struggling to recoup their recession-era revenue shortfalls, the additional $18 billion cuts to all discretionary spending mandated by the BCA next year will leave Congress with some tough choices (or with more across-the-board cuts).

For these reasons (and others), we at Ed Money Watch are looking forward to next year’s NCSL survey. It may offer the first clear picture of how budget battles on Capitol Hill are affecting the United States’ youngest children.

New Data Needed Despite Survey of Early Childhood Spending Across the U.S.

August 6, 2013
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This post also appeared on our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

States invested slightly more money into early childhood education in 2013 compared to 2012, according to a new survey of 21 states from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That’s a reassuring trend, given that most states are still treading water after the financial recession. But it may not be the whole story.

Federal Early Learning Updates

August 2, 2013

New Leadership in the Office of Early Learning

Libby Doggett has been named the new deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning at the U.S. Department of Education. Jacqueline Jones, the first appointee to this position, left the department in December 2012.

Pairing Investments in College Access with Investments in Early Education

July 22, 2013
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My hometown, Kalamazoo, Michigan, made waves in 2005 when the superintendent of the local public school system announced that anonymous donors had established a fund to cover the college tuition of every Kalamazoo Public Schools graduate in perpetuity. The program, known as the Kalamazoo Promise, attracted the attention of national news outlets (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and the New York Times, among others). Since its inception, community leaders have realized that it’s not enough to make college more affordable and accessible – students need high-quality PreK-12 instruction to be adequately prepared for college. Recent research shows that one of the community’s signature early education initiatives, Ready 4s, substantially improves students’ chances for long-term academic success.

Senate Panel Approves New Early Education Funding for 2014

July 15, 2013
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For more details on the Senate Appropriations Committee Labor-HHS-Education bill, check out this post from our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

Senate Appropriations Panel Approves 2014 Spending Bill

July 15, 2013
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For more details on early education in the Senate Appropriations Committee Labor-HHS-Education bill, check out this post from our sister blog, Early Ed Watch.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to approve a fiscal year 2014 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services (HHS), and Education. (Fiscal year 2014 starts this October 1.) That development is a reminder that key funding decisions for education programs are wending their way through Congress, and that the House and Senate could not be further apart in their proposals.

While the House hasn’t yet published or voted on an education appropriations bill for 2014, it indicated earlier this year that it would reduce overall funding substantially – from $150 billion in 2013 to $122 billion next year – for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services (HHS), and Education.

Why the big cut? The House wants to conform to the spending limit set forth in law by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which requires total appropriations funding be cut by $18 billion from fiscal year 2013 to 2014, to $966 billion. But the House also wants to hold defense spending harmless in those cuts, with domestic programs making up the difference. (For more details, check out our April issue brief on this issue, Federal Education Budget Update: Fiscal Year 2013 Recap and Fiscal Year 2014 Early Analysis, and our May post, House Could Set Education Funding Back to Year 2001 to Fund Defense.)

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are ignoring the $966 billion overall appropriations limit for fiscal year 2014, and instead drafting bills within a $1.058 trillion limit. The president, for his part, supports that higher level.

Leaving aside the gulf between the House and Senate, the Senate’s committee-passed Labor, HHS, and Education bill totaling nearly $166 billion gives us some clues about senators’ priorities in the budget fight that looms in the latter half of the year. (See table below for more details.)

For most programs, the Senate appropriations bill would reverse the across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) that took effect earlier this year, and would actually increase funding for many programs. The Senate Appropriations Committee would increase the two largest federal K-12 programs, Title I grants to school districts and special education grants to states, from 2013 levels, even over the pre-sequester total. The committee would also reverse sequestration for Improving Teacher Quality State Grants and the Teacher Incentive Fund, but wouldn’t increase funding over those levels. It would bump up Impact Aid slightly from 2013 pre-sequester totals.

Under the bill, the Obama administration’s signature competitive grant programs, Race to the Top (RTT) and Investing in Innovation (i3), receive funding for new competitions next year. The Department of Education would run a Race to the Top college affordability and completion competition, rather than the early learning and K-12 ones it has already run. But the bill would appropriate only $250 million for the competition, shy of the $548 million it received last year pre-sequester and well short of the administration’s requested $1 billion. It would fund i3, meanwhile, at $170 million, above the $149 million provided in 2013. The committee also approved a healthy increase in funding for state data systems, from $38 million last year to $75 million.

Another of the administration’s own initiatives gets a mention, too: preschool. The Senate Committee explains that the president’s “Preschool for All” program isn’t included in the appropriations bill because the administration requested mandatory funding for it, which is provided outside the appropriations process. (Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA] has said she plans to introduce this portion of the pre-K plan separately.) But the Senate panel did include the president’s requested $750 million for Preschool Development Grants to help states build systems, as well as a $1.6 billion increase to Head Start, much of which will go to the White House’s proposed Early Head Start-child care partnerships.

On the higher education side, the Committee maintains a maximum Pell Grant award of $4,860, which, when combined with supplemental entitlement funding, brings the total figure to an estimated $5,785. It also awarded small funding increases to several pet projects, including international education and the high school intervention programs TRIO and GEAR UP. The president’s request for $250 million for a First in the World higher education competition was not granted.

In total, funding for the Department of Education – and for discretionary spending across these three agencies – would increase next year. But as explained above, it’s so far from what the House has indicated it will support that the two committees may as well be on different planets. It’s too early to say what the ultimate House-Senate agreement looks like for fiscal year 2014 education funding, but not too early to predict that a lot of squabbling lies ahead.


KIDS COUNT Reports Bright Spots, Though Inequities Remain

July 10, 2013

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual KIDS COUNT Data Book for 2013. While the report contains a few bright spots for children, authors find that few children from poor families are attending early childhood programs of the highest quality.

New Research: Targeted Parent Training Can Help Students Focus—and Succeed

July 8, 2013

As the Obama Administration ramps up its push for expanded early childhood education access for all children, it’s important to ensure that preschool quality remains a big part of the conversation. Fortunately, there’s good news on this front from the University of Oregon’s Brain Development Lab.

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