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Map of the Day

CHANGES IN STATE APPROPRIATIONS FOR PRE-K PROGRAMS SERVING 4-YEAR-OLDS:  FY 2012-13 to FY 2013-2014.  Source:  Education Commission of the States, January 2014.  

The Lowdown

Consider a classroom filled with confident, eager 4-year-olds on the first day of school.  Now, imagine, every seat filled with kids ready to tackle their ABCs and 1-2-3s in pre-k classrooms filled to capacity – in every neighborhood, small-town and city across the country – no exception.  Improbable … But, not impossible if the power of persistence is factored into the equation. 

Last February in his 2013 State of the Union Address President Obama called for a historic focus on early education when he proposed a continuum of high-quality investments in early learning for every child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. Twelve months later, fueled by broad public support for funding preschool, exciting new research about how infants and toddlers process language and a push from both the corporate and non-profit sectors for greater investment in early education, early learning advocates are optimistic that investing in America’s littlest learners will trump the public’s stubborn reluctance to spend taxpayer dollars.  

The issue of preschool is hot – even though federal legislation, the Strong Start for America's Children Act, remains mired in the dysfunction of Capitol Hill – states and cities are expanding access to preschool and supporting programs that enhance early learning. State funding for preschool plunged in 2012 because of the Great Recession; however, recent data by the Education Commission for the States reports funding for early education has surged back. This year, 30 of the 40 states that support preschool programs increased funding.  State programs devoted to closing the ‘word gap’ are springing-up everywhere.  Read this to discover how substantive policy initiatives, like Reach Out and Read, Providence Talks and the Thirty Million Words Initiative, implemented in the states, have inspired parents to pro-actively nurture their babies’ emotional and intellectual development.

Pre-K 4 SA, the citywide early education program in San Antonio, Texas, is off to a strong start. In Oklahoma – where early education is perceived as a moral imperative – 4-year-olds attend high-quality preschool for free. Georgia’s universal pre-k program is winning accolades for establishing and meeting high quality benchmarks.  Former Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s campaign promise of publicly funded universal pre-k for kids living in New York City is on the cusp of becoming a reality. Newly elected Mayor de Blasio hopes to surpass the success of San Francisco’s Preschool for All Program. The only thing standing in his way is money.  

Quality preschool doesn’t come cheap. In the tub of rationalizations blocking pre-k initiatives – money continues to be the biggest stumbling block of all. Late last year, Colorado’s Amendment 66, a convoluted ballot measure to fund education by raising income taxes, failed by a wide margin. However, education policy experts characterize the Centennial State’s refusal to raise revenue as an anomaly that bucked the growing trendRead this assessment from Pew’s Adrienne Lu on how state and local governments are coming up with creative ways to fund early education programs.

In California, since 2007-2008, total annual funding for subsidized childcare and preschool has been cut by nearly 40 percent – eliminating 110,000 of all childcare and pre-k slots. For too many years, mounting deficits were the primary reason why California stalled on expanding early education; but, the recent positive change in California’s balance sheet is generating a corresponding change in political commitment about funding universal pre-k – at least in the state legislature. For an explanation on why California’s attempts to fund pre-k faltered in the past and what accounts for the recent change of heart behind making investments in early education a priority, David Kirp’s op-ed in the L.A. Times is a must read.

This January, Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore of the Senate reached the same conclusion extolled by Next Generation’s Ann O’Leary – California’s economic future depends on early investments in children. SB 837, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014, the bill Steinberg is co-sponsoring strives to provide one year of high quality, voluntary transitional kindergarten to every four-year-old child in California.  A comprehensive list of SB 837’s key components can be found here. Attempting to extend California’s commitment to early learning even further, Senator Carol Liu introduced SB 1123, the California Strong Start Program, an evidence-based, locally controlled program for children birth through age 3 – the first of its kind in the nation.   

In his recent State of the State address, Governor Jerry Brown touted his educational proposals for the 2014 academic year, without ever mentioning either early learning or early education. In reaction, organizations supporting these issues, Raising California Together, Early Edge California, Children Now and Next Generation, have firmed-up their resolve to advance state policies pertaining to children 0 to 5.

Persistence…even Webster’s doesn’t come close to providing a more accurate and meaningful definition.


“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.  Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old.  As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own.  They know we can’t wait.”  President Obama, in his 2014 State of the Union Address, praising the states for efforts to advance early education. 

We can no longer afford to wait to ensure all of California's youngest learners have the early experiences they need to be ready for success in school and life. This begins early - with the biggest windows of learning and brain development occurring in infancy, toddlerhood and the preschool years.”  Former Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, George Halvorson on the pressing need to invest in early learning.  

In statehouses and cities, after years of making cuts needed to balance budgets, there's an appetite for better childhood options.”  UC Berkeley Professor David Kirp in the L.A. Times calling attention to the role states and cities are playing in advancing early education.  

Conversations about early development belong in every doctor’s office, place of worship, grocery store, and barbershop. Only when communities are reminded and convinced of the long-term gains made when we invest in young children will our politicians respond.”  Next Generation’s Ann O’Leary, Next Generation, advocating for greater investment in infant and toddler care. 

News Clips

Remarks by the President in the State of the Union Address.  Office of the Press Secretary.  The White House.  February 12, 2013. 

State of the Union features historic focus on early education.  Sarah Butrymowicz.  The Hechinger Report.   February 12, 2013. 

Fact Sheet President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans.  Office of the Press Secretary.  The White House.  February 12, 2013. 

70 Percent Of Americans Support Universal Preschool Access.  Bryce Covert.  Think Progress.  July 31, 2013. 

Closing the ‘Word Gap.’  Hillary Clinton.  The Clinton Foundation.  October 3, 2013. 

In the beginning was the word.  The Economist.  February 22, 2014. 

No, they’re not on drugs: Business leaders who embrace early childhood education.  Brigid Schulte.  The Washington Post.  February 1, 2013. 

Hillary Clinton to join San Francisco non-profit to promote early childhood education.  Lillian Mongeau.  EdSource.  June 14, 2013. 

Optimism in the Face of Federal Gridlock.  First Five Years’ Fund.  October 30, 2013. 

Op-Ed.  How Preschool Got Hot.  Gail Collins.  New York Times.  January 29, 2014. 

Strong Start for America's Children Act.  naeyc. 

Obama Reaffirms Old Education Promises in State of the Union Address.  Allie Bidwell.  U.S. News and World Report.  January 29, 2014. 

A New Entitlement? The Right To Preschool?  Seanna Adcox, Jeff Amy, Tom LoBianco and David Lieb.  AP-NPR.  February 3, 2014. 

The State of Preschool 2012.   NIEER.  February 2013. 

Changes in State Appropriations for Pre-K Programs Serving 4-Year-Olds.  Education Commission of the States.  January 2014. 

Pre-K Remains Hot State Policy Topic.  Christina Samuels.  EdWeek.  February 5, 2014. 

Early Childhood Education: Lots of Talk, but Not Much Action (Yet).  Laura Bornfreund and Connor Williams.  The Atlantic.  January 30, 2014. 

A Preschool Program Conservatives Can Love.  Steve Cohen.  The Wall Street Journal.  March 12, 20133. 

Can We Disrupt Poverty by Changing How Poor Parents Talk to Their Kids?  Emily Badger.  The Atlantic Cities.  December 13, 2013. 

VIDEO.  Thirty Million Words Initiative.  University of Chicago.  YOU TUBE.  December 13, 2013. 

PRE-K4SA.  City of San Antonia. 

Ambitious Pre-K Program Launches in San Antonio.  Julie Blair.  October 1, 2013. 

Op-Ed.  Oklahoma! Where the Kids Learn Early.  Nicholas Kristof.  New York Times.  November 9, 2013. 

AUDIO.  Why Oklahoma's Universal Pre-K Is Successful.  News for St. Louis-NPR.  February 20, 2014. 

Pre-K on the Range.  Sharon Lerner.  American Prospect.  December 4, 2012. 

Georgia’s Universal Preschool Program Achieves High Marks In New Study.  NIEER.  2014. 

Bill De Blasio’s Pre-K Plan Is No Gimmick.  John Cassidy.  The New Yorker.  August 22, 2013. 

Bill de Blasio returns to Columbia, goes to bat for pre-K.  Columbia Magazine.  Winter 2013-2014. 

De Blasio Tests Political Might in Pre-K Push.  Javier Hernandez and Nikita Stewart.  New York Times.  February 7, 2014. 

Will New York City Lead the Way on Pre-K?  Dana Goldstein.  The Nation.  January 20, 2014. 

San Francisco Touts Gains From Pre-K Program.  Julie Blair.  EdWeek.  October 8, 2013. 

Preschool for All gives youths edge in kindergarten.  Jill Tucker.  S.F. Chronicle.  September 28, 2013. 

Pre-K Plan Puts Cuomo at Odds With de Blasio on Funding.  Michael M. Grynbaum and Thomas Kaplan.  New York Times.  January 21, 2014. 

Preschool for All:  Summary of Early Learning in the FY 2014 Presidential Budget Request

The Top 10 Myths About Preschool.  Julie Hamm and Juliana Herman.  CAP.  June 25, 2013. 

Preschool proposal faces doubts, opposition.  Jackie Mader.  The Hechinger Report.  June 13, 2013. 

Voters reject big tax hike, school finance measure Amendment 66.  Kevin Simpson.  The Denver Post.  November 5, 2013.  

Defeat of School Tax Stings Colorado Democrats.  Jack Healy.  November 6, 2013. 

Preschool Push Moving Ahead in Many States.  Richard Perez-Peaz and Motoko Rich.  New York Times.  February 3, 2014. 

Elected officials embrace preschool, but funding is catch.  Adrienne Lu.  USA Today-PEW Stateline.  February 28, 2014. 

Schwarzenegger Bids California Farewell, Leaving Brown Burdened With Bonds.  Michael Marois.  Bloomberg.  December 15, 2010. 

California Budget Surges to Record High.  Juliet Williams.  AP.  January 9, 2014. 

Op-Ed.  California should give all kids the pre-K advantage.  David Kirp.  L.A. Times.  January 24, 2014. 

Our economic future depends on early investments in kids.  Ann O’Leary.  S.F. Chronicle.  January 31, 2014. 

Senate Democrats introduce bill to expand transitional kindergarten.  Lillian Mongeau.  EdSource.  January 7, 2014. 

Steinberg, Senate Democrats Introduce Kindergarten Readiness Act.  Office of Senator Darrell Steinberg.  January 7, 2014.

SB-1123 Child care and development: California Strong Start program.  California Legislative Information.  February 19, 2014. 

SB 1123: California Strong Start Program Introduced.  Early Edge California.  February 2014. 

Brown touts education accomplishments, priorities in upbeat State of the State.  Kathryn Baron.  EdSource.  January 22, 2014. 

Tale of Two States: As New York Announces Pre-K Plan, California Child Care Advocates Say California Needs to Lead, Not Follow on Investing in Early Education.  Raising California Together.  January 14, 2014. 

Kids Ready to Succeed, California Ready to Lead.  Early Edge California.  February 2014.

Report Finds Major Weaknesses In California Kids’ Well-Being Remain Despite Recent Efforts.  Children Now.  January 7, 2014. 

Infant and Toddler Care in 2025.  Ann O’Leary.  Next Generation.  February 25, 2014. 

Diagram of the Day

PROPOSED CHANGES IN CALIFORNIA’s EARLY EDUCATION SYSTEM.  Source:  Early Edge California.  February 11, 2014.

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