Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Challenge to States: Building Strong Early Learning Systems

I received this from Gayle Lucado who heads-up the Successs by Six program through the United Way of Central Virginia in Lynchburg. This comes from the National Womens Law Center. This past weekend there were Poverty Forums held across Virginia and at many of them, education was one of the answers to combating poverty. There are numerous studies that say the earlier children are exposed to learning and education, the less likely they will fall or remain in poverty or turn to crime or drug use. Bottom line, the more education a person has the more money a person makes over the course of their life and the more involved they are as citizens. Report is posted below:

A Challenge to States: Building Strong Early Learning Systems
by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst, and
Amalia Reiss, Intern,
National Women’s Law Center

The President and Congress are demonstrating their commitment to early care and education by issuing an important challenge to states: Develop strong, high-quality early learning systems that help ensure children enter school ready to succeed. States that accept the challenge will receive new resources and support to meet this goal, which is essential for our children and our nation.

An Early Learning Challenge Fund, first discussed by President Obama during the campaign and included in his budget proposal earlier in the year, has now been fleshed out in legislation introduced by Representative George Miller (D-CA) on July 15. The Early Learning Challenge Fund, which is proposed as part of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R. 3221), would provide $1 billion a year over 10 years to states that agree to work toward a comprehensive strategy for improving the quality of their early learning programs, particularly those serving disadvantaged children.

The initiative would make two types of grants available to states: Quality Pathways Grants for states that already have made significant progress toward establishing systems for improving the quality of early learning settings and that can serve as models for other states, and Development Grants for states that have some elements of a strategy to promote early learning but need an extra boost to achieve a truly systemic approach. States would be able to use the grants for several key components of a high-quality early learning system, including initiatives to boost the education and compensation of the early learning workforce, a system for rating the quality of early learning programs and helping them achieve progressively higher levels of quality, parent outreach and engagement, and coordination with other services for children and families—many of the same key components addressed in the Center’s Child Care Agenda.

In his address to the NAACP on July 16th in New York, President Obama described the Early Learning Challenge Fund initiative as an integral part of his broader strategy for reforming the education system so that it offers support from “cradle to career.” In his words, the grants will encourage states to “raise the bar when it comes to early learning programs” and “demonstrate how [the states] will prepare the lowest income children to meet the highest standards of success” with the ultimate goal of helping “prepare all our children to enter kindergarten all ready to learn.”

This initiative is the second major step forward on early care and education this year. It follows the significant investments made as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in several major early childhood programs, including the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start, Early Head Start, and services for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities under Section 619 and Part C of the IDEA. With the federal government displaying leadership and states encouraged to take initiative in bolstering their early care and education programs, the Early Learning Challenge Fund would lay the groundwork for a system that would give all children a strong start.

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