In Focus: Pre-kindergarten

Jul 16, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment Calls for an Investment in Early Learning

By Rhiannon Reeves and Christina Walker

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the first time since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, is currently being debated on the Senate floor. Earlier today, the Senate voted against Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment, which would have created a five-year innovative federal-state partnership to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children across the birth-to-age-five continuum. More specifically, the amendment provided for:

  • Access to high-quality preschool by providing more than $30 billion in paid-for mandatory formula and grant funding to states—with a required state match—for high-quality, full-day preschool for four-year-old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Support for early learning quality partnerships that meet the high-quality performance standards of Early Head Start and blend federal funds to provide high-quality, full-day child care.
  • Promotion of increased funding to serve children with disabilities in early childhood settings by increasing the authorization level of programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities and of preschool grants for children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities  Education Act (IDEA).
  • Maintained support for home visiting programs and called for their continuation through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program.

High-quality early education experiences have been linked to school readiness and the lifetime employment and earning potential of low-income children. Despite these linkages, some of the most vulnerable low- and moderate-income families in this country still lack access to high-quality child care options for their youngest children. The Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment further proposed to advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education systems across the country that ultimately support the goals of ESEA. 

Last week, the House passed its version of the ESEA reauthorization bill called the Student Success Act, which differs from the Senate bill under consideration. If the Senate passes the Every Child Achieves Act, Congress will need to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions through a Conference Committee; therefore, the provisions of a final ESEA bill would remain to be negotiated.

Earlier this year, CLASP released recommendations for improving ESEA by increasing access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and promoting provisions that help youth succeed academically and ensure they are ready for college and career. We urge Congress, in working toward a final bill, to bolster support for vulnerable young children and disadvantaged youth because reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. The introduction of the Strong Start for America’s Children Amendment was a good first step in that direction.

Feb 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Provides Opportunity to Bolster Support for Vulnerable Young Children and Disadvantaged Youth

By Christina Walker and Kisha Bird

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law established in 1965 to provide funding to primary and secondary education. To inform their crucial debate, CLASP has released recommendations focused on young children and early childhood education, as well as academic success and college readiness for disadvantaged youth.

ESEA emphasizes equal access to high-quality programs to give every child a fair chance at success in school and life. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed for the reauthorization of ESEA, which has not been updated since No Child Left Behind in 2001. And last Monday, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget proposal, which included bold initiatives to support our nation’s most vulnerable families, including an increased investment in ESEA.

Young children experience the highest incidence of poverty, with young adults close behind. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Children and youth who are poor or from low-income communities have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood. High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. But despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs.

Youth and young adults are suffering, too. Many school districts are failing to provide high-quality education that keeps students engaged. For every 10 students that begin 9th grade, 2 fail to graduate from high school 4 years later. It’s critical that we strengthen the education system to ensure all students graduate and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities and careers.

ESEA has the potential to improve access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and ensure youth succeed academically and are ready for college and careers. CLASP recommends the following priorities be included in an ESEA reauthorization:

  • Provide a dedicated federal funding stream for early childhood education.
  • Improve early childhood services for children birth through school entry.
  • Ensure college and career readiness for all students by addressing disparities in school systems, particularly those with high-minority populations.
  • Fund dropout prevention and recovery strategies and interventions, including multiple education pathways and options for struggling and out-of-school youth.
  • Promote collaboration with other systems and sectors, such as human services and workforce systems and community based organizations, in order to better serve poor and low-income students.
  • Encourage states to invest in accountability and data systems that inform planning and programming around dropout prevention and recovery. 

A reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. Young children and disadvantaged youth are two key populations that deserve more attention in ESEA.

Read CLASP’s ESEA recommendations>>>

May 16, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Improving Pre-Kindergarten Access for Children of Immigrants

By Rhiannon Reeves

Despite opportunities for advancing school readiness and child well-being, children of immigrants are less likely than children of U.S.-born citizens to access early education programs. A new Urban Institute report confirms that states and local communities can improve access to preschool by using intentional outreach and enrollment strategies and building stronger relationships with parents.

Children of immigrants and English Language Learners (ELLs) are a growing segment of the U.S. population, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all children in the United States.  To accommodate such growth and diversity, communities and states across the country must meet the needs of immigrant families.

Supporting Immigrant Families' Access to Prekindergarten makes proposals for conducting outreach that supports pre-kindergarten enrollment amongst immigrant families and ELLs; helping immigrant families overcome language, documentation, and other logistical barriers when enrolling their children in prekindergarten programs; and building trust and good relationships with immigrant parents and designing immigrant- and ELL-friendly programs. The report includes strategies for:

  • Outreach: To ensure immigrant families are aware of pre-kindergarten and other available options, programs should participate in community events, go door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods, reach parents in places they already frequent such as grocery stores and churches, encourage parents of enrolled children to recruit other parents, and use mass media.
  • Enrolling families: To help parents meet paperwork requirements and streamline the application forms and enrollment process, programs should accept multiple document sources to fulfill enrollment requirements; be flexible in the ways that families can verify their income; create enrollment forms sensitive to immigrant families’ needs; offer multiple ways to enroll; provide enrollment assistance; and offer a variety of enrollment times and locations.  These approaches benefit all families, not just immigrant families.
  • Building relationships with parents: To help pre-kindergarten programs become self-sustaining, programs should engage immigrant families as ambassadors by building trust and good relationships with parents and communities through a welcoming attitude; work with trusted community partners; build capacity for communicating with immigrant parents; address logistical barriers such as volatile work schedules; and build cultural competency that supports families’ cultural beliefs and practices.

To meet the changing demographics of the young child population, policymakers need to creatively address the design and implementation of early learning programs to ensure ELLs are included and ideally served in high-quality early learning programs such as pre-kindergarten. As states consider expanding pre-kindergarten offerings through new federal opportunities and additional state funding, ensuring such programs include and benefit children of immigrants will be essential.

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