Early Childhood Education Update - July 2011

July 11, 2011 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:

CLASP LAUNCHES WEBPAGE ON PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE IN FEDERAL DEFICIT REDUCTION PROPOSALS

Federal policymakers have elevated the public discourse on the nation's annual deficits. There is widespread bipartisan agreement that the nation can't sustain its current levels of debt and deficit spending, but that's where the accord ends. Balancing the budget will require tough choices about how the nation invests its financial resources and raises revenue, but it also requires answering moral and philosophical questions about the kind of nation we want to be now and in the future.

Today, one in seven of us is poor, including one in four children under age five, and nearly one-third of us are low-income. In the last three decades, the income gap between rich and poor has widened. Unemployment has hovered around 9 percent or higher for the last two years and economists project it will remain high in the foreseeable future. Yet some pending deficit reduction proposals would decimate programs that alleviate poverty and provide education and training while leaving tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporate tax loopholes untouched. The U.S. Department of Treasury has said Congress must also vote to increase the debt ceiling, or the amount of money the nation can borrow to meet its obligations, by Aug. 2 so that the government can continue to function at its current capacity. Economists have warned that failure to increase the debt ceiling could be disastrous for the nation. As lawmakers move forward with deficit reduction talks and weigh various budget proposals, they should commit to ensuring final legislation doesn't harm the most vulnerable among us and does not increase poverty and inequality.

CLASP has created a webpage dedicated to the discussion of deficit reduction. The webpage contains a variety of resources to help inform policymakers and other stakeholders about the impacts that potential legislation, such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's FY 2012 budget proposal, could have on low-income people, including young children and their families. New resources and information will be added to the webpage as federal deficit discussions move forward. 

CLASP ANNOUNCES NEW RESOURCE ON EXPANDING MONITORING AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE IN INFANT/TODDLER CHILD CARE SETTINGS

Every day babies and toddlers rely on those who care for them to keep their environments clean, protect them from harm, and respond to their needs. Ensuring very young children stay healthy and safe in child care requires knowledgeable providers and caregivers as well as clear health and safety procedures. State child care licensing policies set out specific regulations governing procedures, such as those on safe sleep practices, by licensed providers to prevent illness and injury in child care settings. Regular monitoring of child care can play a critical role in ensuring that these key regulations are implemented correctly and consistently. Routine inspections, including unannounced visits, can help to identify areas that providers need to address to protect infants and toddlers and provide targeted technical assistance.

CLASP announces the release of a new resource on expanding monitoring and technical assistance. The resource is part of the "Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care" project, an ongoing effort by CLASP to link research to policy ideas to help states make the best decisions for infants and toddlers in child care. In this latest resource, CLASP presents:

  • Research to "make the case" to expand monitoring and technical assistance;
  • Ideas for how state child care licensing, subsidy, and quality enhancement policies can move toward this recommendation; and
  • Online resources, including recommended standards and best practices on monitoring and technical assistance, for state policymakers.

HHS AND HRSA RELEASE LATEST FUNDING OPPORTUNITY ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE MATERNAL, INFANT, AND EARLY CHILDHOOD HOME VISITING (MIECHV) PROGRAM

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently released the latest Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV). This FOA describes how $125 million of the Fiscal Year 2011 MIECHV allotment will be distributed as formula grants to each state. According to the FOA, each state will receive a base allocation of $1 million. An amount based on the number of children under age five in families at or below the federal poverty line in the state as compared to the number of such children nationally will be distributed to each state in addition. No state or jurisdiction will receive less than 120% of the amount received by formula in FY2010. States currently implementing a project under the formerly known Supporting Evidence Based Home Visiting (EBHV) Program administered through the Administration for Children and Youth's (ACF) Children's Bureau will receive an additional amount equal to the funds currently provided to the state for this program. Applications are due July 21, 2011. The remaining FY 2011 MIECHV funds will be distributed through competitive grants explained in a previous FOA. Applications were due July 1. 

STATE BUDGET ACTIONS ON EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION FOR FY 2011

Each year, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) conducts a state-by-state survey of appropriations to child care and early education programs. Data from the survey, as well as a trend analysis, are then compiled into a report. This year's report, Early Care and Education State Budget Actions FY 2011, gathers fiscal data from 48 states that responded to the annual review. The report provides a breakdown of state allocations to child care, pre-kindergarten, home visiting, and other related early childhood programs.

In its latest review, NCSL finds that state appropriations to early care and education programs remained overall stable from FY 2010 to FY 2011. While there was a nearly 1.5 percent ($277 million) increase to pre-kindergarten, home visiting, and other early childhood initiatives, there a 2 percent decrease to child care. States also used funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support early childhood programs. In total, they appropriated $653 million from ARRA, most of it for child care with smaller amounts for pre-kindergarten and home visiting. Among the report's other highlights:

  • Child care - Twenty-one states increased funds for child care, 22 states decreased funds, and one state maintained funding at the FY 2010 level. The greatest reduction in funds for child care was from general funds, which saw a decrease of $318 million.
  • Pre-kindergarten - Eighteen states increased funds for pre-kindergarten, 11 states decreased funding, and 5 states maintained funding. Pre-kindergarten received the largest increase in state allocations with a total increase of $394.5 million.
  • Home visiting - Twenty-seven states reported increased funds for home visiting, 7 states decreased funding, and 6 states maintained funding. Overall, there was a 1 percent increase in funding for home visiting.
  • Other early childhood programs - Eighteen states reported increased funding for other early childhood initiatives, 9 states decreased funding, and 9 states maintained funding. In total, funding for other initiatives increased by $126 million, most of which came from Arizona's tobacco tax. 

The FY 2011 state profiles are also available on the Birth to Five Policy Alliance website. 

OFFICE OF PLANNING, RESEARCH, AND EVALUATION RELEASES REPORT ON HEAD START FACES STUDY DESIGN

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families has released a new report, FACES 2009 Study Design - OPRE Report 2011-9. The report describes key features of the 2009 data sample of the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) and provides information for researchers who are interested in analyzing the data or want to learn more about the study. FACES was launched in 1997 as a longitudinal study of program performance. The 2009 study is the fifth in a series of cohorts; previous cohorts were in 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006. The data is collected from nationally representative samples of Head Start children, families and programs and may be used to answer a variety of questions about Head Start, including questions on:

  • Children and families served by the program,
  • Characteristics of Head Start programs, classrooms, and services, and
  • Impact of program services on child/family outcomes.

For the 2009 study, OPRE collected data on 60 programs, about 129 centers, 486 classrooms, and 3,349 children. Assessments were completed for 94 percent of participating children, while interviews were completed for 93 percent of their parents. Head Start teachers completed ratings for 97 percent of children. In addition to providing an overview of the latest data sample, the report notes changes that have been made to the 2009 study design. For example, there is an enhanced focus on Hispanic/Latino children and families with limited English proficiency participating in Head Start. Changes have also been made to the type of child outcome measures used in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of children in the program. 

NEW STUDY EXAMINES THE CHILD CARE CHOICES OF LOW-INCOME WORKING FAMILIES

In 2008-2009, the Urban Institute conducted a study to investigate what factors influence the decisions of low-income working families when selecting a child care arrangement. To explore this issue, the Urban Institute interviewed low-income families in two different communities: Seattle, WA and Providence, RI. During the interviews, the organization collected information on family characteristics, such as English fluency and having a child with special needs, and the community context in which the families lived in. Community context included examining issues of employment, child care supply, communication about available child care and subsidies, and social networks. The Urban Institute presents its findings in a new report, Child Care Choices of Low-Income Working Families. The report compares the child care preferences of low-income, working parents to the primary factors that ultimately shape their decisions.

Overall, the Urban Institute found that for the two communities, parental preferences and views on child care aligned with parents' actual child care arrangements in only some cases. For instance, many parents believed that child care provided a chance to foster learning and social skills among young children. However, parents cited affordability, convenience of location and hours, and matching with work schedules more often than learning and social environment as factors in choosing a care setting. Among other findings, more than a third of parents said that they preferred having a family member care for their child. Most of these families used informal relative care as desired. For parents that did not have their desired care arrangement, barriers such as cost of care, access to transportation, and flexibility of care hours, impeded their ability to choose their preferred setting. Based on the study findings, the Urban Institute offers the following recommendations to help support low-income families and their child care choices:

  • Increase and shift Head Start and Early Head Start resources to very low income communities,
  • Guarantee child care assistance for low-income working families with young children,
  • Support the development of child care supply in low-income areas,
  • Ensure quality care,
  • Integrate early childhood programs, and
  • Improve parent information and access to services.  

PROTECTING AND PROMOTING CHILDREN'S HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

Children need a healthy, strong foundation on which to build on and thrive. Research finds that poor health early in life can have lasting, harmful consequences on individuals and broader economic costs to society. Several new resources highlight various opportunities to protect and promote young children's health and well-being. These resources are:

  • Medicaid Works: A Review Of How Public Health Insurance Protects The Health And Finances Of Children And Other Vulnerable Populations - This First Focus report discusses the positive impacts that Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have on improving vulnerable children's access to medical, health, and developmental services as well as addressing the financial challenges of low-income families. For instance, the report observes that private health insurance often provides poor coverage for major health conditions, such as asthma, developmental delays, and depression, compared to Medicaid and CHIP. Public health insurance requirements, such as Medicaid's Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment provision, help to identify and address the serious health needs of vulnerable children, who are more likely to be in poorer health than children with private insurance. In addition, the two public programs are less costly: the per-person cost is 20-27 percent less than private health insurance. States further have great flexibility in customizing their Medicaid program to fit their state's needs. The report also analyzes the adverse effects that block granting the programs, as proposed by the House of Representatives' FY 2012 budget resolution, could have on vulnerable children and families.
  • Federal Programs that Protect Children's Health - This brief by Children's HealthWatch highlights the important roles that food security, stable housing, and adequate heating play in supporting young children's healthy growth and development. Young children who lack access to these critical supports are at increased risk for developmental delays, hospitalizations, and other health problems. The brief identifies several federal programs that have helped combat the risk of poor child health and developmental outcomes. These programs are: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and Affordable Housing. The brief summarizes the successes of each program and emphasizes the need to preserve rather than cut funding for them.
  • Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies - The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences has released a new report on preventing overweight and obesity among children, birth to age five. Overweight and obesity issues are affecting not just youth and adults but increasingly young children. Currently, nearly 10 percent of infants and toddlers, and more than 20 percent of children, ages two to five, are overweight or obese. The report offers a set of recommendations for policymakers, healthcare professionals, and caregivers to address this growing problem. In particular, the report outlines policies and actions to promote healthy eating and physical activity, ensure adequate sleep, reduce screen time and marketing, and assess the risk for obesity among young children.  

FIRST-YEAR EVALUATION OF HAWAII'S P-3 INITIATIVE

The RAND Corporation has released a report, Hawaii's P-3 Initiative: Findings from the First Year of the Evaluation, the first of a multi-year evaluation of Hawaii's P-3 (preschool through 3rd grade) Initiative. In 2007, the state launched the P-3 initiative as part of a broader P-20 (preschool through higher education) project to improve child educational outcomes. The P-3 initiative aims to improve the alignment and integration of preschool with the K-3 system and specifically to have every child reading at grade level by third grade. For the first-year report, evaluators at RAND reviewed the state's activities at the P-20 level and at the P-3 level with two P-3 demonstration sites. The report highlights the strengths and challenges of these efforts and discusses measures for assessing progress.

Among the strengths, the evaluators find that Hawaii's P-3 initiative has clear goals, and stakeholders have a collective understanding of the rationale behind the initiative's investments. While the demonstration sites work independently of each other, stakeholders have been working to implement common standards and measures. For example, new P-20 sites are now required to use the CLASS assessment as part of their work. Although there is clear understanding of the P-3 goals, there is some confusion over the roles and expectations of the various stakeholders as well as use of P-3 funds. The RAND evaluators also find that the P-3 initiative generally lacks performance incentives. There are some incentives for kindergarten and preschool teachers to attain more education and training. However, additional incentives could further help to improve performance.

As part of the first-year effort, a team from RAND also worked with the demonstration sites and other key stakeholders on developing measures to monitor and evaluate their progress. The team assisted the sites in identifying measures that represented their goals and were reasonable to use in terms of cost and ability to collect data on. Data from the measures will be gathered throughout this year and analyzed by RAND as part of the initiative's second-year evaluation. 

THE IMPACT OF HUMAN-NEEDS PROGRAMS ON CHILDREN AND LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

The Coalition on Human Needs and Half in Ten have developed an interactive state-by-state map called Road to Shared Prosperity. The map is a database of personal stories collected from across the nation that illustrate the critical role that public programs and supports, including Head Start and child care assistance, play in helping low-income families make ends meets and promoting healthy child development. The stories, which include both written and video testimonials, offer a variety of perspectives and experiences. Entries have been submitted by direct beneficiaries, service providers, community leaders, and other stakeholders. The stories cover the following categories of support and assistance:

  • Child care,
  • Education,
  • Health,
  • Nutrition assistance,
  • Tax credits
  • Housing/utilities, and
  • Jobs/training,

Advocates can use the state-by-state map to help make the case to legislators about the importance of public assistance programs in protecting the most vulnerable in the nation. With each story, the map also provides key state-level data, such as percentage of poor and low-income people, state spending of federal funds, and food hardship rate. The database of stories is updated on a regular basis. New stories may be submitted to the Coalition on Human Needs/Half in Ten for addition to the map.

 

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