Early Childhood Education Update - March 2011

February 28, 2011 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:

CONGRESS UPDATE: WRAPPING UP FY 2011 APPROPRIATIONS

On February 19th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill (H.R. 1 - Continuing Resolution) for the remainder of FY 2011 that included drastic cuts for early childhood programs. Last year, Congress failed to pass a budget, leaving a temporary spending provision in place until March 4. Congress must pass a FY 2011 budget by that time to avoid a government shutdown. The House bill must be taken up by the Senate, which has not released its own budget proposal for FY 2011. The funding cuts contained in H.R. 1 include:

  • A $39 million cut to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)
  • A $1.08 billion cut to Head Start (15 percent of current funding)
  • A $100 million cut to 21st Century Community Learning Centers and
  • Elimination of the Even Start program.

Among the adverse effects of H.R. 1, the funding cut of 15 percent from Head Start is projected to lead to 16,000 classrooms closing - some immediately - and 218,000 children being shut out of their Head Start programs. CLASP has produced state-by-state projections of the number of children to lose Head Start services. The President has signaled that he will veto H.R. 1 in its current form. 

*As March 4th quickly approaches, CLASP is calling on advocates across the country to contact their Senators and urge them to protect funding for early childhood. CLASP and partnering organizations have a number of resources available, including factsheets, toolkits, and data on low-income children, to help advocates make the case on the importance of child care and early education. 

PRESIDENT RELEASES FY 2012 BUDGET PROPOSAL

On February 14th, President Obama released his budget proposal for FY 2012, the first step in the FY 2012 budget cycle, which begins October 1. The document offers a blueprint of the president's spending priorities for the coming year. The president's budget offers a path toward deficit reduction and proposes significant cuts to federal spending as well. Many of the president's proposed cuts will also slash spending for services and programs that support low-income families. These cuts come at a time when low-income families are still reeling from the recent recession.

The president's blueprint does, however, recognize the importance of child care and early education and includes proposed increases for both CCDBG ($1.3 billion) and Head Start ($866 million). These funds will ensure that children receiving services with economic recovery (ARRA) funds continue to benefit as those funds go away. Among other proposed investments in early learning, the budget blueprint includes $350 million for a proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund that as of yet has not been passed into law, and $23 million to support state efforts to implement paid Family Leave programs. 

TWO YEARS LATER: IMPACTS OF SELECT ARRA PROGRAMS FOR LOW-INCOME WORKERS AND FAMILIES

In 2009, President Obama signed the historic American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) into law. The $787 billion infusion of money into the economy was designed to create jobs immediately, aid the nation's struggling families, and lay the groundwork for future economic growth. CLASP has released a document, Two Years Later: Impacts of Select ARRA Programs for Low-Income Workers & Families, which looks at select provisions in ARRA that affected low-income people and their families. In areas where there is available data, it notes the impact of the program or the number of people who benefited from ARRA provisions. While the effect of ARRA will be debated and analyzed by policy experts and researchers for years to come, some of the early evidence makes it clear that the Recovery Act benefited the nation by easing some immediate effects of the recession and preventing deeper hardship. Among some of ARRA's impacts on young children and their families:

  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): ARRA provided $2.1 billion for CCDBG, including $255 million allocated for quality improvement initiatives. States used these funds in a variety of ways to better serve low-income children and their families, such as expanding access to child care assistance, reducing child care waiting lists, and helping parents pay for child care so they could go to work or seek steady employment. In all, these funds provided child care for an estimated 235,000 children.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start: ARRA provided a $2.1 billion investment in Head Start ($1 billion) and Early Head Start ($1.1 billion). ARRA designated funds for training, technical assistance and monitoring in the Early Head Start program. These funds provided Head Start services for an additional 61,000 children. The Office of Head Start reports that in the 3rd quarter of 2010, more than 12,000 Head Start and Early Head Start jobs were created due to ARRA.
  • Food Assistance: ARRA provided $20 billion to temporarily increase benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called Food Stamps, by 13.6 percent. It also provided $500 million for the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) nutrition program. In 2009, the increase in benefit levels helped keep about 700,000 people out of poverty.  

IMPROVING THE DELIVERY OF KEY WORK SUPPORTS FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released a new report, Improving the Delivery of Key Work Supports: Policy and Practice Opportunities at a Critical Moment, in coordination with a new initiative headed by the Urban Institute. The purpose of this new five-year initiative is to assist a select group of states (CO, ID, IL, KY, NM, NC, OR, RI, and SC) on ways to better streamline and integrate key supports for low-income, working families, including child care assistance, health coverage, and nutrition benefits. CLASP is one of the initiative's partnering organizations providing technical assistance and support to the selected states on the delivery of child care subsidies.

The report lays out the groundwork for the initiative, identifying the challenges that impede low-income families' access to and receipt of public benefits and potential policy changes to address these obstacles. The report observes that most states have made efforts to simplify and streamline the application process for benefits and increase outreach to eligible families. However, there is a lack of coordination and streamlined service delivery across programs; coordination efforts have been mostly within a program. In addition, there has been limited use of data-based systems to link families to the complete range of services and supports for which they are eligible. The report is organized into three key sections: policy options, procedural and systems options, and using data. Within each section, the report examines specific aspects of the eligibility and application processes, such as in-person requirements, documentation requirements, and change reporting rules, which can be reformed to improve access and service delivery. 

A STUDY OF GOVERNANCE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD SYSTEMS

A new report, Vision to Practice: Setting a New Course for Early Childhood Governance, from the Goffin Strategy Group examines the current state of governance in early childhood systems and stakeholders' perceptions of its role in systems building. Governance is a key component to building early childhood systems that are comprehensive in services, coordinated across multiple agencies, and aligned developmentally. The report examines three core beliefs about governance and whether they continue to be relevant based on the experiences of national and state leaders. The three core beliefs are:

  • Governance can exist across a comprehensive early childhood system.
  • A shared conceptualization exists about what cross-system governance should accomplish.
  • Decisions about governance structures should follow decisions about their function.

To gain an understanding of what changes, if any, have occurred in early childhood governance, Goffin Strategy Group interviewed various stakeholders and obtained their views on the function of governance in their respective communities and states. Among the organization's findings, state and national leaders continue to believe that governance is a critical component to building comprehensive early childhood systems. However, they no longer believe that it is possible to form a single structure that governs the entire early childhood system. Although there is general agreement about the overall goals of governance, there are diverging views on its specific purposes and roles as well as its intended outcomes. Goffin Strategy Group finds that the lack of agreement on the functions and outcomes of early childhood governance needs to be addressed in order to move forward and translate governance into practice.

USING DATA SYSTEMS TO PROMOTE FAMILY ENGAGEMENT

The Harvard Family Research Project, in collaboration with the National PTA, has released a new issue brief, Breaking New Ground: Data Systems Transform Family Engagement. The brief examines how family engagement and parent-teacher communication can be enhanced using data systems. Early childhood programs and school districts can utilize data in a variety of ways to help parents make informed decisions about their children and support their learning and growth starting at a young age. For instance, individual and school level data can be collected to follow children's progress across and within grade levels, link families to available resources, and guide reforms at the school-wide level.

The brief describes three key elements of a data system (access, understanding, and action) and presents six case studies of early childhood programs and school districts that are utilizing data systems to promote family engagement. Among the case studies, the brief highlights the importance of sharing data with families beginning in the earliest years. The brief profiles Tools of the Mind, an early childhood program designed to track young children's developmental progress and foster their social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Based in Denver, Colorado, the program is now being implemented in 15,000 pre-kindergarten classrooms across the country. Informed by the experiences of the six examples, the brief offers the following recommendations to promote family engagement using data systems:

  • Develop a data pathway from early childhood through high school that acknowledges families as end-users,
  • Provide guidelines to ensure that data are accessible, understandable, and actionable,
  • Ensure that the family perspective is incorporated in design and implementation,
  • Build capacity at state, district, and school levels, and
  • Help districts understand, design, and implement evaluations of their data sharing strategies.

LONG-TERM IMPACTS OF CHICAGO'S CHILD-PARENT CENTER EARLY EDUCATION PROGRAM

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Chicago Public Schools have conducted a new analysis of the long-term impacts of the Chicago Child-Parent Center (CPC) Early Education Program. The CPC program provides preschool, school-age, and extended intervention (preschool plus school-age) services to low-income children up to age nine. In their investigation, the researchers examined how alums of the CPC program fared compared to a control group by age 26 using education, health, crime, and economic status outcomes data from the Chicago Longitudinal Study.  Their findings are presented in an article, "Age 26 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Child-Parent Center Early Education Program," in Child Development.

Overall, the researchers found that the economic benefits of the CPC program (in 2007 dollars) surpassed the costs of the program. For every dollar invested into the CPC program, the total return to society ranged from 10 to 18 percent. Among the research findings:

  • Preschool - Preschool participants had higher rates of high school completion and completed more years of education compared to non-participants. In addition, they had higher rates of health insurance coverage and lower rates of criminal involvement, depressive symptoms, special education placement, and child maltreatment. The total annual societal return for this group was $10.83, or an 18 percent annual return. The largest benefit was derived from crime savings followed by earnings capacity and tax revenues.
  • School-age - A limited number of impacts were found with school-age participants. Among these impacts, rates for on-time high school graduation rates were higher for CPC participants, while rates for grade retention and special education were lower compared to non-participants. The total annual societal return for this group was $3.93, or a 10 percent annual return. The largest benefit was derived from earnings capacity and tax revenues followed by special education.
  • Extended intervention -Extended program participants (4-6 years) had higher rates of high school completion, more years of education, and higher levels of occupational prestige compared to children who were in the program for fewer years (1-3 years). The total annual societal return for this group was $8.24, or an 18 percent annual return. The largest benefit was derived from crime savings followed by earnings and tax revenues. 

THE EFFECTS OF CHILD CARE SUBSIDIES AND SUBSIDY COPAYMENTS ON FAMILIES IN ILLINOIS AND WASHINGTON STATE

Two reports from MDRC examine child care subsidy use in Cook County, Illinois and Washington:

  • The Effects of Child Care Subsidies for Moderate-Income Families in Cook County, Illinois - This report presents results from a study of more than 1,800 families who applied for child care subsidies in Cook County, Illinois between March 2005 and May 2006. The study investigated whether approving families who were just over the state's income limit for a subsidy impacted child care and employment outcomes. In addition, the study analyzed whether extending the eligibility increased the use of subsidy or had other care effects. Among the results, the study found that approving moderate-income families did not increase employment or earnings. However, the study notes that most of these families were steadily employed during the two-year period, thus providing limited capacity for the subsidy to have an impact on employment and earnings. The subsidies were associated with stable child care, fewer job problems related to care, and other positive child care outcomes. In addition, the study found that extending the eligibility period increased subsidy use.
  • Effects of Reducing Child Care Subsidy Copayments in Washington State - This report presents results from a study of more than 5,000 families in Washington State who received child care subsidies. The study investigated whether reducing copayments had an impact on child care subsidy use, employment and earnings, and use of food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Among the results, the study found that families received subsidies for a longer period (1.1 months longer compared to a control group) when copayments were reduced. Reduced copayments, however, did not increase employment or earnings. This may be because subsidy recipients who received the greatest reduction in copayments (i.e., the highest-income recipients) were also steadily employed, thus providing limited capacity for the reduced copayment to have an impact on employment and earnings. No impacts were found on food stamp or TANF use.
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