Early Childhood Education Update - November 2011
Nov 07, 2011 | Child Care and Early Education
In this issue:
- New Tools Help Examine Recent Poverty Data
- The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) Releases New Early Childhood State Profiles
- State Policies Make Child Care Harder to Come By
- Resources for Creating Quality Child Care Space
- Case Study Highlights Families' Troubles Receiving Child Care Subsidies
- More Children Live Where Poverty Persists
- New Report Profiles how Budget Cuts and Policy Mandates Hurt Public Education
- States Submit their Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Applications
- The Office of Child Care (OCC) Announces Four New Child Care Technical Assistance Centers
The release of the most recent poverty data is a frustrating marker of how many people around the country don't have enough to get by. The data illustrates both the increase in number and diversity of people who live in poverty. CLASP and the Center for American Progress' Half in Ten Campaign, a campaign to cut poverty in half in ten years, both provide tools to examine the most recent poverty data.
- CLASP's DataFinder: CLASP's DataFinder has been updated with 2010 poverty data, allowing users to access the most recent poverty statistics and view how children and families at the local, state, and national level are affected by poverty. The tool allows users to compare poverty data across years and access the number of Americans who are living in extreme poverty, poverty, and low-income households. The DataFinder is a custom, easy-to-use tool developed to provide select demographic information as well as administrativedata on programs that affect low-income people and families.Users can create and download custom tables that present anational picture, a state picture or a comparative look atstates and communities. Use CLASP's DataFinder >>
- Half in Ten's Interactive Map: The Center for American Progress' Half in Ten Campaign released an interactive map of the U.S. that allows users to click on states and generate poverty numbers broken down by women, children, and race and ethnicity. Another feature allows the user to switch between state and congressional data, offering a picture not only of poverty in each state but in each congressional district around the country. View the map >>
Research shows how important a child's earliest experiences and development are to his or her future success and the range of programs and policies that can support healthy outcomes. The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), through their Improving the Odds for Young Children project, profiles each state's early childhood policies as they relate to health and nutrition, early care and education, and parenting and economic supports. NCCP provides a user's guide that outlines the research behind these three categories (health and nutrition, early care and education, and parenting and economic supports), and what NCCP considers to be a baseline of choices for policymakers. These recommendations serve as a starting point for dialogue about how to make more strategic and coherent investments in early childhood programs.
In addition to each state's profile, NCCP provides a national profile that aggregates policies from around the fifty states. According to the national profile, 47 states set the income eligibility limit for public health insurance (Medicaid/SCHIP) at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level for children ages birth to five and 21 states provide lawfully residing immigrant children with Medicaid/CHIP coverage without a 5-year waiting period. For policies relating to early care and education, 25 states re-determine eligibility for child care subsidies no more than once a year and 33 states have early learning standards or development guidelines for infants and toddlers. Additionally, 28 states provide an option to extend Medicaid coverage for family planning to otherwise ineligible low-income women and 32 states operate a statewide home visiting program.
Reduced income eligibility, growing child care waiting lists, and low provider payment rates. This characterizes the latest trends in state child care programs, according to the National Women's Law Center's (NWLC) annual report tracking these and other vital child care assistance policies.
In most states, children and families that need child care assistance fare worse today than they did a year ago or at the beginning of the decade, according to the report. Perhaps the starkest example of the downward trend in child care policies is the decline in the amount paid to providers to care for children receiving subsidies. In 2001, 21 states paid providers at the 75th percentile of a current market rate, the level recommended by federal guidelines to ensure that children in low-families have access to 75 percent of available child care. In 2011, just three states maintained provider payment rates at this recommended level. Without sufficient rates, child care providers cannot purchase and maintain materials and supplies, pay an adequate wage to teachers and staff and make investments that improve the quality of care. Moreover, when states pay very low rates to providers, it may discourage child care providers from accepting child care subsidy payments and reduces children's access to high quality programs.
The landscape has grown bleak in part because states have exhausted ARRA funds that helped them hold ground in previous years. In addition, state budget cuts are crippling programs just when more families need help in a difficult economy.
The report should remind us that federal funding and state policies have real effects on individuals and families. In 22 states that report maintaining waiting lists or freezing intake, it is real families attempting to work who are left without help paying for child care. These families will have to reconsider employment options or choose less costly-and often less safe-child care for their children. These policies should once again remind us to take stock and think about the budget choices that we as a country are making and whether they support positive futures for children and access to opportunity for low-income working families.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation's (LISC) Community Investment Collaborative for Kids (CICK) project recently released a new report, Creating Quality School-Age Child Care Space, which adds to their previously published reports outlining how to create effective and appropriate spaces for early childhood education centers and caregivers. This resource, written by a team of architects, outlines best practices in the design and improvement of after-school environments for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The report addresses the importance of the physical environment in shaping the interactions and experiences of children in after-school child care, while also recognizing that after-school care is often located in space-constrained areas that can be borrowed, shared or rented. With these points in mind, LISC's report seeks to offer low-cost solutions that can easily be implemented in a variety of settings that are also comfortable and inspiring spaces for children. Child care centers play an important role in a child's educational experience. Providing children with well designed, comfortable settings to explore new interests is important to their healthy development.
The Center for Children's Initiatives (CCI) released a case study that looks at the troubles families face as they attempt to access consistent, quality child care. The report, When Families Eligible for Child Care Subsidies Don't Have One, provides the accounts of 83 randomly selected families in New York City who were interviewed after coming to CCI. Each of these families is eligible for a child care subsidy but is unable to obtain one.
Major findings from the report include:
- Many parents discuss being forced to cut back their hours, turn down promotion, training opportunities, or even quit work because of inconsistent child care.
- One quarter of families interviewed were unemployed and told interviewers that child care was a primary reason for their unemployment.
- Forty respondents said they rely on relatives for care out of economic necessity, which can create additional burdens for low-income families and neighborhoods.
- Several families reported being told that the surest and perhaps only way to secure a subsidy was by applying for public assistance. However, many families had already been on public assistance and didn't want to have to reapply and "declare poverty and go on welfare" to receive help with child care costs.
- Parents are aware of the importance of quality child care in a child's education and many want policy makers to help families cover these costs.
New York City, like many places, is reducing child care subsidies. As these interviews demonstrate, such actions only cause further frustration and challenges for low-income families trying to find and pay for child care.
Oftentimes, the issue of child poverty in rural areas is one that is overlooked and paid little attention by policymakers. A recent study out of the Carsey Institute indicates that child poverty, particularly persistent poverty, is not limited to urban areas, but rather affects many children living in rural communities. A county that has persistently high child poverty is considered to have child poverty rates greater than twenty percent at all four points studied (1980, 1990, 2000, and 2005-2009 aggregate data). The report, More Poor Kids in More Poor Places, reveals that 706 counties in the U.S. experienced persistent child poverty. These counties account for 23 percent of the U.S. as a whole and almost 26 percent of all rural children live in these counties.
The Carsey Institute addresses how child poverty is not isolated to one particular geographical area or one segment of the population-it impacts those in both rural and urban areas. However, the emphasis policymakers place on urban poverty programs often means that those living in rural areas do not receive as much attention and their particular needs are not addressed. Limited access to health care facilities, comprehensive food stores, and the lack of reliable transportation are all issues that must be addressed when looking at child poverty in rural communities. As families in rural communities continue to feel the effects of the recession their particular needs and concerns must be addressed.
A new report from the Campaign for America's Future (CAF) and the National Education Association (NEA) looks at what individuals in communities around the country are saying about their local school districts and what is being said in local news about the state of schools and education in the U.S. The report focuses on K-12 education from a bottom-up perspective, and specifically looks in-depth at Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The hope is that this analysis will add an additional layer to the current discussion about the state of education in the U.S.
From local reports it's apparent that communities around the U.S. believe we are in an education crisis, and the report identifies two factors that stand out as significant contributors. The first factor is austerity budgets passed by state legislatures. These budgets are having an effect on direct services offered to children and families. Huge cuts to early childhood education programs, increased class sizes, cuts to art, music, and physical education classes as well as specialized programs are affecting schools and communities. The second factor the report identifies as contributing to this education crisis is increasing pressure to direct tax dollars to charter, private, and parochial schools as well as systems used for testing and accountability. Ultimately, the report concludes that the best way to approach the problems in American public schools is to adequately fund programs that serve students and provide regulatory relief to local districts to stop public education dollars from going to private entities.
Over the past few months CLASP has followed the Obama Administration's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant competition, as well as helped states by providing technical assistance as they prepared their applications. On October 19th, 35 states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico submitted applications with the hope of winning a portion of the $500 million grant to support early education programs.
A full list of applicants include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, said, "The strong response from states shows there is a shared commitment to raising the bar on quality across early learning programs, including those serving low-income children who too often start kindergarten already behind their classmates."
Over the next few weeks the applications will undergo peer review by early childhood experts from around the country. Sometime in mid-December the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will announce the winners.
At the end of September the Office of Child Care (OCC) announced that four new national centers will provide child care technical assistance to states, territories and tribes to improve the quality of school-age care and early care and education. The four new centers that will help CCDBG grantees reach CCDBG goals include:
- The National Center on Child Care Quality Improvement
- The National Center on Child Care Professional Development Systems and Workforce Initiatives
- The National Center on Child Care Subsidy and Innovation and Accountability
- The National Center on Tribal Child Care Implementation and Innovation
Each month, 1.6 million children receive a child care subsidy through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Through the addition of these technical centers OCC aims to improve the quality of child care children receive.