Early Childhood

U.S. Sec. of Education pushes for Haslam to apply for pre-K money

Education secretary Arne Duncan addresses the crowd outside Cornerstone.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday that Gov. Bill Haslam should apply for federal money available for prekindergarten expansion, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

But a spokesperson for Gov. Haslam’s office told Chalkbeat earlier this month that the governor will not apply for the grant.

The comments came during a cross country bus tour Duncan is taking. He stopped in Memphis and Nashville Wednesday.

Gov. Haslam has said that he will not work to expand pre-K until at least next year, when a Vanderbilt University study on the effectiveness of the state’s current model is released. That means that the money the federal government is offering this year is a non-starter. 

Duncan said that if Tennessee officials did apply for the money, the state could receive up to $70 million for pre-K in the next four years.

“To me, this is just a triumph of common sense,” he said. “Too many children start kindergarten a year to 18 months behind.”

A comptroller’s report three years ago suggested that Tennessee’s current pre-kindergarten program wasn’t boosting achievement throughout elementary school, causing a group of  legislators, led by Bill Dunn, a Republican representative from Knoxville, to assert pre-K was a bad investment for the state.

Early results from the five-year Vanderbilt study Haslam is waiting on suggest that students might not sustain academic gains in elementary school, but might develop other skills, like time management, that could serve them in middle and high school.

Education officials in Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis have expressed interest in the federal funds, which they say will help raise achievement in their districts, but cannot apply for the Pre-K grant directly.

Applications are due Oct. 14.

Early investment

Foundations put $50 million behind effort to improve lives of young Detroit children

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The heads of the Kresge and W.K. Kellogg foundations, Rip Rapson and La June Montgomery announce a $50 million investment to support the new Hope Starts Here framework.

The two major foundations behind the creation of a ten-year plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s youngest children are putting up $50 million to help put the plan into action.

As they unveiled the new Hope Starts Here framework Friday morning, the Kellogg and Kresge foundations announced they would each spend $25 million in the next few years to improve the health and education of children aged birth to 8 in the city.

The money will go toward upgrading early childhood education centers, including a new Kresge-funded comprehensive child care center that the foundation says it hopes to break ground on next year at a location that has not yet been identified.

Other foundation dollars will go toward a just-launched centralized data system that will keep track of a range of statistics on the health and welfare of young children, and more training and support for early childhood educators.

The announcement at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History drew dozens of parents, educators and community leaders. Among them was Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti who said one of the major impediments to improving conditions for young children has been divisions between the various government and nonprofit entities that run schools, daycares and health facilities for young kids.

Vitti said the district would do its part to “to break down the walls of territorialism that has prevented this work from happening” in the past.

Watch the video of of the announcement here.

Detroit's future

In a city where 60 percent of young children live in poverty, a ten-year plan aims to improve conditions for kids

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat

A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens.

The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit:

  • More than 60% of Detroit’s children 0-5 live in poverty — more than in any of the country’s 50 largest cities;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too early, compared to nine percent nationally;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too small, compared to eight percent nationally;
  • Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country;
  • Nearly 30,000 of eligible young Detroiters have no access to high-quality early learning or child care options.
  • That translates to learning problems later on, including the 86.5% of Detroit third graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

Hope Starts Here spells out a plan to change that. While it doesn’t identify specific new funding sources or propose a dramatic restructuring of current programs, the effort led by the Kresge Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, names six “imperatives” to improving children’s lives.

Among them: Promoting the health, development and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs and improving coordination between organizations that work with young kids. The framework calls for more funding to support these efforts through the combined investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and corporations.

Read the full framework here: