Early Childhood

Haslam applies for federal Pre-K grant on behalf of five districts

PHOTO: G. Tatter
Pre-kindergarten students play last year at Ross Early Learning Center, one of Metro Nashville Public School's "model" pre-K centers. The principal of Ross testified in favor of a bill for high-quality pre-K Wednesday.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam applied for about $70 million from the U.S. Department of Education for the expansion of prekindergarten in Nashville and Shelby County Wednesday, although he will continue to wait until a Vanderbilt study on the current state pre-K program is complete before expanding it.

The state submitted the application on the behalf of Shelby County Schools, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Millington Schools, the Achievement School District, and Bartlett Schools. 

“Districts in these communities came up with the implementation plans and the local matching funds, and it does not expand current state pre-K programs,” said Kelli Gauthier, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. 

Earlier this year, when state officials seemed hesitant to apply for the grant, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools officials attempted to apply directly, and was denied. Metro Schools is already using local money for pre-K, with hopes of having universal pre-K by 2018.

At the time, Metro superintendent Jesse Register said, ” “I would love for Nashville to be a model where federal funding flowed in to offer pre-K on a wider scale.”

Gov. Haslam has adamantly said that will not increase spending on pre-kindergarten until a Vanderbilt study on the efficacy of the state’s program concludes next year. A comptroller’s report three years ago suggested that Tennessee’s current pre-kindergarten program wasn’t boosting achievement throughout elementary school. In 2013-14, 18,000 children were enrolled in Tennessee’s pre-K program at a cost of $85 million.

Other studies, including ones done by the same researchers at Vanderbilt, suggest pre-K can have positive impacts on student achievement through high school.

Read the state’s application here, and  more of our coverage on attempts to expand pre-K here.

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: