Early Childhood

The Starting Line: Can governors deliver on their early childhood campaign promises?

Welcome to February!

Over the last month, we’ve seen a crop of new governors with grand plans for early childhood education. They’re talking about everything from universal full-day kindergarten to home-visiting programs to new state-funded preschool slots. And with most legislatures in full swing right now, the next few months could reveal the fate of their campaign trail promises. Stay tuned!

On a more concerning note, we’ve seen growing alarm recently over the measles, a highly contagious virus that poses a particular threat to young children. Washington state’s governor declared a state of emergency late last month after more than two dozen cases were reported there. This week, the number’s up to 50. Now, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would make it harder for parents to opt their children out of shots.

Let us know what you think of today’s newsletter and what you’d like to see in future editions — just reply to this email.

See you next month!

— Ann Schimke


RECRUITING MEN In Illinois, a “Men of Color” teacher training program is providing a new route into early childhood education and, observers hope, a pipeline of new role models for young children.

(PARTIAL) PAY SOLUTION Modeled on laws in Louisiana and Nebraska, proposed legislation in Colorado aims to boost pay for early childhood teachers by up to $2,000 a year with a refundable tax credit.  

DUAL LANGUAGE EXPANSION New York City will open 47 new dual language programs for preschoolers, including its first such programs in French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, and Hebrew.

REROUTING PRE-K FUNDS Out of frustration with lagging third-grade reading scores, Tennessee lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow school districts to divert funding from public pre-K classrooms if they think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT New research finds that students in kindergarten classrooms with a greater focus on academic content showed higher math and reading ability and, in some cases, did better on social-emotional measures.

STILL NOT INTERESTED Even after a recent state court victory affirming charter school autonomy in designing preschool programming, few charters appear poised to join New York City’s push for pre-K for all the city’s 4-year-olds.

GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM A group of Michigan parents is lobbying for increased state investment in public preschool — an effort that could get a boost from the state’s new governor and business leaders.

STATE LAW ON SUSPENSIONS? In their third try in four years, Colorado advocates are gearing up to push statewide legislation that would limit suspensions and expulsions of young children.


ON BOTH SIDES OF BULLYING New research out of Canada finds that 2- and 3-year-olds who bully other children and are bullied themselves are most likely to show early depression symptoms. Hechinger Report

HEAD START OVERSIGHT More than a decade after Congress imposed new standards on the federal Head Start preschool program, a third of its local partners have been forced to compete for funding and the share of highly ranked classrooms has increased. New York Times

JUDGING CITIES WITH PRESCHOOL Fewer than half of large cities with public preschool programs meet quality standards outlined by a national research organization. Among the 40 cities rated were, New York and Nashville, which earned “gold medals” and Detroit, which  earned a “silver.” Education Week

GOVERNORS PUSH EARLY ED In several states, including Colorado, California, Ohio, and New Mexico, new governors are leading the charge on early childhood initiatives. Education Week

PRESCHOOL PRESIDENT? In announcing her run for president, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, said universal preschool and college affordability would be priorities if she’s elected. EdSource

JOINING THE CLUB (MAYBE) There is no statewide public preschool program in Montana, but lawmakers may create one that would operate through school districts, while also continuing a pilot program that awards grants to public and private preschools. KTVH

… on childhood vaccinations

With measles outbreaks in New York and Washington states, as well as reported cases in states from Georgia to Colorado, public health experts are increasingly worried about low childhood vaccination rates in some communities. Last month, lawmakers in Washington state even proposed legislation banning exemptions from the measles vaccine based on personal or philosophical beliefs.  

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, shared his thoughts on rules that allow parents to opt their children out of vaccinations during a recent PBS Newshour segment. Here’s a snippet of that interview. You can watch the full version here.

“I think that you have to be much more strict about the flexibility that you give to so-called philosophical objection to getting vaccinated, because that gets abused. And when you get below a certain level of the percent of people in the community that are vaccinated, that’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, the anti-vax movement in certain segments of the population, certainly not generalized, is just growing, and it’s getting worse. And it’s based fundamentally on misinformation. You don’t want to denigrate people who make those kinds of decisions and essentially attack them. That doesn’t work … the way you try and get them to understand the importance of getting vaccinated is talk about the facts, talk about the evidence.”

Photo credit: Chicago Child Care Society