Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Colorado and Hawaii are joining the list of cities and states that are forging ahead on early education by expanding access and quality.

Colorado’s Education Investments

The Colorado Legislature approved a budget deal that invests new funding in early education and K-12.

Chalkbeat Colorado, an educational news website says, “The bottom line is this. The package increases Total Program Funding, the combination of state and local spending that pays for basic school operations, to $5.91 billion in 2014-15 from $5.76 billion this year.”

And as an Associated Press article explains, “Two Colorado education bills aimed at restoring school budgets hurt by years of budget cuts have been signed into law.”

As a result, statewide average per pupil spending is increasing from $6,839 this year to $7,020 next year.

Among the budget’s allocations:

• $27 million for English language learner programs

• $18 million for the READ Act, which provides special services to K-3 students who are behind in reading, and

• $17 million to create 5,000 additional slots for at-risk preschool and kindergarten children

Hawaii’s New Kindergarten Law

Last month, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed a bill into law that “makes kindergarten mandatory for children who will be at least 5 years of age on or before July 31 of the school year,” according to a press release from Abercrombie’s office.

The mandatory age had been six years old. The law will take effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

“Mandatory kindergarten builds on this administration’s early childhood education initiative by providing continuity in a child’s learning experience,” Abercrombie said, explaining that the new law would help the state implement the Common Core State Standards, and place students “on the path to success in today’s global marketplace.”

GG Weisenfeld, director of Hawaii’s Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL), called for more progress, adding, “Now that Hawaii has finally joined the vast majority of states that have a state-funded prekindergarten, it is critical that kindergarten be seen as the logical and required next step.”

So Hawaii is also setting up a preschool program.

Weisenfeld explains on the EOEL website: “Our prekindergarten program is taking its first step! Beginning the 2014-2015 school year, nearly 20 public elementary schools around the state will be offering a prekindergarten classroom as part of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s vision to prepare as many four-year-olds as possible for kindergarten.”

Developed by Weisenfeld’s office and Hawaii’s Department of Education, the new program will prepare children for kindergarten by:

• Using a developmentally appropriate curriculum for 4-year-olds

• Focusing on children’s outcomes; and

• Offering professional development opportunities for teachers

Legislative Progress Made State by State

To learn more about states’ progress on early education, use the National Conference of State Legislatures’ “Early Education and Child Care Bill Tracking Database.”

The database tracks and updates “legislation from the 2008-2014 legislative sessions for 50 states and the territories. Issues include child care and child care financing, early childhood services, prekindergarten, professional development, home visiting, infants and toddlers, and financing early education.”

The database is updated biweekly; and searches can be filtered by state, topic, status, primary sponsor, bill number or keyword.