From Alaska to Maine, states all have their own early education policies – and these policies are changing all the time. To help advocates keep up, the Ounce of Prevention Fund has released its latest state-level policy update.
It’s “a snapshot of early childhood care and education budget and policy changes in states during the 2017 legislative sessions as of September 2017.” The policy update also doubles as a playbook of good ideas that states can borrow from each other.
A national nonprofit, the Ounce, “gives children in poverty the best chance for success in school and in life by advocating for and providing the highest quality care and education from birth to age five.”
Among the policy update’s key themes:
“The groundswell of support and acknowledgment of the importance of a child’s social-emotional development continues.” And a majority of states have “strong leadership, burgeoning champions and increased interest in supporting high-quality early learning and development.”
For local blog readers, the update provides a good summary of policy and budget action here in Massachusetts, including the historic $38.5 million rate increase; a University of Massachusetts Boston study on the early childhood workforce; and the bill “An Act Ensuring High-Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education” (S.240/H.2874).
Some states have made notable progress in a number of areas.
• a $7.9 million funding increase will provide new access to full-day state preschool for nearly 3,000 low-income children
• the reimbursement rate has gone up, and
• $25 million has been allocated to update income eligibility requirements for subsidized child care and development programs
• $2.5 million has been allocated to o provide mental-health services to the full population of children from birth to age five, and
• $26 million is being spent to boost salaries for child welfare case managers and their supervisors by an average of 19% in an effort to slow staff turnover
In other states, budget and policy efforts have stalled. But good ideas and promising investments still remain on the agenda.
So, while Louisiana had to cope with a 2 percent funding cut in early care and education, the state is still focused on monitoring the implementation of a new tax credit program that promotes “quality care for children birth through age four and is based on the new early learning system being implemented under Act 3, the Early Childhood Education Act, passed in 2012.”
In Maine, the Legislature passed a bill that would “establish a voluntary, early childhood consultation pilot program.” As that bill explains, the program would have enabled “consultants with expertise in the areas of early childhood development and mental health to work on-site with early care and education teachers and providers of child care.” Unfortunately, the Legislature did not fund the pilot. But the program remains a good idea for Maine and other states.
So check out the policy update, and see what ideas might make sense in your state. Then tell your legislators that the time to act is now. No state should fall behind in providing high-quality early education to its children.