Maintaining a Systems-Focus in Early Ed

Systems-thinking may not be top of mind during a time when widescale budget cuts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have required state policymakers to make difficult decisions, but it may provide a means to mitigate the unprecedented challenges of unemployment, social isolation and an unstable economy. Created as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5) program is a competitive, federal grant designed to strengthen states’ early childhood systems by focusing on improvements in quality, alignment, data collection and use, and workforce preparation and support. Early childhood systems include pre-K, child care, home visiting programs and more that serve children up to age 5. The PDG B-5 grants enable states to assess pressing needs within their birth-to-age-5 (B-5) systems and invest strategically in infrastructure and initiatives that will strengthen their overall efficiency, effectiveness and impact.

Pre-K Budget Decisions in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating the shortage of available and high-quality child care, contributing to learning losses and the potential “COVID-19 slide,” and shifting instruction to remote environments for K-12 and postsecondary institutions. While simultaneously facing significant budget cuts, policymakers across the country are making the most informed decisions they can with limited information—which may feel like aiming at a moving target. One cost-effective strategy in the face of severe budget cuts is to focus on the early years. In addition to the importance of providing high-quality child care so parents and caregivers can return to the workplace, pre-K provides a strong foundation for students to be successful in school and life.

Improving Early Childhood Education Systems

This Policy Brief provides a high-level summary of the analysis conducted by Education Commission of the States on the proposed plans of states that received renewal grants. Education Commission of the States acknowledges that these are proposed plans and what is implemented may differ, especially in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Analysis included reviewing states’ needs assessments and strategic planning processes, and identifying trends across applications.

New Innovative Early Language and Literacy Program in South Carolina

Family Connection of South Carolina is pleased to join the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the American Speech Language and Hearing Association in celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month. Family Connection of South Carolina is excited to announce a new communication tool launched earlier this month in the spirit of this year’s theme, “Communication at Work!” Family Connection of South Carolina—in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Education—launched a family-centered, early language and literacy communication service for parents of preschoolers.

Illinois will invest $270 million into child care rescue, as operators report tough times ahead

Illinois will shore up the state’s child care centers with an additional $270 million, as operators and national advocates warn of a pending crisis in the sector. The money comes from a business interruption grant program that uses federal coronavirus relief funds. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that Illinois is the first state to earmark such a sizable chunk of restoration grants specifically for care for children ages 5 and under.

Early Ed in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research tells us that a child’s experiences in the early years build a foundation of social, emotional and cognitive development that they will need to enter kindergarten ready to learn. For most children in the U.S., who spend an average of 25 hours per week in nonparental care, much of this growth and development is nurtured by the early childhood workforce, including child care workers, preschool teachers and aides. However, throughout recent years, early childhood education (ECE) programs have struggled to recruit and retain qualified staff, a key ingredient for quality education. This challenge is one of several facing families, communities, employers and states.