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(This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we?ll be discussing here.)

Helen LaddClara MuschkinBy Helen Ladd and Clara Muschkin

Education research clearly documents that investments in early childhood programs are among the smartest investments that states can make.  It is time now for policy makers from both parties in North Carolina to come together to reaffirm what previous policy makers in this state have well understood:  That we must invest in our young children today not only because it is the right thing to do for them but because it is the right thing to do for our state.  

North Carolina has long been a leader in early childhood programs. Starting in the early 1990s, then Governor Hunt led a crusade to address the many challenges facing young    children in this state, and for 15 years the state’s Smart Start Initiative and, later, its More at Four Program were recognized as models for other states. Over the years, various studies by the Frank Porter Graham Center at UNC-CH have documented how these initiatives have helped young children and their families address challenges such as poor health, low-quality child care options, family dysfunction, and lack of readiness for school.  

Along with our Duke colleague Kenneth Dodge, we have recently expanded that research by looking at the communitywide effects on third-grade outcomes of the Smart Start initiative aimed at children aged 0 to 5 and the More at Four program that funded slots in high-quality settings for at-risk four-year olds.  Read More

Farmworker pre-K(This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we?ll be discussing here.)

By John Menditto

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced a bold and ambitious plan to expand preschool services. The “Preschool for All” Initiative calls for $75 billion in new funding during the next decade to partner with states and help expand access to low- and middle-income children who are not currently enrolled in preschool programs.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has been tireless in his advocacy for this new, national initiative. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Duncan as part of a small coalition of community-based groups who serve the Latino community and ask him how the Administration would make sure that the Preschool for All Initiative did not exclude by its design the preschool-aged children of migrant farm workers. Secretary Duncan assured the group that “Preschool for All” meant exactly that: there would be no asterisk excepting out farmworker families. He invited those in attendance to provide the Administration with information on how to design preschool services to ensure the children of farmworker families did not lose out on the benefits of a preschool education.  Read More

While rumors swirl about a deal to re-open the federal government, the impact of the shutdown on North Carolina is becoming ever more apparent. In this week’s issue of Prosperity Watch, Tazra Mitchell looks at the consequences of the federal government shutdown on children, the most vulnerable residents of our state, and specifically at the suspension of child care subsidies that are hurting kids and forcing their parents to choose between caring for their kids and going to work. For more, see the latest issue of Prosperity Watch.

Professor Sean Reardon of Stanford University has a fascinating article in the New York Times today (“No Rich Child left Behind”) about what really lies at the root of the growing achievement gap in the American education system.

Here are some of his findings:

  • The gap between poor and rich kids is growing.
  • The gap is not about race as much as it is about income.
  • The gap is not a product of “failing” schools; average American are smarter and perform better than their parents.
  • Much of the gap is attributable to early childhood education — especially the challenging and stimulating upbringings that wealthy parents are providing to their pre-school children.
  • The gap appears to be self-reinforcing; smarter, higher achieving kids end up with better, higher-paying jobs and the wherewithal to help their children.
  • Improving our early childhood parenting may be even more important than improving our schools and teachers.

Read Reardon’s entire article by clicking here. It’s clearly food for thought. 

 

So you know the right-wing-talk radio-NC General Assembly leadership talking point  by now: “Unemployed North Carolinians don’t need unemployment insurance or other safety net programs; they just need to get out there and get a job! If people would just suck it up like people did in the good ol’ days, we wouldn’t have 9% unemployment in this state.”

There are so many offensive and absurd implications of this “argument” that it’s hard to know where to begin in responding to it. One obvious place, however, is this:

What about the kids?

How does a person with young children at home go about taking on just any low-wage, hamburger-flipping job? Amazing as it many seem to folks on Right-Wing Avenue, not every parent of young children has a grandparent hanging around waiting to help raise their kids for free. These people need affordable child care.

Sadly, this obvious truth that long ago dawned on the leaders of most of the world’s industrialized nations still escapes the corporate conservatives who dominate American government. For a case in point, check out NC Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska’s story this morning over on the main PW site.  As Sarah reports, Read More