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Bill de Blasio

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio – Image: Official website of the City of New York

In 2014, there are lots of basic public structures and social services that Americans, like the inhabitants in other advanced countries, ought to have a right to take for granted. Paid sick days, paid maternity leave, and free higher education, for example, need to be on any such list.

And here’s another one: free, universal, public pre-Kindergarten.

Fortunately, at least one important American jurisdiction is doing something about it. As this recent New York Times editorial notes, the city of New York kicked off an enormously ambitious program this week to provide public pre-K to 50,000 four-year-olds:

The start of public school on Thursday in New York City should be the usual merry scramble of chattering children and stressed (or relieved) parents. There will also be something new: a fresh crop of 4-year-olds, more than 50,000, embarking on the first day of free, full-day, citywide, city-run prekindergarten.

It’s worth pausing to note what an accomplishment this is. Fifty thousand is a small city’s worth of children, each getting a head start on a lifetime of learning. It is so many families saving the cost of day care or private prekindergarten. It is a milestone of education reform.

The editorial goes on to heap praise on New York mayor Bill de Blasio who made the launch of such a program a key plank in his campaign platform and who now despite plenty of critics — including the Times editorial page — has now made good on his promise.

Let’s hope the program is a rousing success and that, like so many other trends that started in the Big Apple, it catches on all over (even in North Carolina) ASAP.

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In case you missed them. here are two responses worth checking out this morning to last week’s state Supreme Court’s decision on pre-K and the General Assembly’s typically thickheaded response. First, there is this excellent editorial from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“North Carolina’s legislative leaders, having stepped out of the path of an oncoming train, now wish to be hailed for their splendid judgment. Read More

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Graduation capsToday’s good news about North Carolina’s rising high school graduation rate serves to highlight several important facts that ought to be taken into account as the public and state leaders debate the future of our public schools. Here are five:

#1 – There are no “quick fixes” in a giant system like the North Carolina public schools. The latest encouraging numbers are no more the result of recent legislative actions than, say, improved traffic flow on the interstate highway system is. To improve outcomes in such massive systems takes sustained attention and investments over a period of many years.

#2- The new results are, therefore, quite clearly the result of many years of hard work by a lot of people. At the core of the success, however, was the widespread acknowledgement by virtually all stakeholders — elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, teachers, parents, advocates etc… — that the state had a big problem and that something had to be done.  The widespread acceptance and discussion of this fact led, over time, to more and more people talking about the problem and more and more people wanting and trying to do something about it.  Many ideas undoubtedly flopped, but over time, the cumulative effect of lots of creative thinking and sustained attention has born some excellent fruit.

#-3 – The work to improve graduation rates starts before a child even enters school. Read More

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The good people at the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children just released this statement on the Berger budget plan:

Senate budget short-changes NC’s children
Budget would cut funding for early education and K-12 schools and remove cap on class size

RALEIGH – Late Sunday night, Senate budget writers released their 2014-15 budget proposal, which includes deep cuts to education, early care and infant mortality prevention.

“This budget continues the ongoing deterioration of our public school system,” stated Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children. “If the Senate is serious about improving student outcomes, then underfunding schools and removing the cap on class size are the last things it should do.”

In addition to deep cuts in K-12 education, the Senate budget appears to cut the Smart Start early education program by 42%.[1] Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Education is perhaps the most promising public investment for promoting long-term economic prosperity. That’s why providing low-income children access to preschool and providing a high-quality education to all students in North Carolina’s public schools is vital to our state’s future.

Yet, policymakers have introduced education bills that inconsistently define “poverty” and “at-risk” in ways that would reduce access to early learning for low-income 4-year olds and divert needed public school funding to private schools. Read More