As venture capitalists and private-equity firms continue to invest billions of dollars in education, they’re increasingly directing their funds to early childhood development, a long-neglected subset of the education population. Since 2016, government spending on early childhood programs has increased 17 percent and private capital has risen 12 percent, according to a panel of impact investors at SXSW EDU. On a larger scale, federal funding has grown 62 percent in the last decade…and state funding for preschools alone has increased 47 percent in the last five years.
After campaigning on the expansion of preschool and other early-childhood programs, many of the nation’s newly elected governors are following through with budget proposals that include money to support children from cradle to school entry. One of the largest proposals is from California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is in the enviable position of having a budget surplus projected at more than $20 billion. He has floated the largest proposal from a governor thus far, aiming to spend $1.8 billion on an array of programs including expansion of full-day kindergarten, free preschool for children from low-income families with the aim of making the program universal, and increased subsidies for child care, among other initiatives. In Colorado, newly elected Gov. Jared Polis, also a Democrat, used his State of the State address to advocate for more than $200 million that would allow all of Colorado’s school districts to offer full-day kindergarten.
Emanuel confident that Chicago’s universal pre-K program will live on after his exit, but will next mayor balk at the price tag?
The abrupt announcement that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t seeking re-election has raised questions about whether his sprawling initiative to implement free, universal pre-K will survive once he’s left office. While it’s unlikely a successor would oppose free pre-K outright, some education pundits said that at a time of fiscal strain, a post-Rahm mayor may question the expansion’s $175 million annual price tag. The city’s behemoth school district, Chicago Public Schools, is already spread thin, shouldering hefty debt, educator shortages, and a half-empty teacher pension fund.
Bezos targets homeless families, under-served preschoolers with $2 billion fund, but details are few
The Amazon founder said Thursday that he and his wife, MacKenzie, would commit $2 billion to fund existing nonprofits working with homeless families and to create a network of nonprofit preschools in low-income communities. The Day 1 Families Fund will make annual awards to organizations “doing compassionate, needle moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families,” while the Day 1 Academies Fund will start and operate a network of “full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities,” Bezos said on Twitter.
The federal Preschool Development Grants are back, but they offer substantive differences from the legacy program created during the Obama administration. The grant application…allows states the opportunity to apply for a share of $250 million to bolster their preschool programs. But while the original program set aside some funds for states that were basically starting from scratch, this new program wants to see “collaboration and coordination” among existing programs. The administration expects to make around 40 awards of $500,000 to $15 million. Applications are due by November, and awards are expected to be announced by December.
The 18 states that received federal Preschool Development Grants have collectively worked to increase the number of high-quality slots available for children from low- and moderate-income families. The grants have provided about $250 million a year over four years to the states. States have used the money in a variety of areas, including increasing program length from half-day to full-day; limiting class size and decreasing staff-child ratios; providing teacher coaching, and adding comprehensive services to programs. The progress report said that an additional 49,000 children benefitted from those quality initiatives. Of those improved slots, about 29,000 were also completely new, meaning those children had access to pre-K who didn’t have it before.
If the plan reaches fruition, Chicago would join cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston, which are spearheading large-scale pre-K initiatives amid uneven state progress and a growing arsenal of research touting the benefits of early education. While 43 states currently offer some form of state-funded preschool for more than 1.5 million children, only a handful can be accurately described as “universal.” Universal pre-K is free and open to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. Bipartisan backing for state-funded pre-K — universal or not — has strengthened in recent years as research has affirmed the cognitive and social benefits of quality early education instruction.
Texas pre-K programs are just scraping by after losing millions of dollars last year — and without sustainable funding, they could see greater problems down the line, school officials say…The money had gone to 573 districts and charter schools that pledged to meet measures such as setting a lower student-teacher ratio, avoiding Common Core curricula and reporting student progress to the state.
An early-childhood education advocacy group has released a new report on how states are using the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, to leverage federal support for early learning. The report is the latest component of what the First Five Years Fund calls an ESSA resource toolkit. Entitled, “Early Learning In State ESSA Plans – Implementation Snapshot: How States Are Using the Law,” it breaks down how each state plans to either launch new early-childhood initiatives or increase their current offerings.
According to Larry Miller’s presentation, school districts spend roughly $15,000 per child on education, but early childhood centers spend between $2,000 and $4,000 per child. That disparity means early education centers have longer waiting lists to attend, teachers who quit because they earn more at McDonalds and children receive fewer hours in care.