Transitions . . .

On this day of transition, it seemed a good time to look at where we’ve come over the past few years in terms of early childhood education, and what we might expect in the future. Close to home, Philadelphia launched its new public preschool program, PHLpreK, earlier this month, adding 2,000 high-quality, free slots for 3- and 4-year-olds.

 Nationally, there have been changes too. The Brookings Institution discusses a range of research reports and findings from 2016 in an op-ed entitled Early Childhood Investments Are Vital. From NPR this month, we hear that child care is hard to find and expensive, which has profound (and detrimental) implications for working families. The incoming administration is apparently already meeting to address the issue, considering child care and maternity leave policies. 

US News & World Report summarized the Obama’s Early Childhood Education Legacy, noting: 

“The legacy starts early, with an infusion of funding for early childhood programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When the administration took office in early 2009, the economic crisis had decimated many state budgets, imperiling child care and preschool funding for hundreds of thousands of children. The stimulus provided $2 billion over two years for the Child Care and Development Fund, supplementing child care funding to preserve access as states experienced fiscal challenges. It also provided $2 billion over two years in additional Head Start funding, roughly half of which was used to expand access to Early Head Start programs for infants and toddlers.”

The First Five Years Fund has outlined Obama’s Top 10 Early Childhood Achievements, including the “Invest in US challenge, which has resulted in over $340 million in new private funding to support early childhood education.” Also included are the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) program, the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge grants, and the Preschool Development Grant program.

In the past month, the Department of Education has funded several Pay for Success Early Learning Feasibility Pilots in California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and South Carolina. “These feasibility studies will help the communities determine what outcomes they're looking for, identify what interventions are most likely to lead to those outcomes, and identify stakeholders who would be willing to participate in such a program.”

A comprehensive report from the Department of Education examines past progress, but emphasizes work remaining to be done, noting that “investments in early learning are not meeting the needs of families across the nation and many eligible families are not receiving services.” The report highlights “that only eight programs have the primary purpose of promoting early learning for children from birth to age six:


These programs receive significantly less funding than is necessary to fully support all income-eligible children who need them.

CLASP developed a fact sheet on the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), outlining declining numbers of child care supporters receiving CCDBG funds. The fact sheet discusses changing circumstances and regulations for providers, concluding; “If the current trend continues and CCDBG serves fewer children and reaches fewer providers, we lose the opportunities of the reauthorization to improve the health, safety, and quality of care for low-income children and to support families and providers.”

An NPR article by Claudio Sanchez outlining 5 Education Stories to Watch in 2017 ominously predicts: 

“one of the casualties of a leaner federal education budget will be early childhood education. Remember that the Obama administration supported the expansion of quality preschool because of the social and academic benefits that the research is pointing to. This created incentives in many states to invest more of their own money in preschool programs by matching federal funds for programs targeting low-income children. I predict that money for early childhood education is going to shrink, or worse, we could see cuts across the board that will result in a drop in pre-K enrollment in 2017.”

Stay tuned for 2017.