Building a Strong Foundation

By Theresa Hawley, PhD  Preschool is now widely recognized as one of the most effective investments that a community can make to ensure that children from all economic backgrounds develop the academic and social-emotional skills that they need to  succeed in school and in later life. Consequently, cities across the country are launching exciting new initiatives to greatly expand access to high quality  preschool for young children. Philadelphia recently embarked upon one of the most ambitious of these plans: a major new effort to provide affordable access to high quality preschool to every 3- and 4-year-old in the city. 

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A good week for Philly children--and PHMC

This was a big week for PHMC’s Early Childhood Education Group. On Tuesday, there was an official ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony at the onsite Early Learning Academy, a new high quality early learning program from children from birth to 5 years old. Fewer than 10 percent of companies nationwide offer Early Childhood Education in or near their offices, PHMC is proud to be part of that 10 percent—offering places for children of employees and others in the community. The program is run by Bright Horizons, and operates in a space creatively designed specifically for young children. Click here for more information.

On Thursday, The Mayor’s Office of Education officially announced that PHMC and the Urban Affairs Coalition will be the administrative intermediary entity for Philadelphia Pre-K. They also announced that new programs will be enrolling 2,000 children as part of PHL Pre-K, starting in January. For more details, see here. Parents can also call 844-745-7735 to enroll, and find out about eligibility for related services.

Does low-quality ECE lead to negative outcomes for children?

This question relates back to the inherent tension between ECE quality and access. A high quality programs can be defined as one providing a safe, secure environment offering opportunities to play and explore, with an integrated curriculum addressing all areas of development. High quality programs will provide opportunities for cognitive, social-emotional, and language skills growth, along with physical development.  On the one hand, we know that high-quality care can improve child outcomes. On the other, with a limited budget, lower-quality, cheaper programs offer care to more children. If there were clear evidence that low-quality ECE leads to negative child outcomes—or does not significantly improve outcomes—policymakers could prioritize a baseline of quality, even at the expense of additional slots, confident in the knowledge that opting for more low-quality slots would be harmful or wasteful.

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Have other states used lottery systems to fund ECE programming?

Have other states used lottery systems to fund ECE programming? If so, how do their funding mechanisms work, and what kinds of impacts have these new systems had on existing systems?

Georgia established a new state lottery in 1993; profits from the lottery were dedicated to funding a number of educational programs, including state-subsidized Pre-K for low-income four-year-olds. In 1995, Georgia became the first state in the US to provide universal Pre-K to four-year-olds, relying substantially on lottery profits to fund the expansion. Georgia's experiences provide valuable insight into the challenges and advantages of employing lottery funding to support ECE; and into the pros and cons of universal, versus means-tested, Pre-K models. Below are some brief, informative takeaways taken from a Foundation for Child Development report:

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