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Primary Watch: Hillary Clinton's Early Education Agenda

Yesterday, we asked why there hasn't been more attention focused on early education issues so far in this election cycle, noting that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have released detailed and ambitious early education agendas. Today we'll explore Senator Clinton's early education agenda. Tomorrow we'll look at Senator Obama's early education plan.

Supporting High-Quality Universal Pre-K

The centerpiece of Senator Clinton's early education agenda is her Universal Pre-k Plan, which her campaign rolled out nearly a year ago as her first major education policy proposal and one of her earliest big policy releases. Senator Clinton's plan would provide grants to states to establish high-quality pre-k programs. In order to receive funds states would have to:

  • Ensure that state pre-k programs meet high quality standards, including:
    • Teachers with a bachelor's degree and training in early education
    • Age-appropriate curriculum
    • Small class sizes and teacher student ratios
    • Safety and health monitoring.
  • Provide pre-k at no cost to four-year-olds from low-income homes and English language learners
  • Develop a plan to make voluntary pre-k universally available for all-four-year-olds in the state.
  • Include community-based providers in their pre-k system. (The pre-k bill Clinton has introduced in the Senate would require 25% of funds to go to community-based providers.)
  • Match federal investments dollar-for-dollar.

Once state pre-k programs meet high quality standards and serve all low-income and ELL four-year-olds, they could use federal pre-k funds to serve higher income students, serve younger students, raise teacher salaries, or other activites that expand and improve pre-k. Clinton has proposed providing states with $5 billion in grants to support universal pre-k in the first year and ramping up to $10 billion over the next five years.

More recently, Senator Clinton's campaign announced a broader "Zero-to-Five" agenda that includes their Universal Pre-K program as well as the following elements:

  • Nurse-Home Visitation: Senator Clinton's plan would provide Nurse-Home Visitation for all at-risk mothers. This model, in which nurses visit at-risk mothers during pregnancy and for the first 18 months of their children's lives to provide support, health services, and education, has been shown to be effective in improving children's and mothers' outcomes.
  • Triple Early Head Start: The Early Head Start program provides services to low-income children ages 0-3, and evaluations of the program have produced very positive findings. Early Head Start currently serves about 61,000 children.
  • Expand Head Start to serve 160,000 more children: This would be an almost 20 percent increase above the 833,516 children Head Start currently serves.
  • Increase funding for the Child Care Block Grant, which has stagnated during the Bush administration, and support the following to improve child care quality:
    • Help states improve and enforce child care licensing and safety standards
    • Support public-private partnerships to increase the supply of affordable, high-quality child care for working families.
    • Support workforce initiatives to improve child care workers' training
  • Allow qualified low-income parents to receive Child Care and Development Block Grant funding to stay home with their children. Right now, low-income parents can only receive CCDBG funds if they place their children in childcare. This proposal would let low-income parents receive payments to care for their children at home.

Clinton has also said she supports reform of the Dependent Care Tax Credit, but hasn't offered specifc policy recommendations for how it should be reformed.

Supporting Work-Family Balance
Senator Clinton has also offered several work-family balance proposals that could affect young children's learning and development:

  • Expand Paid Family Leave: Senator Clinton would support a variety of initiatives to help parents care for new babies, with the goal of having paid family leave for employees in all states by 2016:
    • $1 billion State Family Leave Innovation Fund to providing matching grants to help states start paid family leave programs using a variety of funding strategies,
    • Paid maternity/paternity leave for federal workers (they currently have none)
    • Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover employers with 25 workers (it currently applies only to employers with at least 50 workers)
  • Support workplace flexibility and telecommuting: Senator Clinton would create a "model workplace" program to highlight business that establish innovative workplace flexibility models, would promote telecommuting for federal workers, and would provide $50 million annually in incentives for state and local telecommuting initiatives.

Senator Clinton also has a history of supporting and advocating for early education and quality childcare. As First Lady, for example, she hosted the White House Conference on Early Development and Learning, which expanded public awareness about early childhood development and helped raise the national profile of early education issues. Early Ed Watch is pleased to see that she's continuing to support programs for young children on the campaign trail.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about Senator Barack Obama's early education proposals, and next week we'll raise some questions about both candidates' agendas. If you're interested in learning more about Senator Clinton's other education policy proposals, check out the education page on her website, or read our sister blog HigherEdWatch.org's coverage of her college proposals.

Photo by flickr user wausaublog used under a Creative Commons license.