A report last week from a new group called Mission: Readiness featured a very troubling statistic: 75 percent of young Americans cannot join the U.S. military because they are too poorly educated, have a criminal record or are overweight.
But here's a promising development to go along with that startling data: The report goes straight to the heart of the problem, explaining that the solution is to ensure that all children receive a high-quality early education. In fact, the report puts early education its sub-head.
Eighty-nine retired military leaders, including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed the report. They have come together to form Mission: Readiness, a non-profit, bi-partisan organization dedicated to supporting public investments in early childhood programs as a matter of national security.
In their words:
The home visitation program -- a key piece of the Obama Administration's pledge to strengthen programs for children from birth to age 5 -- received another boost yesterday when the Senate's Finance Committee passed its version of the health care bill. The bill includes language that would establish a program for "maternal, infant and early childhood visitation."
Over the summer, the House committees with dominion over the financing and regulation of the proposed program had already cleared the way for the program. And it appears to have support from both Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Todd Russell Platts (R-PA) was among the authors of the first version to be introduced this year, and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) has introduced similar legislation in the past. Unless something unexpected happens -- and anything is possible given the overheated environment surrounding health care reform (see our post on Chuck Norris) -- chances are good that any health care bill that passes the House and Senate will bring home visitation along for the ride.
After two years without one, the Office of Head Start will soon have an appointed director: Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, executive director of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association, says she will take the post on October 13th. She was appointed by Carmen Nazario, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at HHS.
In a brief phone call with Early Ed Watch yesterday, Sanchez Fuentes described two areas that she will focus on from the outset: understanding the needs of training and technical assistance programs; and enhancing "transparency" among members of the early care and education community so that people "feel that information is flowing back and forth."
Another goal, she said, is to "helping states to learn from the lessons of Head Start" as they try to build cohesive early learning systems as envisioned under the proposed Early Learning Challenge Grant program. "We can use Head Start," she said. "A lot of programs already have infrastructure in place. The question is, how can you build off of what already exists?"
It is deceptively difficult to determine how much money the federal government spends on America's children each year. Money spent on children's health, education, and nutrition -- as well as a host of other government programs that promote child welfare -- comes from 180 different federal programs, making it hard to account for just how much is spent each year.
Enter First Focus, a nonpartisan children's advocacy organization that created the Children's Budget, a document that provides a birds' eye view of all federal spending on education. This week, using data from Congressional appropriations bills through fiscal year 2009, First Focus released its latest report. It shows that, while there are 82 different federal programs aimed at children from birth through age 18, the share of federal money spent on children in the non-defense budget has decreased from 10.5 percent to 9.2 percent over the past five years.
The report comes with an array of helpful charts and searchable databases at ChildrensBudget.org. We here at Early Ed Watch were curious about whether spending on education programs in particular has been going up or down over the years. Using the tools on the site, we found:
Many thanks to everyone who has provided comments on our seven-part series on Head Start and to those of you who participated in our web chat on Tuesday.
For your convenience, we've combined all of the posts plus the chat transcript into a PDF document for easy reading. Keep the feedback coming!
In this week's New America/Politico live web chat, Lisa Guernsey and Christina Satkowski are taking questions on the future of Head Start.
Ms. Guernsey, director of New America's Early Education Initiative, and Ms. Satkowski, a former program associate, are the authors of "What's Ahead for Head Start?" This seven-part blog series tackles critical questions about the federal government's 44-year-old preschool program for children from poor families.
As the Obama Administration turns its attention to improved programs for young children, where does Head Start fit? As states develop their own pre-K programs while struggling to balance budgets, what role can Head Start play?
UPDATE: This chat has concluded, but a full transcript is available below.
To see last week's chat, with Fellow Dayo Olopade on the Obama Administration's faith-based initiatives, please click here.
This is the final post in a seven-part series on the future of Head Start. Please join us for a web chat on this topic tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. EDT here at EarlyEdWatch.org in partnership with Politico.com. We invite you to email us questions to get the chat rolling.
We started this series with a train metaphor, describing early education programs as trains moving down various tracks to deliver children to elementary school ready and eager to learn. More than a decade ago, when a few states started developing new paths for publicly funded preschool, the tracks already laid by Head Start seemed outdated and distant from what states were constructing. The unspoken, yet as it turns out, overstated, assumption was that state pre-K was aiming for literacy and kindergarten readiness, while Head Start was pointed toward children's health and social well-being.
Sept. 8: Competing, Collaborating and Evolving
Sept. 9: Seeking Signs of Change Since 2007
Sept. 11: Checking Assumptions on School Readiness
Sept. 15: A Tilt Toward Literacy
Sept 17: The Case for 'Comprehensive Services'
Today: The Benjamin Buttonization of Head Start
Sept. 21: Future Tracks
Sept. 22: Web chat (email us your questions)
This is the sixth post in a seven-part series on the future of Head Start. Please join us for a web chat on this topic on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m. EDT here at EarlyEdWatch.org. We invite you to email us questions to get the chat rolling.
Head Start may be about to turn 45. But you could argue that it's younger than ever.
Though many people think of Head Start as a program aimed at 4-year-olds, it actually enrolls children at 3 and 4 in the hopes of immersing them in two full years of early childhood services before their arrival in kindergarten. Lately, Head Start's enrollment has started to shift, serving an increasing proportion of 3-year-olds and a decreasing proportion of 4-year-olds. In 2008, 3-year-olds comprised 36 percent of Head Start's enrollment, up from 28 percent in 2006. At the same time, enrollment of 4-year-olds dropped to 50 percent from 56 percent over those two years.
In 1995, when Early Head Start was introduced, the program started to reach for even younger children -- targeting infants, toddlers and pregnant mothers. With the influx of stimulus money, the number of children and pregnant mothers served by Early Head Start programs is set to nearly double in size -- with money available to serve 117,000 babies and pregnant mothers instead of the 62,000 participating last year.
Could these new growth areas lead Head Start to become known as the program for pre-preschoolers? Are we witnessing the Benjamin Buttonization of Head Start, a program getting younger with each passing year?
This is the fifth post in a seven-part series on the future of Head Start. Please join us for a web chat on this topic on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m. EDT here at EarlyEdWatch.org. We invite you to email us questions to get the chat rolling.
Last year Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri stirred up a storm of criticism when he said that Head Start "has been the biggest waste of money" and needs to "get into the early education business" instead.
His comment said a lot -- not only about his own misunderstandings of the program, but about how Head Start is perceived in the outside world. Many mistakenly believe that Head Start isn't doing a good enough job of preparing children to succeed in school because it has devoted too much energy to providing health, nutrition and parent-involvement services.
This is the fourth in a seven-part series on the future of Head Start. Please join us for a web chat on this topic on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m. EDT here at EarlyEdWatch.org. We invite you to email us questions to get the chat rolling.
What a difference a decade makes. Ask experienced Head Start teachers and administrators about how things have changed over the past 10 to 15 years, and many of them will talk about differences in how, or whether, they taught the A, B, Cs or even posted the letters on their classroom walls. "I was forbidden to teach letters," wrote teacher J.M. Holland just this week in an Early Ed Watch post reflecting on his experience in 1995.
Leery of putting undue attention on literacy instruction, Head Start's proponents have always argued that a comprehensive approach to supporting young children's development is the strategy most likely to yield long-term learning gains for the impoverished youngsters Head Start serves. Head Start was designed at the outset to promote the development of the whole child, mentally, socially, cognitively and physically. It is a program that offers health services -- including dental screening, nutrition, and other services that alleviate the effects of poverty -- as well as education.