The thoughts that I wish to add to the US Department of Education’s statement on early learning and equity are that “One child at a time” cannot be the limited focus of our efforts to provide early learning for preschool children.
The focus must parallel and be complemented by a “One family at a time” framework in order to effect widespread measurable and sustainable changes to eliminate the achievement and opportunity gaps. More proactive and future-focused, targeting the primary learning environment, we must defragment the lens through which we seek positive changes. They are interconnected, interdependent, and as a microsystem, it is from the family unit that children emerge. Therefore, it is in the best interest of all children, all families, all schools, communities, and the entire future of this country.
Being a globally connected society, and a world-class symbol for democracy, we are only as strong as our weakest links. In this case, our disparities, and inequitably distributed resources impact the lives of children and their families.
It is our responsibility to care about the present fragmented and broken systems that impede growth and limit potential success for so many children and families nationwide. Concern for the rights and freedoms of citizens outside this nation is humanistic, but we must honor the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness right here first-without bias or prejudice. The future is NOW!
Below is the excerpted statement from ED.gov:
Expanding Opportunity: One Child at a Time
Despite these promising developments, a new report from NIEER shows that thousands of children from low- and middle-income families in communities across the country still do not have access to quality preschool.
Indeed, NIEER’s analysis shows that access to high-quality preschool in the United States remains low and unequal. In fact, according to the new NIEER report, three states with large populations of minority children – California, Florida, and Texas – have among the largest programs but the weakest quality standards for preschools. Florida and Texas also funded preschool for fewer children in 2014-2015, as compared to the previous year.
Thankfully, other states did just the opposite. States such as Missouri, Michigan, and New York raised enrollment and quality. New York, in particular, substantially increased funding for state preschool and, thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio, instituted a plan to provide preschool education to all 4-year-olds in New York City regardless of their socio-economic status.
At the U.S. Department of Education, we place a high priority on increasing access and quality in early education for all children to receive the strong start they deserve. A major contributor to quality is an adequate supply of dedicated, talented, diverse, and well-prepared teachers who can provide nurturing care and facilitate learning and growth. Recruiting the teaching force our families and children need requires that we pay our preschool teachers a salary that is competitive, recognizes the importance of their work, and is on par with other public school educators.
We need support on this issue at every level. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which the President signed in December, provides multiple opportunities for states and schools to use federal funding for early education. However, the new report from NIEER rightly suggests that any new investments in preschool shouldn’t be used for expanding access alone; they must be leveraged to increase the quality of these programs as well. At the federal level, we take this finding very seriously, and it’s reflected in our programs, including the Preschool Development Grants, which were recently codified in our new education law.
Congress must fund the opportunities they’ve outlined in ESSA and do even more. Congress should fund the President’s proposal for voluntary, universal high-quality preschool outlined in his fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, which would create a more robust federal-state partnership for achieving this goal. Only then can we move aggressively toward stamping out inequality in early childhood education and expanding opportunity, one child at a time.