Head Start is underfunded and unequal, according to a new study


Head Start, the federal program that provides education, nutrition and health services to low-income children and their families, is not adequately funded and is administered so differently from state to state that children do not benefit equally, according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The 478-page report, “State(s) of Head Start,” released Wednesday, calls for a near tripling of the program’s budget — to more than $20 billion — to fully meet its goals for serving 3- and 4-year-old children living in poverty. It also points to wide gaps in Head Start programs related to quality of instruction, amount of instruction, access to programs and levels of funding.

“Despite decades of bipartisan support for Head Start, we conclude that the program suffers from inadequate overall public investment,” the report’s authors wrote. “Simply put, the program is not funded at a level that would make it possible to provide child development services of sufficient quality and duration to achieve its goals while serving all eligible children even at ages 3 and 4, much less for those under age 3.”

The report, which compiled program data from 50 states, the District of Columbia and six territories, provides a deeper understanding of who Head Start serves and where it operates best, said Steven Barnett, executive director of NIEER and one of the study’s authors. But it also makes clear, he says, how and where the program has fallen short.

“The percentage of poor kids that Head Start serves nationally could be as low as a quarter, meaning that 75 percent of the children in poverty are not getting Head Start,” Barnett said in an interview. “I don’t think people understand that. And then if you say that the intended population is not just kids who are poor, but kids who are near-poor, then I think people don’t understand that that’s half the children in the country.”

The report arrives as Donald Trump prepares to step into the White House amid uncertainty about funding priorities in the new administration. The Health and Human Services Department, which is expected to be led by Trump’s nominee, Tom Price (R-Georgia), runs Head Start.

Barnett said that while there are questions about the new administration’s plans, he believes there is reason to be optimistic…

Source: The Washington Post

Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/head-start-is-underfunded-and-unequal-according-to-a-new-study/2016/12/14/54b01b24-c095-11e6-897f-918837dae0ae_story.html

2013 State Preschool Yearbook Finds Need for Renewed Investment


Today NIEER released its 2013 State Preschool Yearbookat CentroNía/DC Bilingual Public Charter School in D.C. This newest installment of the Yearbook series covers policies, enrollment, and funding for state-funded pre-K programs in the 2012-2013 school year. Joining NIEER Director Steve Barnett at the event were Myrna Peralta, President/CEO of CentroNía; Roberto Rodriguez of the White House Domestic Policy Council; and Rob Dugger of ReadyNation/America’s EdgeClick for the full report.

This year’s report found states still struggling to recover from the economic downturn that did so much damage to preschool programs in the previous year. As Barnett noted, “Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool-age children are being left to suffer its effects. A year ago, our data showed a half-billion-dollar cut in funding for state pre-K and stalled enrollment. For 2012-2013, we find that enrollment is down and funding per child, while up slightly, remains stalled at near-historic lows.”

Particularly of concern, the report found that:

  • In 2012-2013, enrollment decreased by about 9,000 4-year-olds from the prior year across the 40 states plus D.C.[1] that offer pre-K. This is the first enrollment decrease nationally NIEER has observed.
  • Slightly more than 1.3 million children attended state-funded pre-K, 1.1 million of them at age 4, accounting for four percent of 3-year-olds and 28 percent of 4-year-olds.
  • On the plus side, 20 states increased enrollment while 11 states reduced enrollment.
  • One program improved against NIEER’s Quality Standards Benchmarks, while two fell back.
  • Also good news, for the first time, every state-funded pre-K program had comprehensive early learning standards. This is first of the quality standards benchmarks to be met by all.
  • Four states, plus one of Louisiana’s three programs, met all 10 benchmarks for state pre-K quality standards, the same as in the previous year. This remains down from the peak of five states in 2010-11. Weak program standards persist in too many states, including lax standards for teacher qualifications in 23 programs and no limits on class size and/or teacher child ratio in a few large states–California, Florida and Texas.
  • Total state funding for pre-K programs increased by $30 million in real dollars, about a 1 percent increase.
  • State pre-K funding per child increased by $36 inflation-adjusted from the previous year, to $4,026.
  • Only 15 states could be verified as providing enough per-child funding to meet all 10 benchmarks for quality standards. As only 19 percent of the children enrolled in state-funded pre-K attend those programs, it seems likely that most children served by state pre-K attend programs where funding per child is inadequate to provide a quality education.

Source: Preschool Matters… Today!

Available at: http://preschoolmatters.org/2014/05/13/2013-state-preschool-yearbook-finds-need-for-renewed-investment/

Talking About Reforming Head Start


On a Monday morning last month, a crowd packed into the Brookings Institution auditorium in Washington, D.C., for a little-publicized event on early education reform. At the center of the event was Steve Barnett, a professor of education economics at Rutgers University and co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, who was there to raise questions on whether Head Start is an effective early childhood program, and how we might improve it.

Source: New America Foundation Early Ed Watch

Available at: http://earlyed.newamerica.net/blogposts/2011/about_reforming_head_start-57120

Improving Early Education Programs through Data-based Decision Making

While state-funded preschool programs have been growing, reliable guidance on how best to study program effectiveness remains limited. This working paper from NIEER presents five options for studying program effectiveness, summarizing each option in chart form and providing estimated costs for each evaluation.

Source: National Institute for Early Education Research

Available at: http://nieer.org/pdf/Preschool_Research_Design.pdf

Improving Public Financing for Early Learning Programs

The care and education of young children in the United States is supported by nearly $40 billion yearly from a variety of sources at the federal, state, and local levels. Even so, about a quarter of 4-year-olds and half of 3-year-olds do not attend preschool, and many of those who do attend receive only poor quality services. Some programs are of such low quality that they actually harm child development. The nation’s children would greatly benefit from additional public funding for preschool programs. It also matters how this funding is provided. How we fund early care and education varies greatly from program to program, across states, and across levels of government. Most funding sources exist independent of one another, in different departmental jurisdictions and local, state, and federal governments each have their own.

Source: National Institute for Early Education Research

Available at: http://nieer.org/resources/policybriefs/24.pdf