Years of disruption in early childhood education have been felt by both children and adults. Families and educators have experienced financial hardships, learning loss, fewer social experiences, increased stress and much more. Now, as we move toward fewer COVID restrictions and look at the future of early childhood education, it’s time for some good news. Here, we break down news that gives us hope for the next chapter of early childhood education.
Bouncing back from the pandemic
New ECE workforce center to keep early educators in the field: The child care sector has lost almost 80,000 jobs, or about 7.5%, of its workforce through the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who do remain in the field suffer from lower wages than other education professionals. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has announced the launch of the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center to combat this through research and technical assistance for states, communities, territories and tribal nations. A $30 million investment over five years will support the center in improving conditions for this workforce, making it a more attractive field to enter, remain and advance in. The center has two main goals: increase compensation and build a diverse, qualified pipeline of early childhood educators while taking an equity-focused, strengths-based approach. Learn more here.
Virginia kindergartners show improvement in assessments: Due partially to pandemic-related learning loss, 40% of the state’s kindergartners began this school year still needing to build skills in one or more critical areas: reading, math, self-regulation or social skills. This is a decrease of 2% from fall 2021 data. While there are continued disparities in historically marginalized students’ access to educational opportunities and experiences, officials are optimistic about the direction of these statistics. “Overall, we’re pleased to see the slight improvement. We think that it’s particularly powerful as we understand the extent of some of the setbacks experienced by kids throughout the pandemic,” said Jenna Conway, chief school readiness officer at the Virginia Department of Education. Read more here.
Creating more equitable and accessible systems
Big investment in Washington: Washington state passed the Fair Start for Kids Act, a $1.1 billion investment to improve the quality and accessibility of child care and early learning, in 2021. So far, the investment has allowed Washington to expand pre-K, cap co-pays for childcare, and more – next up, the state will focus on engaging families and addressing enrollment barriers. Learn more about Washington’s plans here.
New investment coming to Ohio: Ohio will receive $48 million from the federal government over the next three years to improve kindergarten readiness. Plans for the grant will include culturally appropriate trauma training, expanding child care for families of children with disabilities, families experiencing homelessness and English language learners, and more. Read more here.
Momentum in Minnesota: A Minnesota task force is set to phase a six-year plan to ensure that all families have access to affordable, high-quality early care and education that enriches, nurtures, and supports children and their families. The task force is committed to centering equity, expanding affordability, respecting different family preferences, and more. Learn more here.
Expanding access to pre-K seats
Universal pre-K coming to Hawaii: Hawaii is in motion to make preschool available to all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2032 – a major leap from present, where about half of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschools, both private and publicly-funded. Read more about Hawaii’s plans.
New pipelines for preschoolers: Beginning next school year, 3- and 4-year-olds in Colorado will be eligible for state-funded pre-K, an initiative that Colorado estimates will save families an average of $6,000 per year on child care. Learn more about UPK Colorado. Over in Rhode Island, a $4 million grant will help the state invest in building a pipeline of programs and provide additional support for multilingual learners, more than doubling the number of pre-K seats for 3- and 4-year-olds by 2028. Read more about Rhode Island.
Accessing federal funds
There’s still time to assign federal money: The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund that was originally allocated for relief early in the COVID-19 pandemic is still available for schools to use in a range of ways, from hiring new staff to implementing public health protocols. At least 20% of current ESSER III funds must be used “to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions… and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student groups.” Districts have until September 2024 to contract these funds. Learn more about ESSER funds.
Molly Sequin is a ParentCorps Communications Specialist.